Harry digs for the truth while Jamie falls apart
Dt. Harry Ambrose investigates a suspicious, strange car accident near Dorchester.
FX’s American Horror Story
Season 5, Episode 11: “Battle Royale”
Directed by Michael Uppendahl
Written by Ned Martel
* For a review of the previous episode, “She Gets Revenge” – click here
* For a review of the Season 5 finale, “Be Our Guest” – click here
The penultimate Season 5 episode “Battle Royale” begins with Liz Taylor (Denis O’Hare) and Iris (Kathy Bates) coming together, bed full of guns, just before the events of the previous episode’s finale, when The Countess (Lady Gaga) and Donovan (Matt Bomer) were reuniting briefly before getting gunned down, seemingly.
Here, revisiting those moments, we hear “Seconds” by The Human League. As the guns finally blaze, Liz and Iris get a few into The Countess, while Donovan also takes shots. Iris wants to help her soon who wants nothing else but to not die inside the Hotel Cortez. Naturally, right? The pair try and help Donovan, in an excellently filmed scene which almost puts you directly in his shoes, the waving camerawork, the point-of-view, all of it. Luckily they get him out onto the street where Donovan bleeds out – his final word? “Mom.” This season is winding up for a nice, and surely at times brutal finale.
For The Countess, there’s bullet removal by Hypodermic Sally (Sarah Paulson). Then later she wakes to flashes of nastiness before finally coming to all the way. Sally needs her to stick around because there’s all but literally no one else left for her; to use, to manipulate, whatever. Sally reminisces about a drug dealer, whose past included a first handjob from – you guessed it – the woman herself. This leads into a bit of backstory for her, a slight and tenuous bonding between her and The Countess.
Flashback to 1993 in Los Angeles, as Sally’s musician friends use her songs, record them, and go to the top. Meanwhile, she’s more like the nasty delinquent enabling the talented people around her to do all sorts of drugs, et cetera. Not that they weren’t eating it up, but still. “Do you trust me?” Sally asks them, before we see cuts of them sewing one another together, higher than the sky on drugs. Of course, then they both overdose, as Sally’s trapped between them, linked up. A sort of nasty Human Centipede-like homage except better, more fitting; Sally was truly trapped with addiction for five long days. This is where the Addiction Demon comes in, torturing her for days. Finally she ripped herself out of the bonds. WOW! Amazing, amazing story to Sally. Never expected such brutality. This episode is honestly one of the most filmic in the entire history of the series, to me. The way it’s filmed, the look, the heaviness, every bit amounts to an incredible masterpiece. And that’s only the first 12 minutes. Lots more to come.
Over at the Lowe household, John (Wes Bentley ) and Alex (Chloë Sevigny) bring their children home, to be “a family again.” Alex calls drinking blood taking medicine, though, young Scarlett knows better. But John’s committed to shedding his life as The Ten Commandments Killer, everything at the Cortez; he wants a normal family life again.
The Countess is still suffering. Sally brings in the little white haired children, saying she’ll have to use them for blood. Even though Countess doesn’t want that, the children agree: “Let us help, mommy.”At the same time, Iris is grieving the loss of her son. Liz helped by incinerating him, so as to not have to throw him down the chute with all the rest of the trash killed in the hotel. It’s funny how among all the horror, the murder, the blood, you can really feel for a character like Iris. She only ever came to the hotel for her son, now he’s gone, dust. He was her world. “We were so much alike,” she reminisces, “maybe that’s why we couldn‘t be close.” Afterwards, leaving Miss Evers (Mare Winningham) to clean up the mess she made with the ashes, Iris heads up on top of the hotel, looking out to the horizon. A sort of beautiful, weird moment all in one.
Dressed and made up, Liz strolls down the hall some time later with a now clean Iris. They head down the locked up hallway, where bodies are strewn everywhere, from that of Will Drake (Cheyenne Jackson) to the bunch of vampire children. Not to mention, Ramona Royale (Angela Bassett) who emerges strong and healthy from around a corner, blood stained, spiteful.
Up shows a witch from down in New Orleans – yes, it’s Queenie (Gabourey Sidibe). She’s going to do a bit of game show fun and all that Los Angeles type of stuff. Unfortunately, though, I think she checked into the wrong hotel.
“There‘s a lot of bad juju in this room,” says Queenie after entering the place she’s meant to stay all night. She doesn’t like the place, but Iris and Liz con her into staying. Then when Ramona comes out of the shower, slashing away at Queenie, there comes the voodoo doll stuff. Pretty interesting fight starts between the two – a sort-of-vampire versus a voodoo witch. Out of nowhere, James March (Evan Peters) stabs Queenie with a big blade from his cane – he’s a ghost, remember? So the rules are skewed. Ramona drinks Queenie’s blood, getting her fill. Then James says: “I want you to kill The Countess“… he’s got big plans. He doesn’t want to see his love walk away from the hotel.
John Lowe arrives home. In his trunk, he has a man whom he questions about being clean. Do you know what he’s got in store for him? I know I do. Some of that medicine Alex was talking about earlier. Is the new way for the Swiss Family Lowe? We’ll see. Inside, John finds nobody. Only a key for the Cortez hanging from a light fixture.
