David struggles to free Syd from her mental maze
FX’s American Horror Story
Season 6, Episode 7: “Chapter 7”
Directed by Elodie Keene
Written by Crystal Liu
* For a review of Chapter 6, click here.
* For a review of Chapter 8, click here.
Return to Roanoke: 3 Days in Hell is well underway. Sidney James (Cheyenne Jackson) cheers behind the scenes watching footage like the greasy douche he is, and loving every minute of the drama. Of course nobody knows where Diana went – a.k.a dead. Not that Sidney gives a shit. The cameraman notices Rory Monahan (Evan Peters) getting stabbed, but can’t get his camera ready in time to catch anything. Then comes a scream in the night from their PA. In the dark we hear her choking, Sidney beckons the cameraman. They find the PA with her throat cut. And then Agnes Mary Winstead (Kathy Bates) in The Butcher’s clothing emerges, stabbing Sidney, as well as hacks the cameraman to unseen bits. She proclaims to the fallen camera: “I am the tree and the lightning that strikes it.”
Audrey Tindall (Sarah Paulson) and the others try finding Rory. Matt Miller (André Holland) keeps telling them that “R is for Rory.” You know nobody wants to hear that. Either way, he and Shelby (Lily Rabe), along with Audrey, Lee Harris (Adina Porter), Monet Tumuslime (Angela Bassett), and Dominic Banks (Cuba Gooding Jr.) all go searching the house for clues. They find a pool of blood upstairs. Audrey convinces everybody that Rory got that part and Sidney convinced him to do them a frighten in order to get their blood pumping. The poor wife is left believing her younger husband took off on her for better things. That’s sad.
Down in that cellar Agnes raves by firelight to a camera. She’s separated completely from reality now, don’t think she’s coming back ever again. Thomas White has taken over Agnes, full stop. She slips in and out of persona, yes, but ultimately The Butcher is becoming her primary personality. To devastating effect. “‘Cause the fans wanted more. And they wanted The Butcher.” However, things get spooky for even Agnes, as the ghosts of Roanoke’s Lost Colony start appearing around her, their wooden symbols hanging from the cellar’s low ceiling.
At the house nothing is getting any easier. Dominic edges up on Shelby, right as Matt appears out of nowhere: “Fuck her right here for all I care,” Matt tells them both defiantly. During an aside confessional, Dominic shows us that Sidney’s given him a body cam in the form of jewellery, to make things difficult for anybody and everybody. What’s better than screen time?
Shelby has a run in with Agnes in the bedroom. The old woman rages, going from The Butcher back to herself, and back again. A legitimately creepy moment. Agnes slices a piece out of Shelby, although Dominic takes her down before she can finish the poor woman off. All the while the cameras are everywhere, constantly rolling and catching the terror. Yet off into nowhere disappears Agnes.
Everyone’s becoming desperate. Nobody is coming to help, certainly, and we know why. They don’t know, though. For the time being they try and devise a plan how to get help, or simply get out of there. So several of the group head down into the tunnels below the house, where Edward Mott once supposedly led the Millers. Only they come across a screaming ghost, one that Lee’s gun can’t seem to take down. They rush out into the daylight, no longer fearing Agnes, wherever she’s hiding. Inside the Millers lament their lost marriage: “This place took something from me,” Matt confesses.
In the sky rises the Blood Moon. Lee, Monet, and Audrey finally stumble across the trailer, along with the gutted corpses of the crew and Sidney. No phones, no way to get out even in the car which is dead; you know it is! Then Agnes comes running at them from the woods. Lee shoots her into the dirt luckily, and the three women try to move on. Except torches in the woods alert them to ghosts of the Lost Colony. The Bloody Moon has begat spirits in flesh and blood. Meanwhile, as Audrey gives a Blair Witch Project-style confession to her phone’s camera, blood drips from overhead: from her dead husband. The ghosts still come for them sending the woman running into the darkness.
Or are they ghosts? No, it looks like humans in the night this time.
Oh, and Agnes, she’s survived a bullet in the chest, doing a little homemade surgery. You know that bad bitch isn’t going down. Perhaps it’s just more of the Blood Moon’s dark magic.
Poor Matt and Shelby never should’ve agreed to go back to that place. In the middle of the night Matt takes a walk downstairs. As if on a mission. Against his best interest, Dominic follows along with that sneaky body cam. He sees Matt in the basement where the Witch stands in the shadows: “I‘ve been waiting for you,” says Matt. Right before she grabs him violently, pulling him out of sight in a flurry of fierce noises. Dominic goes to get Shelby, they head back down together. They find the Witch on top of Matt. When Shelby pulls her off Matt tells them he came back for her. This prompts Shelby to smash his head in with a hammer until it’s nothing but mush. Wow.
The hillbillies have got hold of Lee. Tied up, she’s at their mercy. Uh oh. These are the real hillbillies, not the reenactment crowd. They’re the real and nasty deal. The Polk family; living off blood and the land. Mama (Robin Weigert) has her boys get to work on Lee, starting with some thigh flesh. They grease her up, season her. Y’know, that good stuff for “tenderising.” Likewise they’re torturing Audrey and Monet a bit mentally. Surely they’ll be seasoned soon enough. First though, they’re force fed a bit of Lee.
Up at the house Agnes is preparing the place for burning. Behind her rally the ghosts of the Lost Colony. Nice note: a parallel shot of the real Shelby with the fake Matt matches one previously of the fake Matt and fake Shelby from those reenactments, as they watch the torches from the window. Problem now is for Agnes – the real Butcher has arrived, and she isn’t sharing places. Agnes begs that she “only wanted to be on TV.” Not good enough. You’re fucking axed in the face, Kathy!What a solid episode. This really turned things up a gory notch. With that excellent 6th episode the plot twisted, and after that the series did itself a favour by coming out with this blood soaked “Chapter 7” that explodes across the screen. We can only wonder what will happen next. I dig that they’ve shortened the season, too. Not that they couldn’t have stretched it more to 13 again, just that they’ve set themselves a decent round number of episodes, they halved the plot in a sense, and now we’re heading into the homestretch, where anything at all can happen.
Everything changes in this episode, as we go behind the scenes with Sidney James and discover a Season 2 is underway. Only nobody realises how much blood is coming.
FX’s American Horror Story
Season 6, Episode 4: “Chapter 4”
Directed by Marita Grabiak
Written by John J. Gray
* For a review of Chapter 3, click here.
* For a review of Chapter 5, click here.
In the talking head interviews, Matt (André Holland) relates how Shelby (Lily Rabe) was pissed after supposedly seeing him having sex with a woman in the woods. During the reenactments, Shelby (Sarah Paulson) confronts Matt (Cuba Gooding Jr.) until he breaks down: “It‘s like a part of my brain was cut out.” She comforts him, though the real Shelby affirms that she knew there was something not right, at all. What she saw was real.
That night Shelby sees the Pig Man. And he is also very real. Matt wrestles with him briefly before the couple get away. They’re saved by Dr. Elias Cunningham (Denis O’Hare), from out of nowhere. He uses the “Croatoan” spell, shouting it and dispelling the creature. But warns: “He‘ll be back.”
So Dr. Cunningham tells us about Croatoan. How it was left when Roanoke Colony disappeared. Really, it’s blood magic. Spooky. The doctor quickly relays that he’s the so-called guardian of the house, trying to make sure people know about its history. Matt’s eager to kick him out, although Shelby has seen the Pig Man before. Through the craziness, she believes Elias. In the basement, he shows them some of his work: all the “paranormal activity” that’s occurred in and around the house. Essentially, a history of horror and torture concerning various families that were unfortunate enough to have bought the house over the years. Like the Chens, who were taken by surprise once the Pig Man showed up. And once Thomasin “The Butcher” White (Kathy Bates) came by? Shit. Things got much, much worse. Cunningham tells Shelby and Matt about how even those nasty nurses were afraid of the place. The Butcher did them in good, too. Real medieval style. On and on and on the tales go. He mentions the “Dying Grass Moon” as being when the disappearances and murders take place.