Cut to Lowe back at the hotel, running through the halls. Straight to Room 64. There on the bed is Sally, waiting. She claims March took his family – “One last kill and I can take you to your family,” says Sally. The final commandment left? Thou shalt not commit murder.Busy fitting Ramona Royale for a dress, Liz is preparing her for the coming slaughter. But Ramona has “witch‘s blood” flowing through her, she doesn’t want any of the assorted guns or weapons Iris and Liz have got kicking around.
With “I Wanna Be Adored” by The Stone Roses playing in the background, The Countess is having a reunion with Ramona. They talk of how their blood smells – “almonds” for Ramona, “black licorice” for The Countess. They miss one another, even if Ramona wants to kill the bitch. Likewise, Countess misses her, too. No matter what’s happened, or what may come next.
Just after the two make love, and The Countess is let free, she meets John Lowe when the elevator heads down. He blasts her away, letting her bleed on the elevator’s floor. Countess is the final commandment. Her head is now in a jar on the shelf upstairs, everyone reeling with pride over John’s accomplishments. Only Sally’s got further plans – thwarted after March stops her from stabbing him, keeping him there forever. Relieved? Well, John’s a killer, as well. Shouldn’t be too relieved for the man.
March sits at his table and asks Miss Evers about when she first discovered being a ghost. Then he gets upset over the dinner arrangements. At the door is The Countess, whose arrival at dinner has prompted James to be a little tempestuous, and Miss Evers to be get a bit saucy. Countess is adjusting to her “new state,” as March calls it.
Big reveal comes when we discover it was Miss Evers who called the police all those years ago. She wanted him, her jealousy got the better of her. “I wanted us to die together,” she wails. Only things went… a little differently, than expected. This leads to Miss Evers being banished from March’s presence, heading off into the darkness.
The episode finishes with March happy to have The Countess back. Although, she’s much less thrilled. Her eternity is relegated to a space where she’ll never be happy, ever again.
Excited to review the finale of Season 5, “Be Our Guest”. Looking forward to a weird, wild episode to finish off this bloody, violent, sexy and odd season. Stay tuned.
FX’s American Horror Story
Season 5, Episode 10: “She Gets Revenge”
Directed by Bradley Buecker
Written by James Wong
* For a review of the previous episode, “She Wants Revenge” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Battle Royale” – click here
Only a few more nights left at the Hotel Cortez.
Tonight we open with the wondrous Liz Taylor (Denis O’Hare) lamenting “forgotten hotels,” such as the Cortez, and what they’re good for – from drug deals to indiscretions of all kinds. Love that we’re getting more Liz because I find her spectacular. O’Hare is an enormously talented character actor who gives life and luxury to Liz. Here, we see more depth to her and all she is, as she tells us about one particular old couple who commit suicide/murder together in order to not have to see the twilight years come for them. After their brains are blown out, Iris (Kathy Bates) does lamenting of her own. Mostly about the time it’ll take to clean the blood out and scrub the walls. Meanwhile, Liz cries because she may “never be happy again,” unlike the happy couple who chose to go out on their own terms right there in that very room. She picks up a gun, wanting to die. But Iris reminds her that would only see her trapped in the Cortez for eternity. I’m glad Liz choose not to, at least not right now. She tells Iris there’s a little unfinished business that might be good to tend to: her son. The old life of Iris still lingers, that’s how much she obviously cares about his boy. Both she and Iris have their plans, together, for a grand finale to life.
Liz has Miss Evers (Mare Winningham) calling up his son. She can’t bear to talk to him herself, not just yet; after all it’s been 31 years. Liz says she’s “written letters” and “god knows I‘ve written cheques.” But we’ll see if this comes around to a good thing for her. For now, Miss Evers is giving Liz a hard time over lifestyle choices, et cetera. She fears Liz is expecting too much of her son, for him to be too understanding.
In other parts of the Cortez, John Lowe (Wes Bentley) is admiring his Ten Commandments work, while Sally (Sarah Paulson) watches on. We cut to John, knife in hand, approaching some – what looks like – Mexican faithfuls, whom he cuts down. He doesn’t have much work left to do before he’s free: “One more and you‘ll be free,” Sally tells him.
Then there’s Donovan (Matt Bomer) who approaches Rudolph Valentino (Finn Wittrock) in his motel room, all while Natacha (Alexandria Daddario) goes to see The Countess (Lady Gaga). Great editing back and forth between their two paralleled conversations. On the one hand, Rudolph and Donovan have a semi-manly confrontation. On the other hand, Countess seduces Natacha a little before they each take out a knife. Only when Rudolph produces a Middle Eastern style sword, Donovan replies “Bitch please,” along with a bullet, or a couple, to his face. At the hotel, Countess likewise slashes down Natacha. Ouch. How will The Countess react after she discovers Rudie dead?
Back to James March (Evan Peters), a late favourite of mine in this season. He’s suited up in his creepy leather mask with a new sacrifice at his hands. He lights a man on fire, who quickly perishes in flame. Right afterwards, Lowe shows up. They’re quite cozy now, the two buddies. Murderers in league. Nice special makeup effects here, too; some nasty burn work. That’s something I forget to mention often in these reviews. I love all the makeup and special effects work in general the series has done, from blood and gore to more understated stuff. Plus, there’s great costume and set design.
John is reunited with his wife Alex (Chloë Sevigny) for the time being. She has certainly changed. As has John, or perhaps he hasn’t changed just accepted his identity. He’s hurt by the lies she fed him, concerning their children. But at the same time, John has both accepted his new murderous identity, as well as accepted his own faults in everything. A dark turn of events. Regardless, the husband and wife are seemingly back on the same side. She admits to him what happened with the children, and the fact The Countess has threatened to kill her and their boy if she doesn’t control the vampire outbreak amongst the young ones. John has agreed to help. Will this be a husband-wife blood bath of some sort coming up? Can’t wait to find out.
Then Douglas (Josh Braaten) shows up at the Cortez, sitting down for a drink. Liz serves him up a drink, then they chat together a good long while. Douglas even talks about his father, who split, and that it was just he and his mother. He mentions about being in town to finally reconnect with his father. Such an emotional moment to watch Douglas walk away, Liz left wanting to say all the things that need to be said, only afraid to go ahead and do it.
But more importantly, John is helping Alex. They sneak into a house, which looks like the one where she last saw the kids. John is still in cop-mode, even holding his gun and flashlight like an officer of the law. There’s blood on the floor downstairs in huge splashes. Upstairs, John tries to find anything in terms of a clue. Out of nowhere, one of the kids shows up trying to stab Alex. More come after John appears. One of the young girls is very sick, dying, but the kids aren’t being any help obviously. The lead kid is upset about the dead girl, though, his other idiot friend seems hellbent against adult involvement.
The Countess is explaining to detectives where she last saw Will Drake (Cheyenne Jackson). He’s nowhere to be found. One cop says it could be “cold feet.” Yet Countess disagrees. Then, to her surprise, Will shows up in a slick black suit looking better than ever. The look on her face is worth a million words. “You murdered me, you bitch,” Will spits venomously at his wife. But she’s not happy how he treated Bartholomew, the things he said. Spiteful, no? She was going to do it anyway. Countess has it all figured out, or that’s what she’d have others believe.
Later on, John and Alex show up with the kids back at the hotel. Finally, the killer vampire children have been convinced to settle down. They lead the kids to a hallway and tell them there’s a room a ways down where they can rest, wait for some food. Reluctantly the children go inside, except the jerk, who John knocks on his ass into the hall. They’re locked away in the darkness by the Lowes. What follows is a descent into Lord of the Flies territory, only with vampire kids, and instead of an island a hotel’s forgotten hallway. Best of all? Ramona Royale (Angela Bassett) turns a corner, full of blood, and sees the children: “Mm. Mama smells appetizers.”
What I love about this entire sequence of scenes is the way John and his wife seem like a happy couple again, now that they’re both monsters of sorts. On top of all that, Sally shows up asking if he came inside her, or if he “shot it on her tits” the way he does with her, because “with a whore it‘s always on the tits.” So even with the happy couple dynamic, Sally is still kicking around as the mistress in John’s new fucked up world. Sally is a drug addicted ghost of some type, a demon even. Alex is a vampire. John is the Ten Commandments Killer. But Sally says “she doesn‘t know about you – not like I do.” He wants to do it for his family, though, we know that addiction is strong. And it never lets go easily. Sally and John end up having a knife-point confrontation; she isn’t pleased with his decision to be with Alex.
Then, the addiction demon briefly appears in flashes behind Sally in the hallway, its drill-bit dildo barely visible for a moment in time.
Douglas returns to the hotel. He reveals knowledge of his father; at first Liz is a little ashamed, but quickly comes to see things are okay. Well, not okay. But nothing crazy seems poised to happen. Liz is happy to see Doug is a well-adjusted, grown, responsible man. Doug isn’t outraged by his father, his lifestyle: “There‘s plenty of room for another woman in my life,” he tells Liz, who staggers back in emotion. Amazing. I hope this is all headed somewhere nice, a bit of a reprieve in the life of Liz.
Other seemingly happy times between Donovan and Countess at dinner. She talks about what she did to Will Drake, which he loves, of course. Lots of hilarious inclusion of modern talk and technology, modern phrases like “hate–watch” and “FaceTime.” Then, Countess finds Rudolph with his face shot to pieces at the motel. Brutal. Though, I don’t care about her pain. She deserves all she gets. Will she get revenge in this episode, or will another she get her revenge?
Over in a different room, Iris shows Liz a various assortment of guns, knives, poison possibly, slipknots, and so on. As well as a final video, tribute to her including good pictures and one of herself with a cat; all to be a “beacon of hope for my 3 follows on Instagram.” Only Liz doesn’t want to go out any longer. She wants a connection with Doug now. Now, Iris is abandoned once more; she feels as if everyone has left her behind. Liz has got other plans: “Dammit, we‘re the ones who should inherit the earth,” she tells Iris. Will these shes get revenge?
Alex and John go to the weird video game room, where father is reunited with long lost son Holden. He cries and takes the boy in his arms, happily embracing the son he never thought he’d see again. John loves his family, even if two of its members are now vampires. But what will The Countess have to say about this? Is she simply going to let Holden leave, letting Alex go? And what about John – can he abandon his Ten Commandments work? On their way out of the hotel, the Lowes are confronted by an angry Sally who swears on her soul: “I will kill you.”