Lee (Angela Bassett) is on the hook for her missing daughter, though Matt and Shelby wanted to get to the bottom of the whole Priscilla mystery. Something with which Elias can help. Lots of creepiness when Matt spies the strange woman (Lady Gaga) from afar. Shelby chases her until eventually getting lost and running into some hunters – the ones Dr. Cunningham told her about, who once stayed in the house and turned their guns on each other. Well, they’re still wearing those wounds. Quite graphically; dig it. Shelby didn’t, and tried using the Croatoan spell. Doesn’t work because of the lunar cycle, so says Elias. Then in the middle of the forest they see Flora with a bunch of ghosts (people who’ve died or disappeared in the house), the Pig Man, and of course Ms. Priscilla. A horn begins to blow soon. An arrow, or three, are plugged into the poor doctor. While the couple run off there’s no doubt we’ll see Elias again. I’d bet on it.At the house, Cricket Marlowe (Leslie Jordan) is ready to rock. They’re obviously ready to do whatever they can to get Lee’s daughter back. He tells them about talking to The Butcher. She’s pretty ready to rock, as well. Y’know, with the bloody moon rising and all. “I‘d kill for a Coke Zero right now,” Cricket says as he tries to get psyched up about what to do next. He takes off only to return hours later: “I met the bitch with the real power.” It’s that strange woods woman. She temporarily blinds him, puts a knife to his throat. Tricky lil’ Marlowe’s able to get himself out of it, after discovering a few things first. She shows him a vision. They’re in a cornfield. Hundreds of years ago. At the Lost Colony in Roanoke. This is where they came, to where the house now stands. They did terrible things, such as sacrificing little children; Cricket witnesses The Butcher smash a girl to death with a rock. Yikes. Her own son Ambrose (Wes Bentley) wasn’t pleased with the new path, under tutelage of that strange woman, the woods witch. The Butcher then pretended to repent for her wrongdoings, only to kill everyone. Even her boy. She puts a cleaver right in his chest to boot before slashing anybody not fully dead yet right into the grave. She binds them to their new land with blood. Lots of it. Her own, too. She lets the woods witch cut her throat, “bonding” the whole colony to the land “for all eternity.” Cricket says he’s got the spell to clue everything up.
Yeah, right. In his Uber on the way home Cricket spies Flora running across the road. So he gets out of the car and now you know he’s not getting back to the Millers any time soon.
Matt and Shelby wait for him. But he never comes. Night comes, Matt’s feeling a little creeped out. Foolishly, he heads outside – though with a gun – after hearing things, seeing fleeting images. The sounds they draw him to the cellar out in the woods. He finds the witch there, waiting. “Debts must be paid,” she tells him. Oh, you know what she means! Don’t pretend. A little later Shelby wakes and can’t find her husband. He’s stuck down in the cellar, mesmerised by her story. She was a “descendant of the Druids and their Roman conquerors.” Instead of being a victim, she slaughtered the soldiers keeping her captive. Anyway, Matt was lured into the honey trap. Meanwhile Shelby’s laid siege to by The Butcher and her ghostly hordes, Flora in their grasp. When Matt finally tears himself out of the spell, they get some help from Priscilla; she manages to get Flora away from them.
But poor Flora, she’s frightened. Then outside they all see Cricket. The Butcher rips his guts open while the Millers watch from inside. The colony gets truly medieval on Mr. Marlowe. Absolute savagery.
Things aren’t looking good for Matt and Shelby. We know they survive it. Yet even in the real footage of their interviews – are so sure they’ll be safe in the near future?Love this season so much! Lots of creepiness, a bit of gore. Some strange oddities of various types. Can’t wait for more in the next chapter.
FX’s American Horror Story
Season 6, Episode 2: “Chapter 2”
Directed by Michael Goi
Written by Tim Minear
* For a review of Chapter 1, click here.
* For a review of Chapter 3, click here.
Last we left Matt and Shelby Miller (Cuba Gooding Jr. & Sarah Paulson in the “dramatic re–enactment“; André Holland & Lily Rabe in the documentary-style clips), things were bad. Shelby’s lost in the woods, finding a strange torch wielding cult (including Wes Bentley) and a man whose skull has been… partially removed. The strange woman Shelby thought she’d run over chants in the darkness (Kathy Bates), a group of people surround a man having a pigtail nailed to him. Terribly creepy little cuts.
After running and running, Shelby stops a moment. Only to find more madness. “I never thought about what could be in the wilderness, hiding in the dark,” the real Shelby recounts. We see Bates’ character lead a strange ceremony involving a man put up on a cross, a pig’s head stuck on his shoulders. Shelby takes off again until passing out in the middle of the road, where Matt’s sister Lee (Angela Bassett) finds her. Of course it all sounds mad to the police and everyone else. Poor Shelby. God damn. Ultimately she too believes it’s the “mountain men” trying to drive them out of the house.
A very bad, tragic misunderstanding.
We get to see more about Lee now, she and her ex-husband Mason (Charles Malik Whitfield) exchange their daughter Flora (Saniyya Sidney) for a while. Yeah, that’s a great fucking idea. Bring a little girl into a haunted house, or at the very least a house out in the country being laid siege to by hillbillies. Anyway, things kick off real quick once Lee finds Flora talking to somebody upstairs. Who? Oh, just somebody named Priscilla. Who isn’t there. A ghost? Or something more? Lee does the smart thing and pries a bit. “She said she‘s tired of all the blood,” Flora responds when questioned about Priscilla and her bonnet. When Lee literally finds one laying around, she gets spooked.
The great thing about any haunted house film or show is that part of everything is the human, psychological drama happening. There’s Lee and her girl, as well as Matt and Shelby, everyone with their own issues, taking things in differently.
That night more pig noises come from outside. Shelby takes action and insists on tracking them down, so Matt tags along. In the dark, out amongst the trees, they get separated. As one would expect from any horror. When they find each other, they come across a large stick figure with a pig’s head on top, roasting in fire; the skin and meat hanging below dripping into the flames. “This was beyond having a cross burned on your lawn. There was something demonic about it.” the real Matt speaks through voice-over.
With a bit more evidence this time, the police reluctantly look into what’s happening around the Miller’s place. Then a phone call comes through to Matt in the night. Except the phone’s disconnected. In the shadows, he finds an apparition: mean nurses tending to an old, frail and sickly woman named Margaret (Irene Roseen). They can’t hear Matt, but he watches on as one of the nurses tells their patient “You‘ve been warned” before blowing her brains out with a revolver. Now he’s seeing terrifying things, it isn’t only Shelby anymore.This incident sets things into a frenzy. The police, as suspected, can’t find anything to backup Matt’s story. He starts questioning the integrity of his brain, literally, after the incident in the city. Problem is the cops are gradually getting less interested in helping, which isn’t all that abnormal by real world standards.
When Mason shows up for Flora, they can’t find her. It used to be a game she played with them. This time, not finding her may have something to do with the house. They find Flora in a crawlspace talking to Priscilla, who disappears quickly. Apparently Flora tried to make a trade: a doll for their lives. Seems Priscilla is homicidal. And it’s not just her. Flora warns her parents: “They‘re going to kill us all. And save me for last.” Fuck. That’s eerie. Dad hauls his daughter off and things aren’t looking any better for Lee as a mother. Especially considering she started drinking afterwards, off the wagon again. She broke a few things. Shelby’s not happy to find knives in the ceiling, although we can guess that probably wasn’t Lee. Those nurses are creeping about, too. In her drunken state Lee sees a lot of things from pigtails to pig heads and it’s one bad hangover she’s headed for in the morning.
There’s a little girl hanging around outside to boot, which sends Matt and Shelby outside. They come to a trap door with a ladder leading below ground a ways; hmm. Inside are a number of things including tapes in a camcorder. On them is a man named Dr. Elias Cunningham (Denis O’Hare). He speaks frantically saying things like “I‘m not what I am” and generally in distress over “forces that will not let me sleep.” He speaks of the house and its forces wanting to kill him. He further assures the viewer he’s not crazy. Then Cunningham tells us of his book about two nurses – Miranda and Bridget Jane. Oh yes, you guessed which nurses. Twisted bitches. They killed people with specific names to spell out MURDER. Everything got even wilder as it went on turning into one of those epic, insane tales of true crime.More craziness to set the Millers off. Peeling away wallpaper, Matt finds the unfinished word MURDE written on the wall. Everything gets more real at this point. They keep on listening to Cunningham’s rambling tape. Doesn’t help any, except to frighten the shit out of them further. Scariest yet is when the tormented doctor heads inside the house with only his camcorder, night vision on, to guide him through the silent hallways. “Show yourself,” he yells to whatever’s in the dark. Before something, someone appears and startles him. And downstairs, a butcher’s knife with blood on it is stuck in the front door.
They just wanted to leave. Not so easy, though. No getting out of that mad house. Everything amps up a notch after Lee shows up with Flora again. When she’s clearly not supposed to have here there. More of that impulsive Lee behaviour already. Her brother tries to talk sense into her. Shelby tries talking the ex-husband down from calling the cops.
But can Mason get there to take his daughter away before anything worse happens? The little girl whom I assume to be Priscilla beckons Flora to come outside, out near the trap door in the field. Then she goes missing. The adults start to search frantically.
In a clearing, Lee finds her daughter’s yellow sweater at the top of a thin, ridiculously tall tree, its trunk looking almost stained with blood. They stand below, not sure what to do next.
And what can they do?Very pumped for “Chapter 3” next week. Some people keep complaining, and I have no idea why. I love the re-enactment stuff, it adds a fun twist to the show. I’m still feeling like there’s going to be an angle to all that. Just like My Amityville Horror had its drama, My Roanoke Nightmare is going to bring something with that faux-documentary posing as a real documentary. Mark my words.