In the penthouse, Donovan rocks out to Drake’s “Hotline Bling” until being interrupted by The Countess’ cold, dark presence. She talks about Rudolph, her search for him over a century. She and Donovan exchange thoughts about “being trapped here“, inside the walls of the Cortez.
“He made me everything I am”
“And you made me, in his image.”
Before Countess can kill Donovan, in bust the two bad asses Liz and Iris, each wielding two guns, blasting at their nemesis. Though we don’t see what happens. Only a cut to black.
Very excited to see the next episode, “Battle Royale.” We’ll see what happens with Countess, Donovan, and the two new gangsters in Liz and Iris. Stay tuned with me, fellow fans!
FX’s American Horror Story
Season 5, Episode 9: “She Wants Revenge”
Directed by Michael Uppendahl
Written by Brad Falchuk
* For a review of the previous episode, “The Ten Commandments Killer” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “She Gets Revenge” – click here
This episode begins with Countess (Lady Gaga) explaining that “women age differently than men do,” but the kicker is, of course, as we know she’s a vampire. Here, she stares into the walled off corridor where James March (Evan Peters) had sealed Natacha (Alexandra Daddario) and Rudolph Valentino (Finn Wittrock).
Countess is convinced to build “something new” and makes it clear: “I will not be managed.” Later downstairs, she’s talking about her upcoming wedding to Will Drake (Cheyenne Jackson). She wants it small. Yet he tells her “I‘m a showman” and he wants a big wedding. Finally, she agrees that he will design the gown, she will get everything else taken care of. Then there’s Liz Taylor (Denis O’Hare), who Countess wants to arrange the flowers. Liz does not want any part of her: “Buy your own damn flowerrrrs.” And why would she want to help the Countess, after the Tristan incident. Alex Lowe (Chloë Sevigny) is still kicking around, serving drinks, to a highly disaffected Countess who only grows more and more disdainful about the world around her.
Then Countess tracks down Rudolph Valentino at a motel. While simultaneously at home, she beds Donovan (Matt Bomer) again, screaming “I forgot how good you feel inside me.” They have a nice little bit of pillow talk. He asks that it only be him for her, forever; he needs commitment. Not in the way of just being with one person, but rather he wants to be the ONLY person she loves: “I swear it. But I won‘t make the same mistakes again,” she replies. Is this all a ruse on Donovan’s part? I’m sure he didn’t just switch back to loving her, did he? I imagine Ramona Royale (Angela Bassett) is lurking along the periphery of the Countess’ life, alongside Donovan. We’ll have to wait and see. For now, Donovan and Countess seem to be making a list – of who to murder.
Nice to Iris (Kathy Bates) again. She even tells the people at the front desk the “douche bag convention” is somewhere else. Proper. A couple pornstars show up with their disgusting director. Iris tells them she’ll bring up some “extra towels.” An AMAZING voice-over sequence after this, starting off with a Blue Monday cover and Iris talking about the “Sydney Pollack” of porn and how she went to see Deep Throat back in the day. She even calls herself “Dirty Harriet,” as well as gives us a little lesson on why pornography “hurts people,” what it does to the male and female psyches. Plus, afterwards she goes into the room and starts slitting throats, stabbing chests, and generally bloodying the place up. Good gore. Out of nowhere, Donovan appears. Very impressed with his mother. “You have clearly come into your own,” he tells her. Though, she warns about problems. We slip back to the Bartholomew incident, where that creepy little baby got out to wreak some havoc with its terrifying face; Iris gave up Ramona’s name to the Countess.
However, now we’re getting a bit of the real story. Donovan is definitely in love with the Countess. At the same time, he’s still looking for revenge. Will he get it? Or will the Countess figure it all out? Has she already? You can never tell fully.
Drake explains to his son Lachlan (Lyric Angel) about how the Countess understands him, gets him, all that. Then Miss Evers (Mare Winningham) shows up talking about how the Countess will only “bleed you dry“. It’s an eerie moment.
Then a flashback comes where Miss Evers talks about how she loved March. He claims that the Countess “is a creature from heaven” and tells her: “It‘s not your fault you were graced with… different gifts.” But back in the present, Will does not heed any of her warnings. Despite the fact we know the depth of the darkness into which he is about to plunge. I won’t quote her exact words because you NEED to experience them from her mouth; she lets Drake know exactly how she feels before leaving the room.
Down at the sealed, now unsealed, corridor, the Countess is trying to get a contractor to re-seal the hallway. After a bit of talk from him, March shows up to try and explain how it’ll all get done: “Make haste – much to accomplish!” Some people don’t like Evan Peters this season. Me, on the other hand, I think he is classic. At times he’s darkly funny. Others he is downright fucking terrifying, to me. Here he shows off a few more chops, as the Countess gives him an ultimatum, of sorts.
Donovan shows up at Ramona Royale’s place. He has an offering: the pornstar guy from the hotel. But she thinks Donovan is a big “pussy” in her words. Though, for all Donovan’s love for the Countess, and all the doubts Ramona may have, he actually seems to be against the Countess. He admits his “addiction” for her. Yet then Donovan claims he slipped enough ghb in her drink to “knock out an elephant.” He further admits he can’t “pull the trigger.” At least Ramona “appreciates a man who recognises his own weakness.” They seem together, toasting on the blood of the pornstar.
Another excellent flashback to Ramona in the ’90s, running back to her father (Henry G. Sanders) in L.A. Her mother (Marla Gibbs) and father helped straighten her out. Also, there’s sadness. Her parents are getting older, forgetting things, getting sick. Then her mother died and her father went further off the deep end in his mind. Such a tragic sequence, yet gives such an amazing depth to Ramona. There’s a break-in scenario and her father ends up getting hurt badly, which sees Ramona give the gift of the ancient virus to him. I saw this coming. I still found it effective, and beautiful in a sense. Eternally sad, though, as “a diseased brain is not a broken bone” and not everything can be fixed with vampirism. We see more and more how absolutely shattered inside Ramona is, having to effectively euthanize her own father so that he wouldn’t remain “frozen in amber.”
Alex Lowe is off doing her own thing, too. Not only serving up drinks for the Countess. She spies on a house, then makes her way inside only to find a bunch of dead, bloody corpses. Further in, there are a bunch of vampire kids with Max as the leader; remember, the kid from the hospital to whom she gave her blood? A few of the kids are getting sick, probably drinking bad blood. Earlier in the episode there was a news report about homeless people dead in the city: all the kids. Some of the kids don’t want to drink, they’re feeling worse and worse. They want Alex to help. Other kids are alive and thriving, one even saying they should “off them,” y’know – “all the sickies.” Such a creepy scene, evoking lots of the creepy children aesthetic. Makes things quite tense and eerie. The kids, most of them, don’t want anything to do with Alex.
Back at the Hotel Cortez, Ramona and Donovan stand outside the Countess’ room, as she lays just inside sleeping on the bed.
Then a double cross, I think? The Countess wakes up before Ramona can sink a knife into her. Donovan tasers Ramona and takes her downstairs. Iris is upset about it all. Donovan is in love and he actually fell into the abyss, even though I imagined he was on the straight and narrow. Ramona ends up locked in one of those neon-lit cages. “You‘re weak. I should‘ve let you die,” Donovan tells his mother getting a slap in the face as a response. Where’s this going to lead Iris and Ramona now?
Rudolph and Countess are having drinks at the motel. Meanwhile, Natacha is off with her head full of “shopping and Uber.” I feel even worse for Donovan now because he’s fallen back for the Countess, while she’s still wrapped up in a time almost a century ago when she and Rudolph had their first great love. All the same, Rudolph hates the modern world. He is disgusted with everything in it, no “enchantment left” anywhere. Countess claims to hate the modern world even more than him and wants to turn the Cortez into a “fortress” against it. Still there’s Natacha to deal with. She loves everything out there. Somehow the Countess begins to try reeling her in, though. Sets up a girls night for them both without Rudie. Hmm.
And then, outside as she strolls away happily, there is Donovan. Will he finally see the light?
At the Cortez the wedding is about the be finished. Naturally, Liz objects with a hilarious quip: “Don‘t mind her. She drinks,” says the Countess. But the happy couple is proclaimed man and wife. The Countess wants to get the honeymoon started, so she plans to go get changed and get going. First, she gives over the flowers to Liz and gives off some nonsense about hoping she finds true love. Sad, to see Liz have to grin and bear it against this awful vampire of a woman.
Nice little meeting at the bar between Will Drake and James March. Very good stuff with James, having a little drink with Will in congratulations. “Here‘s to new worlds to conquer,” James toasts the newlywed gentleman. Even better is when March brings Will up to see Bartholomew in his black little crib. “What the hell is that thing?” Will draws back in terror after seeing the child-thing. Countess shows up and doesn’t like the “hateful things” Will has to say about little Bart: “I‘m going to make sure you suffer immensely,” she says before whacking him over the head.
Following this new development, Will finds himself down with Ramona. Only he’s on the floor while she stays locked up. But I’m sure he’ll be caged up right away, as soon as the Countess or March or whoever returns.
However, Drake doesn’t last long. He gets Ramona out, finds their in a sealed hallway, to which he quips: “Nobody knows we‘re in here. We‘ll starve.”
“I won‘t,” replies Ramona. She then pounces on him, starts to feast on his bloody neck. Miss Evers shows up to gloat, as the Countess watches on a screen up in her room comfortably. The end.
I’m interested to see who the she is in the next episode’s title, “She Gets Revenge”. Who will get it? Who will be revenged upon? Very exciting. Honestly, the haters can keep on hating this season. I’m digging it. Especially once we see more of John Lowe (Wes Bentley) next week. Curious to see where he goes now plot/character-wise after the revelation last episode that he is, for certain, the Ten Commandments Killer.
Stay tuned with me friends and fellow fans, more to come!
FX’s American Horror Story
Season 5, Episode 5: “Room Service”
Directed by Michael Goi
Written by Ned Martel
* For a review of the previous episode, “Devil’s Night” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Room 33” – click here
Greetings, friends – another night at Hotel Cortez, is it?
“Room Service” starts out back with Alex Lowe (Chloë Sevigny), whose recent path has taken her into the arms of The Countess (Lady Gaga). Remember last episode at the finish, Alex had taken the drink, she now has the ancient virus. Here, she sort of wanders the hospital where she doctors in a fugue. Her senses, especially sound, are heightened. I love the P.O.V shots we often get on American Horror Story, but these are so great. Alex can hear a woman’s pulse pounding in her neck, almost as if it could pop right through the skin.