Also, did you catch Lady Gaga in her brief appearance? She shows up a couple times early on. Very unnerving look to her character. Can’t wait for more, of everything!
All Good Things. 2010. Directed by Andrew Jarecki. Screenplay by Marcus Hinchey & Marc Smerling.
Starring Ryan Gosling, Kirsten Dunst, Frank Langella, Philip Baker Hall, Lily Rabe, Michael Esper, Diane Venora, Nick Offerman, Kristen Wiig, Stephen Kunken, John Cullum, & Maggie Kiley. Magnolia Pctures/Groundswell/Alliance Films.
Rated 18A. 103 minutes.
By now, many people have seen HBO’s series The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst, directed by Andrew Jarecki. Before that, he did this fictional retelling of the events which frame most of the later documentary series. While the names are changed to slightly distance itself from the actual notorious missing persons case involving Robert Durst’s wife Kathleen McCormack, Jarecki sticks close to home. Above anything, All Good Things is an up close and personal adaptation of a true crime story spanning several decades.
Centering in on the fictional version of Durst – here named David Marks, played by Ryan Gosling – this film examines the life of a man whose entire identity is a construct, one that shifts and changes depending on the situation, one that it a mask and also a plea, to be like everyone else, to find unity. At the bottom of it all, Marks – Durst – whoever he wants to be in real life – that person is lonely. He is empty. But the problem with him, as Jarecki shows us through the screenplay from Marcus Hinchey and Marc Smerling, that everything seems wonderful at first because Marks plays the part he’s required to play. Then when the disguise gives way and the mask falls off a whole other terrifying reality lies directly behind it.
So the obvious origin of the title is the health food store David and Katie own together. And it was the last episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, but that’s besides the point. It also obviously refers to the common phrase “all good things must come to an end”, which holds particular significance in regards to the film’s subject and themes. In the beginning, David is all those good things. He and Katie had such a whirlwind romance. It’s really the ultimate romantic movie hookup, as they meet on a whim when David’s forced to go out and look after her leaky faucet, all the while wearing a tux on the way to a party with his father and some big shots. They seemed such kindred spirits. Then they head off out to the countryside and run a health food store together; so sweet, so American Dreamy. After the possibility of children comes up when they get married, all those good things they come to an end. Rather abruptly. From that moment on it’s a veritable free fall descent into a tortured marriage between David and Katie. One thing, then the next. David’s mask slips further with each desperate, strange act. Until it’s as if there never were any good things, and even those good things could never ever be enough to in any way erase the things which came after them.
You can see the manipulative nature of David come out most evident when Katie receives her acceptance letter to medical school. As she comes in and happily reads her (already opened) mail, David proceeds to go out, jump in a cold fall lake and swim to get a little boat he apparently doesn’t want stolen. Except it is a cry for attention, to take it off her, as he feels wounded by not knowing she’d applied in the first place. Further than that it’s his narcissistic personality emerging more than ever. His freezing cold, almost naked body now takes precedence over her big happy moment. A brief yet sad, telling scene. And things only get worse from there. The good things, they slip away further, and his dangerous side presents itself. Right out in the open, too. Right in front of her family. So the scary part is: what would he do behind closed doors? And that sets the stage for the possibilities swirling around the mystery of Katie’s disappearance later on.
More manipulation is clear in the relationship between Malvern and David. As we get the present David telling a lawyer/the court about Malvern being too clingy and awkward, we’re also intermittently shown cuts of the two of them house shopping: here we see David directly oppose what he says on the stand. So really, everybody near David is manipulated, whether friend, lawyer, courtrooms, whomever it may be; this is a true con artist.
Furthermore, if we look again at the phrase “all good things must come to an end” then there appears a tragic trend along the timeline of David Marks’ life. Because it appears good people meet their end when wrapped up with David. Not to say his possible accomplice in the disappearance of his wife was a good woman, nor was Malvern either. But there’s no telling how these people would have went through life had David not influenced them in some way, shape, or form. Anybody that walks about life leaving a trail of bodies like David is inherently suspicious as an influential figure.
Something I enjoy a lot about All Good Things is the shifting, twisty narrative. Bits of the present are weaved in through pieces of the past, and just like the life of David Marks (a.k.a Robert Durst) the past is never far behind; like William Faulkner, it isn’t even past. So part of the narrative structure overall speaks to that very theme in the life of its main character, the true life figure they’re fictionally dissecting here onscreen. Not only that there is a solid ambiguity which strings on long after the film ends. Of course in real life there have been a couple answers, or likely answers, since The Jinx aired. Yet the disappearance of Katie Marks (a.k.a Kathleen McCormack) is still draped in mystery. This movie provides some possible explanations. However, nothing is concrete, not a thing is for certain. And though this is an aspect that might divide others, causing them to label the film as unfair in its ambiguity. For me, it’s perfectly so. In real life the answers are never easy, certainly not in a case like this debacle (in every sense of the word). Therefore, Jarecki and the writers give us no definitive, final answers to the questions surrounding this true crime. Rather it’s all about the atmosphere, the emotional perspectives, the heaviness of everything.
In that way All Good Things is impressive. Jarecki is a good director, whose talents were evident before this in his (admittedly problematic) documentary Capturing the Friedmans. Here, he directs the story well and conjures up a mysterious, tense mood like something out of memories; it’s like we’re looking into the past through the lens of someone’s memory or their dreams. The look is impeccable, alongside some fascinating makeup work for the 2000s scenes. On top of that, the score from composer Rob Simonsen (Foxcatcher, 500 Days of Summer) is so god damn beautiful. The very noticeable string pieces are rich and gorgeous sounding, at the same time they’ve got an ominous sort of tone to them that resonates with the plot. Also it helps with the pacing, as these portions of the score almost make things feel like they’re clipping along solidly. The music and the visuals match up quite well to achieve this movie’s wholly engaging atmosphere.
The writing and directing, all the technical aspects line up together. Yet in addition there’s so much talent in the cast. Along the edges there’s Philip Baker Hall, always enjoyable and always interesting to see as the various characters he inhabits. His portrayal of Malvern Bump (a.k.a Morris Black) is infectious, in the sense he grows on you similar to how he does David, but all the same we’re also able to see how he is perhaps a bit too closely attached; though not always his own fault. His tragic qualities are brought out by Hall in a subtly intense performance. Also, the ever awesome Frank Langella plays Sanford Marks (a.k.a Seymour Durst). Only a supporting role, Langella makes this father figure a looming one in David’s life, and one whose identity casts too deep and long a shadow for David to want to live up to it whatsoever. He is truly menacing at times and a hateful, sad man, which Langella portrays so well.
Dunst and Gosling are the shining stars. No doubt. With Dunst we get a spectacular performance in her role as a woman that figures out all good things are coming to their end, and fast. But a woman who is nearly powerless to stop it, then winds up with a far worse fate than she’d ever imagined. Dunst’s emotional resonance is always apparent as an actor, but almost never more so than in this role. She is powerful, strong, and even as a victim does not feel utterly lacking hope. Parallel to her is Gosling, and he knocks the role of David Marks out of the park. Some say he’s the same in every movie, I don’t agree. He just isn’t a loud, brash actor. Instead he gives an understated performance. He never allows us a full view into David, similar to how the real Durst is quite the shifty, manipulative character. Gosling keeps Marks as a quiet and subdued type, whose scary personal side only erupts in the most controlled environments. And when those moments happen they are intense, sometimes horrifying. Together, Dunst and Gosling elevate this whole story with their emotional acting.
Honestly, this is a favourite of mine since the 2010s broke. Andrew Jarecki does a lot of good stuff in terms of directorial choices here, which are only further aided by the solid cast, the moving score, and the screenplay’s interesting structure. Definitely check this out, especially if you’re at all interested in The Jinx or Robert Durst in general. Absolutely worth investing the time; an atmospheric, well acted piece of true crime fictionalized.
FX’s American Horror Story
Season 4, Episode 10: “Orphans”
Directed by Bradley Buecker
Written by James Wong
* For a review of the previous episode, “Tupperware Party Massacre” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Magical Thinking” – click here
With only a few episodes left, the freak show in Jupiter is experiencing all sorts of madness descending upon it, from Elsa Mars (Jessica Lange) and her dangerous ties with Stanley (Denis O’Hare), to Jimmy Darling (Evan Peters) who now finds himself at the mercy of the police; so, so much is happening. And still, there’s more!
This episode commences with the death of Salty (Christopher Neiman). Poor Pepper (Naomi Grossman) is devastated, clinging to his corpse on his beautiful deathbed. Paul (Mat Fraser) and Amazon Eve (Erika Ervin) try to tear her away, though, she misses him obviously. Elsa claims to know the “depth of that girl‘s soul” even if others don’t always. We get a couple very sad moments where Pepper discovers Salty dead during sleep, a stroke they assume. Such a tragic thing, to see two people who loved each other in spite of the world around them, now one of them left alone to remain on earth.