Then – nasty – Dr. Lowe heads in to where the blood is stored. Kind of perfect, isn’t it? She’s a vampire now and essentially has an almost unending supply of blood without all the murder.
Yet she further decides to inject a young sick boy’s IV with a syringe full of blood. An unsettling moment, watching the boy shake around, speckled with what looks like measles possibly. And his eyes come upon, springing alive before the credits. A spooky sequence to start off this episode. Gotta love it.Donovan (Matt Bomers), with his mother Iris (Kathy Bates) in tow, shows up at the door of Ramona Royale (Angela Bassett). It seems the son wants to use his mom in order to help Ramona with her vengeance against The Countess. He is one truly scorned lover. I love how there are all these vampiric characters crashing against one another. Iris isn’t happy, though, she’s terrified. Though, Donovan brings up a good point: “She never looks at you. You‘re invisible.” Which is true, really. Iris is at the call of The Countess, but she is not a friend, barely an acquaintance. All boss. So this might be a damn good plan after all.
Does anything ever go the way it’s supposed to, though, in this series? No, no, no.
Then, in other ancient virus news, turns out the young boy Alex injected with the blood has made a speedy recovery. Well, is that a surprise? Certainly not.
Iris manages to get back to the Cortez where Liz Taylor (Denis O’Hare) chastises her a little. She can tell Iris is not feeling right, and mixes up “Liz‘s special sum‘in sum‘in.” Liz reveals the cocktail is blood with a splash of Triple Sec.
Poor Iris. Even though she was one of the people doing bad shit around the hotel (think: Swedish tourists), there’s been a consistently tragic aspect about her I find redeemable. The whole purpose of going to the Cortez in the first place, for Iris, was trying to save her son, and then she got roped into staying. And now – it’s for-e-ver.
Such a great meeting of the acting minds here with a solid scene of dialogue between Kathy Bates and Denis O’Hare. They’re two wonderful actors who I’ve enjoyed before American Horror Story. Yet Ryan Murphy/Brad Falchuk & Co. are able to bring out their best qualities here, giving them each very intriguing roles season after season.Oh, the bad little boy, Max, whom Alex saved has fed on his parents. Then off to school he goes. Awesome little scene right after we see his parents bled out on the floor, as Max digs his hands into eyeballs and guts at a table setup in his classroom; fake, of course. Still, there’s a creepy aspect to this moment. EVEN MORE INTENSELY UNNERVING – Max goes in a dark room with a young girl named Madeline, where he introduces her to a bit of the measles (or whatever the hell he had), as well as that tricky ancient virus. This begins on an insane outbreak of measles throughout the class. Plus, Max kills a couple teachers.
Some of the best gore we’ve seen yet in this episode! CREEPY CHILDREN – CREEPY CHILDREN EVERYWHERE. The part where they all attack and feed on the male teacher, blood spurting everywhere, his clothes soaked through… so damn good. Then, like there would be, absolute panic breaks out.
If anybody tells you there’s no wild horror in this series, promptly tell them to fuck off somewhere. Because this was one hell of a horrific sequence. It wasn’t all gore, either. Certain people want to try and act like the show simply goes for savagery over any substance. Wrong – the entire angle of what happens with the children, all those varied moments from the classroom to the chilling scene which follows as all the kids are brought out to their unsuspecting parents, they’re an amazing bunch of scenes. Truly full of gorgeous madness.
Detective John Lowe (Wes Bentley) is seeing the fallout from his little serial killer dinner party last episode. A Lieutenant (Robert Knepper; awesome) questions him on what exactly happened. Certainly the man is a bit disturbed by Lowe’s statements, involving John Wayne Gacy, Jeffrey Dahmer (et cetera). Lowe is a truly sympathetic character. Unless it turns out, as some believe online, John is the Ten Commandments Killer. Though, I think there are some time issues there that won’t play out correctly for that to be real. We’ll see! For now, I feel bad for John because he is being put through the ringer in so many different ways. He’s bound to snap, or fall into a vicious spiral which could lead to death.
A couple idiots show up to test Iris and her patience. Meanwhile, Tristan (Finn Wittrock) and The Countess are dressed up, to the nines, and heading out for Halloween; love Tristan’s Gary Oldman costume. Iris is clearly thrown off and nervous, while Tristan almost sniffs her out right there and then. Both of them, in fact.
What’s even better is the conversation Iris has afterwards with the douchebags who recently checked in. They want grilled salads and other things the hotel doesn’t offer. So, she enlists the help of Liz who really seems to know people well enough – these dummies are going to live to regret their stay, I would imagine.
“Bitches want pâté, pâté they shall have.”
Amazing bit of Liz Taylor here, as she gives us a look at the past, his old home life. Nick, her original name, was a medical representative. On trips out of town, he lived the life he WANTED while alone in the room. I can’t get enough of O’Hare. He is a constant treat, and it’s gold watching him do drag, the character finding himself.
Then once Countess shows up, things get even more interesting. She tells him “you smell like a woman“, but it’s not the perfume – “It‘s your skin, your blood,” she says. Such a dark yet also beautiful scene. We watch Nick become Liz Taylor in front of our eyes.