But we get more of Stanley looking for specimens, as he takes the body of Salty, chopping off its head, and sending it over to the Museum of Morbid Curiosities. Where the head is displayed next to Ma Petite, floating in a jar of formaldehyde. More of a sad end in the life of Salty.
Over at the camp, Pepper lays in bed while Desiree Dupree (Angela Bassett) reads her a bedtime story. The part-newly changed Dell (Michael Chiklis) shows up, moved by her reading the book and claiming she’ll be “a great mom someday.” He’s still a bad guy, but to see this shift in him is a bit incredible. For all the terribleness that is Dell, he still cares for Desiree, as well as seems to have started caring for the freaks around him after finally admitting that he, essentially, is just as much a freak. Inside the tent, Pepper cries while Desiree has to leave to prepare for the night’s show.
Elsa and Desiree have a drink together, talking a little about Pepper’s dilemma. Further, they chat about Elsa’s new move off to Hollywood, or at least what Elsa believes is her coming big break. Will Stanley, a.k.a Richard, do anything for her? We’ll see. For now, we get more flashbacks into the life of Elsa Mars and her first days in America playing in a group from Boston. Soon enough, though, Elsa found her niche, proclaiming the circus owners as “morons” and saying they couldn’t “see the future.”
But Elsa could. She understands entertainment, what people want, what they crave, even the darker things. “Most people don‘t see beauty in someone like Pepper. They see shame, they see human garbage,” Elsa tells Desiree. This is where she arrived at an orphanage to find Pepper alone in a corner, playing with blocks by herself. Such a touching scene, highly emotional to see Elsa connecting with Pepper in those first beginnings of their long relationship/casual friendship. She was Elsa’s “first monster,” one who made her feel real and unconditional love for the first time, as well. Moreover, Elsa saw the maternal instincts in Pepper grow, but knew she couldn’t have children.
Then came Ma Petite (Jyoti Amge), who satisfied the curiosity of Elsa, and also helped to quell the maternal longing of Pepper. What a beautiful sequence where we see the origins of these freak show relationships! Such fun to see Ma Petite back, too. Even when she’s traded for 3 cases of delicious Dr. Pepper into Elsa’s arms. But, although Petite became a part of a carnival of so-called freaks, she was let off the leash to which she’d been held by the Indian prince, and so I say: good. One of the most emotionally challenging and intense sequences out of this season, as we get this really romantic and nostalgic sort of thing happening throughout these scenes. Especially after Salty is first introduced to Pepper, and they fall in love at first sight! They have a nice carnival wedding, officiated by Elsa and flowers tossed around by the sweet little Ma Petite. Definitely a favourite overall from Season 4 Freak Show, with an extended sequence stretching out a bit. This gives more depth to the other characters. It also makes Elsa a little more human, regardless of her terrible faults.Still, Desiree suggests maybe Pepper’s sister may take her back in now that she’s older, not eighteen and hard to handle anymore. But, as we know, Pepper later ends up in Briarcliff during Season 2 Asylum. Are we to see that transition in this season, better yet in this episode?
Maggie Esmerelda (Emma Roberts) receives Desiree and Angus T. Jefferson (Malcolm-Jamal Warner) in her tent, looking for a reading of their future. Shyster Maggie shows off her skills, or at least her skills of excellent perception; pretending to look at the crystal ball, only gleaning facts about him from looking at his shoes, his coat, et cetera. She feeds them both a good line of bullshit, as they lap it up eagerly, loving on one another. But then Maggie’s own feelings work into the reading, talking about how their perfect little little will go “all to shit.” Because that’s life. They have no time for her nonsense, even Angus claiming he’s a “God–fearing Christian” who doesn’t believe reading the future is possible. Yeah, like he didn’t love it before that.
Outside, Maggie and Desiree have a confrontation. Then Maggie reveals: she and Stanley are “on the grift,” and they’ve been working together since 1941. A little flashback to Maggie’s days grifting as a young sneak selling papers, supposedly, as a boy. Stanley yanks her out of trouble, then makes her his partner; for a bad price on her part. Maggie is upset, but Desiree knows there’s something nasty afoot on their part, and threatens the younger woman – if she finds out anything happening at the carnival, the freak deaths, has something to do with her and Stanley, there will be hell to pay.
In her tent, Maggie is awaited by Bette and Dot Tattler (Sarah Paulson). They want her to do right by Jimmy. They have money to pay for a lawyer, so he won’t “turn out like Meep,” which finally frightens Maggie into helping. Or at least so it seems.
At Jimmy’s cell, up turns Stanley. He says he’s there to help and knows exactly how Jimmy feels. He reels off a story about losing his mother, being an orphan. Is it more sleek sales pitch, or is it real? I doubt that. Jimmy doesn’t remember killing those women in his drunken rage. Though, he can’t be sure. He had a long blackout. “I didn‘t kill them. Did I?” Jimmy asks Stanley. The latter says he has an attorney for Jimmy, one who wants a retainer. Stanley is greasing his way towards something: what is it? He says he has an idea on how to “raise the funds”, after which we get a flip-screen shot zooming in Jimmy’s hands. NO! Is Stanley going to do what I think he’s out to do? Will he convince Jimmy to cut the hands off? Will Jimmy die? Oh, man. I can’t handle that.
In tent city, Desiree is busy cooking for all her fellow freak family. She and Maggie are still flitting around each other. Maggie wants to help Jimmy and tries to gain Desiree’s trust: “Everyone in this entire camp will be dead soon if you don‘t listen to me,” Maggie tells her.
Mare Winningham returns to the Ryan Murphy-Brad Falchuk universe as Pepper’s sister, Rita Gayheart. She seems a very prim, proper type, an upper class housewife in the 1950s with a nice hairdo, high heeled shoes, and a drink during the afternoon with a little cherry in it. Elsa doesn’t want to leave her there evidently, but seems to believe it’s best for Pepper. Rita, for her part, is not too interested. Especially seeing as how her husband has no idea Pepper exists. “Pepper is a gift,” Elsa says and tries to express how Pepper needs someone now, after suffering “great losses.” More emotions flow again now, as Elsa says a teary goodbye to her friend, her companion Pepper, who also shows that she will miss her. But the trouble has only begun for dear Pepper.
In other news, Maggie brings Desiree to the museum where Stanley unloads all his freak bodies and body parts. Sad to watch Desiree walking around, seeing Ma Petite and Salty in their jars, dead and gone. Right as they’re moving around from one exhibit to another, up shows a new exhibit: lobster hands. Maggie faints, but is this real? ARE THOSE JIMMY’S FUCKING HANDS?
Before figuring it all out, we snap back to Rita who is with a familiar face: Sister Mary Eunice McKee (Lily Rabe). What a treat! I love Rabe, and her presence in the American Horror Story universe is incredible, as always. We’re flashing to 1962, at Briarcliff, where Rita talks about how she finally got pregnant after not thinking she could get pregnant. Unsuspectingly, Rita has a child. Only the baby was slightly deformed, and later little baby Lucas became more of a problem.
Rita claims Pepper was helping out with the infant. Though, we get shots of Pepper trying to do so while Rita lies drunk in bed calling for “another martini.” In Season 2 Asylum, we heard Pepper supposedly murdered the baby, cutting its ears off or something similarly nasty. Here, we see the truth. Rita was a mess, her husband Larry Matthew Glave) was possibly molesting Pepper. The baby was left mostly to Pepper, who is accused by Rita as being a murderer. Yet in reality, Larry and Rita want the baby gone; he leads things, but she certainly doesn’t try to stop him. They concoct a little scheme to have the baby gone, to have Pepper gone, too. Larry asks his wife: “What if I had a way to kill two birds with one stone?” I won’t say any more. But this whole sequence is very morbid, frightening, and entirely too sad. Pepper’s tragic history is a weepy one, no doubt. Which left her rotting in the hell-hole that is Briarcliff Asylum.
At the hospital, the snake pit, Sister Mary Eunice makes Pepper her “special project.” And while sorting magazines there, Pepper sees a Life Magazine from 1958 with Elsa Mars on it, calling her the Queen of Friday night television.
What a beautiful and painful episode, all at once.
Looking forward to reviewing the next one, “Magical Thinking”.
FX’s American Horror Story
Season 3, Episode 8: “The Sacred Taking”
Directed by Alfonso Gomez-Rejon
Written by Ryan Murphy
* For a review of the previous episode, “The Dead” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Head” – click here
With Delphine LaLaurie (Kathy Bates) at the savage mercy of Marie Laveau (Angela Bassett), and Queenie (Gabourey Sidibe) on her side too, things seem to be changing in New Orleans.
Out under the cover of the city’s darkness, Queenie is searching for something. Under a bridge somewhere she lurks among the homeless community, the destitute and drugged up washouts either on the bottle or on the pipe. From one of the little tents comes a terrifying man, looking to “carve her up“. But Queenie easily fends her off with voodoo doll shit. From out of nowhere come Madison (Emma Roberts) and Zoe (Taissa Farmiga). They don’t want her to leave, they seem to want her back and actually appreciate her. They know she’s tough. Still, Queenie has things to do for Laveau: she cuts open the aforementioned homeless guy, apparently a rapist, and hauls a heart out; no problem. Apparently it’s going to help her gain power, some kind of ceremony Marie is planning.
“War is coming. And you‘re gonna lose.”
Fiona (Jessica Lange) is slowly getting sicker and sicker. All the treatments and the medications, the chemotherapy, it’s making her feel “as if I’ve been dipped in the River Styx.” She writhes on the floor and in a voice-over laments that her body is no longer her own, she has given herself over to terminal illness, which will take her away from the earth soon enough. Cordelia doesn’t care, only taunting her over Thanksgiving cooking. The only one who does care is the dear ole Axeman (Danny Huston), who lays with her in bed smoking, looking at her with a swollen twinkle in his eye and longing only for a life with her, anywhere, somewhere. “You‘re watching me decay,” says Fiona. He doesn’t see it that way, though, the illness is destroying any bit of faith she once had. All that’s keeping her living and breathing properly at the moment is spite, not wanting to give her daughter or anyone else the satisfaction of leaving a moment too soon.
More creepiness comes by way of Luke Ramsey (Alexander Dreymon) and his mother Joan (Patti LuPone). She is upset, in all her puritanical glory, about her son’s newfound uncleanliness. She mixes up a chemical cocktail in a hot water bottle, connected with a catheter-like tube, and then has him lay down in the tub. We don’t exactly see what happens, or where exactly the tubing goes. However, we can easily assume it’s a nasty way of Joan cleansing her son and his sinfulness, y’know, all that deep grimy sin on the inside. Yuck. I’m guessing it was an enema, not anything in the front end.
At the academy, Misty Day (Lily Rabe) shows up in a panic, feet filthy, raving a little. After she was able to get Myrtle (Frances Conroy) resurrected, turns out a man with a gun came to get her. A man trying to shoot witches? No doubt witch-hunter Hank Foxx (Josh Hamilton). When Cordelia meets Misty, she sees everything with her newly gained sight, all the troubles she’d seen up until then. Now she is a part of the coven. Even better, Myrtle is back with them again like old times, back from the burning dead. Also, there are conflicting thoughts on who will be the next Supreme. Who could it be? Is it Misty? Or Zoe? Or who else? We’ll see what happens.
They start a ceremony called The Sacred Taking, title of the episode. It’s meant to prove Misty is the next Supreme. The whole thing starts with Cordelia talking about the ceremony is meant to also help the survival of the coven, starting back in the days of the Salem Witches. Great little sequence here with a black-and-white flashback to the Invoking of the Sacred Taking.
Poor Fiona is losing her hair, throwing up, and she thinks maybe losing her mind. A cover of “Season of the Witch” by Donovan plays and Madison, red dress belonging to Fiona, dances around the room: “Surprise bitch,” she exclaims. She talks about breaking in her new bed, and so on, being the new Supreme and all. Claiming she brought herself back and the Council ought to be called. Such a surreal scene the way they shot everything, which adds to the fact Fiona probably believes her mind is caving in. Sad to see Fiona try and open a door, the thing barely moving a few inches. Madison tries to convince her to kill herself with a bottle of pills. Furthermore, Myrtle shows up to freak Fiona out. But she takes it fairly well, all things considered; not sure if they’re back to life, or she’s in hell. Fiona plans to go away with the Axeman, while Myrtle fills her head with visions of him getting tired of the smell of her death, tired of waiting around.
“You guys suck balls“
After Nan (Jamie Brewer) storms off, upset that she’s not even being considered as in the running for Supreme, we see Hank waiting outside, lurking in the darkness. She finds Luke in his house, tied up. What’s happening?
We cut back to Fiona, who wants to die now. She wants to give up, asking Myrtle to look out for her daughter as best she can. Taking all the pills to plummet to her death, Fiona goes to sleep. But eventually comes to, as Spalding (Denis O’Hare) wakes her. He explains his tongue, his death, and reveals Madison was revived by Misty and they are exploiting Fiona, trying to kill her and make way for the new Supreme. With help from Spalding she purges the pills. Then vows revenge for them both against the coven.
Back over at Marie’s salon, Queenie brings Delphine – now locked in a cage for regular bleedings – some food. Before they can have any meaningful conversation, and LaLaurie can get any answers, Marie shows up and squashes that situation. Marie plans to keep Delphine, who of course cannot die, and make her suffer. Starting now with a chop of the hand and a warning there is much, much more to come for the immortal racist.
Now we switch back quickly to Nan and Luke, who are prevented from going anywhere by the religiously psychotic Joan. Not for long, though. Soon a rifle’s laser points through the windows. Joan is shot twice, Luke takes a bullet trying to make sure Nan survives.
At the academy, Cordelia and the others await Fiona’s death. Only the Supreme is still quite alive. She saunters through the living room, asking about Misty. Which leads her over the commotion next door. Cordelia ends up discovering the bullets were meant for witches, not the Ramseys.
My favourite part of this episode, though, is the very end. The academy receives a package at the door. When Fiona answers and opens it, there is the head of Delphine LaLaurie, staring up at her, and whispering to be helped. Very ominous. A horrific message from Laveau. Is a war coming between the voodoo sect of witches and the descendant witches from Salem? Looks like it.
Stay tuned for the next episode with me, titled “Head” directed by Howard Deutch and written by Tim Minear.
FX’s American Horror Story
Season 3, Episode 2: “Boy Parts”
Directed by Michael Rymer
Written by Tim Minear
* For a review of the previous episode, “Bitchcraft” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “The Replacements” – click here
“Boy Parts” begins with Misty Day (Lily Rabe) apparently risen from the grave herself. A couple gator hunters come across her in the swamps, Steve Nicks’ “Edge of Seventeen” playing in the background. She’s dancing and lamenting the killing of the beautiful creatures – gators hung from the trees, gutted, being skinned. When the hunters threaten her, she brings a gator back to life and then another comes out of the swamp, so bye bye hunters. Chomp chomp. I love that she’s back already, I thought we might have to go an episode or two before Misty cropped up once more. But here she is. Lily Rabe has been a revelation since the second season and I cannot get enough. Hopefully her character has lots to do coming up.
Back at Miss Robichaux’s Academy, Cordelia (Sarah Paulson) is waking all the girls up, readying everyone for a meeting. Poor Madison (Emma Roberts) is obviously still reeling from her gang rape, like any sensible young woman would. Then there’s Zoe (Taissa Farmiga), whose feelings for Kyle (Evan Peters) are obvious; he died, yet she knows he wasn’t a bad guy, he tried to do the right thing after he discovered what happened with his frat brothers.
Most intriguing, Fiona (Jessica Lange) has Madame Delphine LaLaurie (Kathy Bates), fresh out of the living grave, tied and gagged in her room. What’s the rub here? I’m so interested to find out where this is headed.
Flash to Queenie (Gabourey Sidibe) back in 2012, where she worked at a fried chicken place called Chubbie’s – a guy is giving her shit about not having enough pieces in his basket. Instead, she jams her hand into the boiling fat behind the counter, voodoo dolling the jackass yelling at her. Flashback to the young witches sitting around, talking to Cordelia and each other about where they came from before the academy.
Up show the police looking to talk with Madison and Zoe about their presence at the frat party. Things are getting tense. Even worse, Zoe gets awkward and nervous and breaks down, telling the police everything. And I mean EVERYTHING! Yet luckily, she is a witch. Among witches. After things go awry, Fiona struts in to undo it all with that sweet feminine magic. Or straight up devilish magic, either way it works. Then she goes back to the girls’ room, tosses Zoe and Madison at the walls and lays down the law about how things are going to go from here on in: shape up, or ship the fuck out.
“I couldn‘t toast a piece of bread with the heat they were putting on you“
To try mending Zoe’s sadness over Kyle, the usually hateful Madison has a plan to help. She takes them to the city morgue, in order to return the favour of Zoe killing the guy who raped her. In one room there are the pieces of all the guys killed in the crash. Kyle was dismembered terribly, so they’ve got to mix and match a few pieces in order to get him back together. The title of this episode “Boy Parts” comes to bear on their process, as Madison decides they’ll find the best pieces then top it all off with Kyle’s head: the ideal Ken doll.
Meanwhile, Cordelia and her husband Hank Foxx (Josh Hamilton) are trying to put together their own boy, or girl – they want a baby, no matter what. However, Cordelia can’t seem to get pregnant. Her womb has troubles, for whatever reason. Hank seems supportive, but wants her to use the witchcraft to make things possible for them. Cordelia’s against it, not wanting to turn into her own mother; someone who has taken the shortcuts of life at every turn.