What’s most interesting to me here, above everything else, is how the Countess comes across as a helpful woman, someone who cares and loves and wants to be there for other people. Even when Liz is confronted in the hallway by the two men her former male self came to the hotel with, Countess kills them to save any trouble. Either way, Liz never went back to her life as Nick ever again. Neither did The Countess infect her. She and Iris bond over their respective strengths. He advises her to “teach that hipster couple some manners.” Oooh, I love this – delightful mischief! I won’t spoil this bit any longer. Wait and see the brutality for yourself.
Now former detective John Lowe wakes up in his bed, scratches across the chest, next to Hypodermic Sally (Sarah Paulson). He appears to not remember, until a moment later when the foggy memories of the previous night come back. Obviously Lowe went on a nasty bender, which led him up to the room where he surely had unprotected sex with a half-woman/half-ghost. All the while dildo drillbit man shows up in the mirror behind John to spook him out. Wouldn’t that be awful? Hard enough to get one off when you’re drunk, let alone seeing that eerie bastard around your room.
There are more rough nights ahead for John. I dread seeing the sad, tragic events which are bound to follow for him. But I’ll eat those words if certain internet theories come true later in this season.
Even sadder, Alex and Holden have a little moment together where the boy tells her “now you‘re like me.” It’s very touching, in the wrong sort of way. Not fuzzy. It is a dark conversation, especially with The Countess alongside. Slowly I think Alex is starting to comprehend the idea of eternity. All the same, I don’t think she’s fully grasping how long and drawn out that can be, and on top of that her son will grow old. He’ll be frozen as a child forever and she won’t ever watch him become a young adult, then a man.
An amazing episode. One of the best this season so far, I can easily say that. Excited to seem “Room 33”, as well as what “the thing” in there is – remember back in one of the first episodes, Iris made fleeting reference to something being kept in there? We’re going to find out next week.
Stay tuned with me, my fellow horror fanatics!
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning. 2006. Directed by Jonathan Liebesman. Screenplay by Sheldon Turner; from a story by Sheldon Turner & David J. Schow.
Starring Jordana Brewster, Taylor Handley, Diora Baird, Matt Bomer, R. Lee Ermey, Andrew Bryniarski, Lee Tergesen, Terrence Evans, Kathy Lamkin, Mariette Marich, and Lew Temple.
Rated 18A. 91 minutes.
As I’ve mentioned time and time again, I will always consider The Texas Chain Saw Massacre one of the scariest films of all time. That original Tobe Hooper movie is just terrifying to me. It’s fine if others don’t agree, but something about that horror movie absolutely gets to me right at my core. The whole family and Leatherface himself, they’re creepy. Almost the definition of macabre. Plus, there’s the fact Leatherface is VERY loosely based on serial killer Ed Gein, whom I’ve read a ton about. So I think my own interests play into part of why the movie scares me so deeply.
I’m not a fan of the 2003 remake, but honestly I do dig Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning. It is nowhere near being a perfect movie, however, I found it a hell of a lot scarier than the remake to which this is a prequel. While there’s still a little of that flashiness from the 2003 film which I complained of in my recent review. Luckily for this movie, it doesn’t try to focus too much on the sexualized females as that one, either. I’m not saying there isn’t any seemingly obligatory sexualization from serial culprits Platinum Dunes – there are bits of half nudity and such, focus on the gleaming wet bodies of young people – but compared to the remake in 2003 it is nowhere near as foolish in that sense.
What I do like is a peek into the history of Leatherface, here named Thomas “Tommy” Hewitt, and his adopted family. This is a nasty bit of horror, that’s for sure. While there are some problems, I think it’s a more interesting movie than the one to which this acts as a prequel, and the script is much better, as well.
I found the whole Vietnam War angle pretty intriguing. Brothers Eric (Matt Bomer) and Dean (Taylor Handley) have an intense dynamic, as the former – the oldest – clearly cares about his country, in the sense he’s willing to go back over after already clearly experiencing horrors his first time. On the other hand, younger brother Dean burns up his draft card, knowing the post traumatic stress his brother suffers having already served in the army over in Vietnam. So I like how they clash, as well as the fact the climax of their situation comes right at the biggest moment of tension when a biker is chasing them down, gun drawn, and they end up smashing into a cow crossing over the road.
Furthermore, it plays a bit into the brothers’ confrontation with Charlie Hewitt (R. Lee Ermey), a.k.a Sheriff Hoyt after he killed the last bit of law enforcement in their tiny, dying Texas town. When he finds the burned draft card, things get super intense.
What I love about this one, as opposed to the 2003 remake, is that the four main characters on the road trip kicking everything into gear feel genuine and real. There’s still a bit of that ‘sex sells’ nonsense here like the previous movie, a couple beer ad-like moments. But overall I feel we get to know and care for these characters, as opposed to the 2003 film where it’s just a bunch of sweat glistened young people who have little to no personality, and the whole tired pot angle played into things making it worse. Here, I honestly feel – for all its flawed bits – Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning gave us a nice dose of character, both in terms of the victims and the Hewitt family themselves, a.k.a the bad guys.