Finally, LaLaurie has to come to terms with what Marie Laveau (Angela Bassett) did to her all those years ago.
We flash back to after Delphine first took the vial and drank it. She wakes up to find her worst fears coming true: her family is killed, while she’s been given eternal life. They were all hung. Now, Delphine is left by Laveau to spend life in a box underneath the earth, never to die. Only Fiona has dug her back up and let her free. Well, not free. She’s essentially under the slavery of the Supreme for now.
Over at the morgue, Madison and Zoe have a Kyle Frankenstein monster put together. They’re gearing up for some type of witchcraft ceremony, in which they intend to bring him back to life again. Things don’t go exactly as planned, though.
Kyle comes back to life, all right. He just doesn’t come back like he was, at all. He is more similar to Frankenstein’s monster than ever before.
“Did we just barter with the Devil? ‘Cause I don’t know if I’m down with that.”
Nan’s psychic powers lead her to find LaLaurie upstairs tied in the closet, which starts a bit of chaos. First, Delphine cracks Queenie over the top of the head, knocking her out. But Fiona is across town at the home base of Marie Laveau, they’re having a bit of a head-to-head confrontation. They drop a bit of knowledge on us about shamans, necromancy, Haitian voodoo and such. Plenty of history in a few minutes of dialogue between Lange and Bassett – another classic pairing we’re able to enjoy courtesy of Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk & Co. Though, the offer Fiona brings for Laveau is turned away before anything else happens. We’ll get more of this later on. Not too long afterwards, we see the Minotaur is still under care of Marie, who unchains him for “business” they have to take care of soon.
Cordelia and Hank are busy trying to do freaky rituals in order to get pregnant. They have kinky sex with black candles, a circle of black sand or something, and all that kind of wild stuff. Oh, and blood. I suppose being a witch can offer a bit of kink in the love life. This whole sequence is pretty creepy and full of sensual imagery. The sex, a snake egg cracks, fire ignites in the circle around them. Then as they finish, everything goes back to normal. Will it work? Who knows.
Zoe is busy rushing Kyle away from the morgue. The poor dude is having troubles, coming back to life is obviously not a walk in the park. Kyle smashes his body around in the car, as Zoe drives them off. She’s upset, trying to do her best and feeling she did the wrong thing bringing him back.
Luckily, Misty Day turns up in their backseat. She knows how to help Kyle transition back into life appropriately. Zoe brings them back to Misty’s shack, out in the swamps. Misty wipes dung all over Kyle, great healing properties she says. Leaving him with the resurrected witch, Zoe is conflicted about what ought to be done with Kyle in his newly living state; he looks monstrous, Evan Peters does such a fantastic job performing this character, amazing work.
A good conversation between Fiona and LaLaurie, as the latter laments now being above ground, her family dead and gone, everything changed and new to her completely. Lots of interesting things happening between these two. Cannot wait for more of their relationship to come out! And also just having LaLaurie’s presence around, in a day and age very far socially from where she was in the early 19th century. Exciting thematic things will unfold.
The next episode is called “The Replacements”, once again directed by series regular Alfonso Gomez-Rejon.
FX’s American Horror Story
Season 5, Episode 4: “Devil’s Night”
Directed by Loni Peristere
Written by Jennifer Salt
* For a review of the previous episode, “Mommy” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Room Service” – click here
Once more, another night at the Hotel Cortez – “Devil’s Night”, in fact.
In strolls Richard Ramirez (Anthony Ruivivar) for a stay. Apparently this is his third year back since perishing. Looks as if we’re going to have a savage night, aren’t we? He pops into the room of some guests and bashes in the man’s skull with a lamp. He asks the woman to “swear to Satan” she’ll be quiet, but of course that doesn’t work. A bit of cat-and-mouse until ole James March (Evan Peters) appears at the end of the hallway…
A nice slick opening sets up an obviously entertaining night ahead, especially for Detective John Lowe (Wes Bentley) who is still staying at the Cortez. A hotel full of dead serial killers on the move? Should get wild.
When Lowe wakes up for the day he talks with his daughter Scarlett (Shree Crooks). It seems as if there’s a bit of a divide now starting to creep between John and his family. He’s not quite right. Doesn’t help when he starts seeing a massive pool of blood forming on the ceiling, dripping down his wall.
Better yet, we get a look at the story of Miss Evers (Mare Winningham) – back in 1925, she seems quite the prissy, uptight mother. Her child is dressed up as the typical bedsheet-eye holed ghost. After taking time to blab on with some other woman, a man abducts the little ghost and speeds away. WHOA. That’s already disturbing enough, who knows what happens from there.
Zipping back to the present, Miss Evers has a bunch of bloody sheets in the bathroom trying to get the stains out, as usual. Lowe, bleary eyed and sort of ghostly looking himself, wonders what’s going on around the hotel. She’s only a blubbering mess, but he understands. They’ve both lost children.
The ghost was taken to a ranch and caged up, poor kid. Another snippet of true American Horror – the Wineville Chicken Coop Murders – plays the backdrop for Miss Evers and her personal story. A pretty horrifying story for her. Still I’m super intrigued to see how she actually ended up at the Cortez, as well as how she and Lowe will interact more given their similar loss of young children.
John’s wife, Alex (Chloë Sevigny) has brought little Holden (Lennon Henry) home from the hotel and its weird rooms, the glass coffins. She’s glad to have him. Examining him a little, finding his temperature to be very low, things are definitely in a lull before terror strikes. Holden tells mommy he’s thirsty, but is it juice he wants? Alex pours her son a big glass. I’m pretty sure he’d rather have a nice drink of blood, though. When she goes back in with the orange juice, he’s sinking teeth into the family dog and having a snack. He wants his other mommy, not Alex.
Poor John. Man, oh, man. He is being put through the ringer. His mental state keeps slipping, as he goes back to bring up the police files on Miss Evers’ story, only to discover it happened 85 years prior. I’m just waiting for something harsh to happen with him. I don’t want it to, just have the sneaking suspicion Lowe will fall further down the rabbit hole.
Alex goes back to the Cortez, where Holden giddily climbs into his coffin. The Countess (Lady Gaga) slips in unnoticed, only to invite Alex upstairs for a chat. We get a flashback to Holden’s disappearance – The Countess was standing nearby, watching them. Terrifying moment where we see her walking away with Holden and John screams out for his son. Even more terrifying is a subtle moment: Alex pulls a gun and holds it at the Countess, who only leans back in her chair, without words saying “Fuck you and your gun”. Just a real solid moment.
Love, love, love more Liz Taylor (Denis O’Hare)! She serves Lowe a bit of soda, as John decides: “I‘ll have a double martini.”
“Control is an illusion”
“Tonight I surrender to the illusion”
But glory glory hallelujah, Lily Rabe is back at the bar – literally – as Aileen Wuornos. She’s on her thirteenth year at the Cortez, dead since 2002. MY GOD, Rabe is a constantly amazing piece of work! Here, Wuornos sits down with Lowe for a drink. They have a bit of casual chit chat. Rabe is fucking incredible, she doesn’t copy Charlize Theron’s performance, but absolutely embodies Wuornos. For anyone who has ever seen the two documentaries about Eileen by filmmaker Nick Broomfield, you just can’t deny Lily Rabe rocks this role out of the park. The body movements, the look, the inflections in her speech and tiny idiosyncrasies about the way she performs… it’s perfect for this episode! Ruivivar did well with Ramirez, I dug that too. But Rabe is worth the price of admission this week. So great she’s back on American Horror Story. Weird, though, how Lowe ends up heading back to a room with her.
What follows is a bit of intensity that I won’t ruin with any more. See it, dig it.
Loved seeing the Zodiac Killer, dressed in the supposed getup the living victim saw him wearing all those years ago, stroll past Lowe through the lobby. Amazing episode, cramming all these infamous serial killers into the hotel. Perfect addition for the week in which Halloween falls! I’ve got a great t-shirt with this version of the Zodiac on it, very creepy. Such a nice brief shot of him going past Dt. Lowe, the costume design worked so well.
Naturally, John is weirded out by it all. Downstairs he gets an invitation from Liz Taylor for the big Devil’s Night Ball. Should be a grand time, no?
Oh my, the hits just keep on coming! John Wayne Gacy (John Carroll Lynch) talks about doing good sub-flooring with Ramirez – such an incredibly subtle way to introduce the story of Gacy, instead of having him immediately dressed as a clown or something. At the dinner table, March introduces the night with a bit of absinthe. Everyone drinks it back excitedly. Although Lowe is certainly confused. Then there’s Jeffrey Dahmer (Seth Gabel), too. Zodiac strolls in late, silent, being heckled by the other killers. JUST AN OUTRAGEOUSLY AWESOME FUCKING SCENE! Yes, there’s exposition to give us a bit of the newly introduced serial killers, but I think it comes in proper doses. Plus, Lowe eventually breaks in and starts ragging on everyone, still believing it’s all a Halloween costume party of some sort. I couldn’t get enough of this whole sequence, such a well written episode.
I won’t ruin more of the big dinner scene. There’s an excellently disturbing, grotesque sequence within it after “Sweet Jane” by Cowboy Junkies starts to play, and all the murderers get their toys out, start really enjoying themselves. So terrifying! Detective Lowe has to sit there, handcuffed due to Gacy’s saucy tricks, and watch it all go down right in front of them. Love how March gives short little explanations about how all the serial killers came to him at various periods in their lives; it gives us great context, however, it also shows us how wonderful Evan Peters is as March, he gets time to show off a bit and be “the master.” Loved this sequence with every macabre and morbid bone in my body.
John Wayne Gacy: “Johnny Depp likes my paintings!”
With a little under 10 minutes left to the episode, we see Hypodermic Sally (Sarah Paulson) having a smoke outside the hotel. Some Wall Street-looking guy wanders up to her and talks shit for a little. Turns out, he wants “whatever you’re selling“, so he says to Sally. Will this poor fella end up in one of those mattresses like the creepy skin and bones dude from “Checking In” and Gabriel (Max Greenfield), too? We’ll see how things go for this one.
Oh my, we didn’t need to wait long. Sally buys off being left alone at the hotel by bringing up a fresh carcass for the killers’ dessert. Everyone selects a knife, Gacy even gets his makeup on (nice to see Lynch as another clown; this time an arguably more sickening one), and then the fresh bloodletting begins!
Then out of nowhere, Sally seems to wake John up. He’s alone. No killers, nobody else except him in a dusty old room. What is real? What is not? He’ll never know, though, we’ve got a great idea ourselves: scary enough, it’s all too real. Once Sally has the detective out of the room, March and the others go back to business.
“Devil’s Night” finishes off with Countess bringing Alex into the fold – she’ll now be one of those carrying this “ancient virus.” With a sweet kiss, the Countess tells her to allow herself “to be ripped apart” before letting Alex feed on some of her blood. All in the name of being reunited with Holden “for all of eternity.” Or at least that’s the bullshit this particular vampire is selling. Notice how Countess weeps sort of, as we cut out on Alex’s newly opened eyes, the virus no doubt taking hold; interesting to see where this heads.
Stay tuned for next week’s “Room Service.” Cannot wait to watch it, this episode was incredible! See you then, fellow horror fans.
FX’s American Horror Story
Season 2, Episode 10: “The Name Game”
Directed by Michael Lehmann (Tyrant, True Blood, Dexter)
Written by Jessica Sharzer
* For a review of the next episode, “Spilt Milk” – click here
* For a review of the previous episode, “The Coat Hanger” – click here
With the return of Grace Bertrand (Lizzie Brocheré), now pregnant, along with Pepper (Naomi Grossman), Dr. Arthur Arden (James Cromwell) lies to Kit Walker (Evan Peters). He tells the young man they did not come, therefore keeping Grace and the baby insider her under wraps.
Meanwhile, Pepper has been given the gift of gab. She tells Arthur all about how the higher alien lifeforms mostly laugh at him and his crude experiments. Even more than that, we get the sad story behind Pepper’s life; she did not, in fact, kill her sister’s child, but merely got thrown in jail because of the shape of heard, as she is microcephalic. It’s an AMAZING SCENE because Pepper gives the doctor a dose of reality, ironically enough. Almost too much for Arden to take, especially to hear it from someone he’d so long ago written off as mentally challenged and useless to him.
Monsignor Howard (Joseph Fiennes) survived his crucifixion at the hands of Leigh Emerson (Ian McShane). Now he’s being confronted with the ultimate evil of Satan within Sister Mary Eunice (Lily Rabe).
Nice flashback to the Angel of Death (Frances Conroy) telling Howard to cast out the devil from Mary. He’s advised to guard his thoughts, to keep his rosary close, and hopefully this may help him combat the demonic forces at work in Briarcliff. We’ll see if that’s the truth in the long run or not.
Still feel absolutely terrible for Jude (Jessica Lange). At least she now has Lana Winters (Sarah Paulson); their relationship has changed immensely now that Jude’s been introduced back into the asylum. Mary Eunice taunts Jude as much as she possibly can, certainly a ton since Jude smashed the “Dominique” record in last episode.
Lana has her own troubles, of course. Oliver Thredson (Zachary Quinto) is still kicking around. Sister Mary Eunice has brought him back on in a permanent position – Bloody Face and Satan together is one SAVAGE combination! Phew. What’s awful here is the way Thredson taunts Lana, talking about her carrying the child, breastfeeding it, so on and so on. Hearing all this Kit utters one of my favourite single lines of the season: “You’re one sick twist.”
The worst has come for Jude. She underestimated the devil inside Mary Eunice. After a bit of argument between the two, the young and awful nun brings Jude in to Dr. Arden where they give her some especially brutal shock treatment. Again, I feel horrible. Jude is getting way more than she’d ever brought upon herself.
When Mary Eunice tends to Monsignor Howard’s stigmata-like wounds, he attempts to appeal to Satan, however, she turns the tables. Miss Satan holds the Monsignor down on his bed and rapes him. The first time I watched this, when it came on FX originally, I actually didn’t realise Satan held Howard’s arms down initially with unseen force; doesn’t last the whole way through, but still, long enough to qualify it as a rape. Arden walks in and sees the end of all this, part jealous and probably part turned on in a sick way seeing the devil work with the body of Sister Mary Eunice in such a dastardly fashion.
One of the best scenes out of the entire series comes in this episode. We’re treated to a great rendition of “The Name Game”, which is of course why the episode is titled as such. After coming out of her shock treatment, Jude has this incredible dream type of sequence. It’s so cool because everyone else goes with it. At first, Lana and Kit seem weirded out, but then they’re each a part of it – love the way Lana jumps in so reluctantly to start, then Kit ends up jiving in after awhile. There’s something so ridiculous about the scene, yet at the same time I cannot help but love every second of it. Because it’s beyond trippy while being fun – there are some inmates rocking out in a highly creepy way. Even Pepper gets down like crazy.
But it’s just perfect once the whole sequence ends, Jude lifts her head up off the new jukebox Sister Mary had put in, then – BAM! – she’s right back with Lana again. So perfect, right down to the editing itself. Wonderful sequence.
One thing Jude successfully accomplishes is telling Mother Superior about Lana – that she put her in the asylum, wrongfully, and asks Mother to help Lana get out.
Arden is beyond a broken man. He tries to kill himself while out feeding his monsters, but can’t bring himself to do the deed. Satan herself tells Arden he’s pitiful and throws him to the ground. While Dr. Arden is completely despicable, I think his own final chance for hope of redemption, for any hope of walking away from his horrible and disturbing past died when the devil entered Sister Mary Eunice. Her innocence maintained him in a sense, now he’s completely run off the rails after witnessing Howard being raped by Satan.
At the same time, Howard goes to Jude who is completely rocked by the electroshock therapy and apologises for not having believed her about the devil being in Briarcliff. He’s unsure of what to do, if he ought to renounce his vows, and hopes Jude will help. She can only advise: “Kill her.”
I highly doubt the Monsignor is in any shape, both mentally or physically, to do the deed. Particularly when you consider the fact Satan appears SO STRONG while in the skin of Sister Mary Eunice, as if her innocence and mild nature feeds the deep, dark evil like oxygen on a roaring blaze.
Yet Howard proved me wrong. Able to quickly turn the tables on Satan, he throws Sister Mary Eunice to her death from the third floor of Briarcliff to the lobby floor. As she perishes, the Angel of Death comes for Mary. Grim and gorgeous little moment here, something I actually did NOT see coming, as you can tell by what I said not a moment ago.In Arden’s office, Thredson ends up coming across Grace – Pepper pops up from between her legs and tells him she’s crowning. Uh oh. This is bad news for Kit because Thredson now has leverage he’ll be using with which to try and manipulate him. Almost immediately, this leads Thredson to the place where Kit stashed the tape of the Bloody Face confession. However, Lana switches everything up by taking the tape, not telling Kit nor Oliver, and using it as her own leverage – now Kit is safe. For now, at least. Who knows what will happen in the last three episodes.
Another of my favourite scenes out of the entire series comes – something I’d never expected when first watching this in its original run – when Dr. Arden puts Sister Mary Eunice on the conveyor into the furnace to be cremated and he lays atop her lifeless corpse, then hits the button and goes on in with her. SUCH A FITTING DEATH! It’s a weirdly romantic gesture, at the same time that dirty Nazi bastard gets a karmic end in a furnace like he’d done/watched done to so many European Jews during the Holocaust.
Amazing, amazing episode. Love it so much.
Next one is titled “Spilt Milk” and is directed by series regular Alfonso Gomez-Rejon.
Stay tuned for more horror and depravity!
FX’s American Horror Story
Season 2, Episode 9: “The Coat Hanger”
Directed by Jeremy Podeswa (True Detective, The Borgias)
Written by Jennifer Salt
* For a review of the next episode “The Name Game” – click here
* For a review of the previous episode, “Unholy Night” – click here
In current day, we’re treated to the return of Dylan McDermott as Johnny Morgan.
He meets with Dr. Gardner (Brooke Smith) for some therapy. Johnny wants to try to get better, he has “impulses” – scary ones. Though he makes nothing perfectly clear at first, soon it’s obvious he killed animals as a young boy – it made him feel wonderful. Now he doesn’t harm animals; he grew up. But into what has he grown? There’s a very tense air between Johnny and his doctor.
Tense air which turns vicious. I’m LOVING McDermott being back. Especially in juxtaposition with his role in the first season, this is a dark, dark turn on his part. You see, his name isn’t Morgan – it’s Thredson. He is the son of Bloody Face.
Wait, what? The son? But that means….
Damn I am just all over the beginning to “The Coat Hanger.” Plus, you’ve got to imagine, what could that titular coat hanger be alluding to? Starting the episode out with the bombshell concerning Dr. Oliver Thredson (Zachary Quinto) somehow having a son – wait to see where THAT leads – it’s interesting this episode is titled as it is— very suggesting.
Lana Winters (Sarah Paulson) is now with child. The news comes saucily from the devil within Sister Mary Eunice (Lily Rabe). Are we getting how important this episode’s title is with more context?
Oh my, how vicious. Worst of all, it’s clear Satan – via Mary Eunice – is going to let that child make its way into the world. Because why not, may as well have another little antichrist running around, cutting people up, as is evidence by watching the present day opener with little grownup Johnny Morgan/Thredson.
After trying to kill Leigh Emerson (Ian McShane) in the last episode, Sister Jude (Jessica Lange) wakes up in bed with Monsignor Timothy Howard (Joseph Fiennes) hovering above her. He recounts what’s happened – she’s being framed for the killing of Frank McCann (Fredric Lehne), which Sister Mary perpetrated. Furthermore, it’s all being compounded through everything from Mother Superior Claudia (Barbara Tarbuck) recounting Jude’s tale of demonic possession at Briarcliff, to Leigh Emerson’s concocted tale of what happened during the Christmas shindig, and so on.
Poor Jude. This is comeuppance for all the bad things she’s done, but far too much. She deserves a good reprimand for how she handled inmates at Briarcliff, though, Jude does not deserve being imprisoned in that hateful place under the care of Dr. Arden and Sister Mary Eunice. Even Howard has now left Jude behind, Mother Superior too it seems as of now (because of the manipulation by Arden and Mary), so she’s up shit’s creek.
Even worse, Leigh Emerson feigns remorse, wanting to repent and become a good soul in the eyes of God. Yeah, right. Can we believe this at all? Bad things shall happen again soon at the asylum.
Though I’m not religious, I do feel bad for Monsignor Howard. He’s starting to go head to head with Sister Mary Eunice – a.k.a Satan
hisher grand self. There’s nothing at all positive awaiting him at the end of this road. She’s already playing at him, teasing and poking, prodding like he’s a tiny little creature in her wake.
While Sister Jude starts to rot away already, naturally as she is being framed so heavily, Howard brings Leigh in to talk with her. A part of his repentance, I suppose. He offers her forgiveness for what she did to him.
Another flashback to ’63 when Jude doled out some corporal punishment on Emerson, who it seems had some sort of relations with one of the nuns. Then back to present day, as Leigh actually kisses Jude on the forehead. It’s unbelievable the psychological torture she’s now being subject to at the hands of EVERYONE around her. Poor, poor Jude.
Lana found the coat hanger. She went to her room, poised to do a homemade abortion. But nothing more is shown
A little later, she gets to see Kit Walker (Evan Peters). Last episode at the end, she survived her encounter with Thredson and they ended up tying him, hiding him in one of the unused rooms of Briarcliff. Now they need him in order to get Kit free from his crimes.
Lana reveals to him the pregnancy. She also tells him he won’t be a father because now? She’s performing the abortion via coat hanger right there and then. Or is she?
She makes him tell her about his crimes. Bloody Face confesses to his murders, so they can.. bond, or something. Who knows with Oliver, that sad mommy’s boy who never got to be mommy’s boy.
TOO BAD FOR OLIVER – the confession was recorded, Kit hiding out of sight with a recorder, and so sad for him the abortion was performed already! A bloody mess for the son of Bloody Face.
Yet we already know, supposedly, that Johnny Morgan/Thredson – the new Bloody Face of present day – is alive. So, we shall see what happens from now until the end of Season 2.
Kit hides the tape of Thredson’s confession, however, Dr. Arden walks in on him. It doesn’t appear he cares much about the tape, though. They go back to Arden’s office for a “special occasion“, which sees him break out some smokes and fine liquor. Very strange, seeing Dr. Arden/Hans Gruber be friendly.
He tells Kit he’s seen the “little green men“, but of course “they‘re not green, are they Mr. Walker?” Arden says slyly. What Arden believes is that the aliens are experimenting, in eugenics he says (of course he’d say that the fucking Nazi), and that the aliens are in some way protecting Kit; that if he brought Kit to the edge of death, they would come to find and protect him, “their specimen.”
This is a strange and tenuous bond between Arden and Kit. Highly weird and at the same time interesting. I can’t wait for more with them, to see where the alien subplot goes. Some didn’t find this angle of the season interesting, I do because while I’m a sceptic I would LOVE if aliens/things not of this world were actually real. Plus, the Nazi-alien dynamic is something we’ve not got a lot of good instances of in film or television. Ryan Murphy and the writers solve that.
Oh, Leigh Emerson is still trying to be saved by the Lord. He tells Monsignor Howard he wants redemption. In a ceremony with only the two in attendance, the Monsignor offers him a baptism in the name of Christ. Everything goes wonderfully, as Leigh is dunked back into the water, given new life in the arms of the church and God alike.
But, yes, you guessed it – Leigh’s got some better, more nasty ideas. He and the Monsignor have a little wrestle in the water, the latter getting his own dunk now and held under. Leigh obviously doesn’t care, as I thought, about religion. He simply wants to give Howard more of the terror which he is SO GOOD at handing down. The unfortunate man ends up crucified right up on the cross like Jesus, living yet barely hanging on.
When Lana goes down to kill Oliver, seems Dr. Bloody Face has escaped his ties. Turns out the devilish Sister Mary Eunice let him out. WHOA! Satan really plays hardball. No doubt.
Creepiest scene goes to the one between these two, as Mary puts her hand against Lana’s stomach and feels the STILL BEATING HEART of the Bloody Face child beginning to grow inside her. What a brutal shock for Lana and the audience! Doesn’t surprise me the devil can do that, but it’s a rough way for Lana to find out because it must be confusing; she has no idea Satan is creeping around inside the young, delicate nun.
Saddest scene has to be when Sister Jude shows up in the recreation room, as Lana watches her shuffle in. I just feel beyond terribly for Jude, though, she seems to feel awful about what she did to Lana, admitting nothing that was done to her wasn’t something she didn’t do in her time as head of Briarcliff. And while Lana does have her fair share of anger for Jude, they do have a bit of an understanding.
Lots of changing relationships here in this episode, which I find awesome! Switches things up in a fun way, as we can see now Lana and Jude are becoming friendlier with Jude understanding life as a patient/prisoner there at Briarcliff.
Back to Arden and Kit. The doctor plans to essentially kill Kit, then revive him with adrenaline and a sharp punch to the chest, all in order to try and bring the aliens down to save the young man. Each with their own worries and apprehensions, the experiment begins. VERY COOL AND CREPY MOMENTS! Love how the alien scenes are shot, it stays consistent throughout the various directors of Season 2; another reason this is a series that has a great overall layout and vision.
Another thing I don’t mention enough is the camerawork, in the sense of how I love the way American Horror Story has this ominous and unsettling cinematography in tons of scenes using low and high angles. It throws us off, unsettles, as well as forebodes with the skewed framing at both low/high angles and creates this very cool, unique effect other shows do not use. Amazing horror technique, in my opinion.
GRACE IS BACK! Pepper (Naomi Grossman) has also returned, having disappeared awhile back under the radar. Turns out, Grace is also pregnant and Pepper somehow talks perfectly. THE ALIENS – THEY’VE RETURNED!
Wow. This part blew me away, I was never expecting this at all. Can’t wait for more of this next episode.
Another great one, a favourite of mine in this season. Next up is “The Name Game” directed again by Michael Lehmann who last directed “Unholy Night”.
Stay tuned for more madness, aliens, horror, blood, and SAVAGERY!