Almost more than Leatherface, I really wanted to see more about Sheriff Hoyt after the first remake in 2003. Most of that movie is pretty mediocre to crap, but R. Lee Ermey does such a terrifyingly fantastic job playing the character he drew me in. Then, of course, with this sequel to the remake we’re finding out deeper, even darker secrets about Hoyt. So while I love Leatherface, Hoyt – or Charlie, whatever you want to call him – is a huge part of the interest I have here. To my mind, things get way more disturbing after the opening events of this film, once we find out what Hoyt is really all about. Watching his mental state sort of go from ‘dealing with things’ to ‘scorched earth’ is pretty chilling.
Several parts of the screenplay make this Texas Chainsaw entry better than others. First, I like how there’s an inclusion of different themes from war – what people will do in one while they’re fighting, or what they’ll resort to in situations simply to survive (which further leads into the cannibalism aspect of the story) – to staying true to one’s roots and holding on to one’s culture, to the bonds people people whether blood and family or not. Between all those elements there are so many things happening. Not a groundbreaking work of art, this screenplay, but I think compared to its predecessor this movie has great stuff going on. Because ultimately, we know what’s going to happen – this is a prequel, we get that part. So the writers did a few neat things in order to make the journey more exciting.
Secondly, most of the Texas Chainsaw films – good or not – tend to see one group of people fall into the trap, ending up at Chez Leatherface and then they’re killed. Part of why I enjoy this movie as much as I do is because we see the brother duo and their girlfriends have an altercation with bikers, leading to a crash and that leads into the meeting with Sheriff Hoyt. All the while, this allows for the story to flesh out the backstory of Tommy Hewitt and his adopted family. I’ve always found there was a fun mixture in the plot, which allows for interesting developments – leading to prequel bits filling up/bridging the gaps to the previous remake – and some wild characters + situations.
This is a 3.5 out of 5 star horror film, for me. It could’ve definitely improved on a few things, mainly losing the glossy 21st century remake look so apparent in many Platinum Dunes productions. However, I can honestly say this is much better and more worthy of your time than the 2003 remake. The acting is better, the characters are more developed and less hateable, as well as the fact you’ll find it cool to watch how things evolved from Leatherface’s meager beginnings to where he horrifically stands now. You can do far worse in terms of remakes, though, it still could’ve done Leatherface and the legacy of Tobe Hooper more justice. But I’ll take what I can when it comes to prequels. I love them, they just don’t turn out the best all the time. This one is good enough to make me recommend it to those wanting more TCM.
FX’s American Horror Story
Season 5, Episode 3: “Mommy”
Directed by Bradley Buecker
Written by James Wong
* For a review of the previous episode, “Chutes and Ladders” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Devil’s Night” – click here
Back for another night checking in at the Hotel Cortez.
Tristan Duffy (Finn Wittrock), former badboy model cum vampire, heads back to try and find Mr. James March (Evan Peters). He said he didn’t understand March, but now he does and is a self proclaimed “fan.” Tristan has obviously studied up on ole James, even going so far as to list off his birth date. Though, he chalks it up to Google (“That sounds obscene,” says March).
There’s comedy, dark, here in spades. At the same time most of it is creepy throughout this scene. Loved the Black Closet. Impressively morbid fun.Will Drake (Cheyenne Jackson) is bringing his high profile Vogue friend Claudia Bankson (Naomi Campbell) around the hotel for a tour. Naturally, they run into Tristan. Is this going to spell trouble for them, made even worse by the fact Tristan is falling into line as being an apprentice to James March? Absolutely, at least for Drake. March proclaims he can’t be allowed to “touch a single room“, so to preserve the legacy Tristan offers to take care of him saying “Don‘t worry, I got this.” Such a nonchalant attitude towards murder. A dark soul, that one.
Dr. Alex Lowe (Chloë Sevigny) continues to deal with the anti-vaxxer parents. One child has come down with the measles, all due to the pseudoscientific approach to parenting and medicine so many seem to be adopting in the 21st century, more and more. This is, again, a reason why I love American Horror Story in general. Ryan Murphy/Brad Falchuk & Co. always manage to work in present day issues of relevance with each season. It’s part of why I keep coming back, aside from the horror and the psychosexual thriller aspects.
Furthermore concerning Dr. Lowe, she recounts the tragedy of her son, from the way he affected her life coming into it to how devastating it was to see him go out of it. This is an incredible sequence, very intense and dramatic. I love Chloë Sevigny, even if she says some wild shit as a famous personality (I won’t go into that here; she’s said a few dumb things during her time in the spotlight). She is a great actress who is not at all afraid to take risks. Coupled with her, literally in terms of character, is Wes Bentley as Detective John Lowe. He is great, too. Always been a fan of him since American Beauty, and he keeps doing great work in each of these episodes. He and Sevigny have excellent chemistry, working well as a troubled married couple.
Oh, Claudia Bankson. I feel bad for her. She’s obviously a high class type woman. Now here she is staying at the Cortez, a hotel which may as well be a tourist stop on the Dante vacation guide. When she lays down to go to bed, poor Gabriel (Max Greenfield) emerges screaming from the mattress after having been sewn in last episode by Sally (Sarah Paulson). Even worse? He stabs Claudia to death in a mad rage. Wow. I expected her to go, just didn’t see her getting slashed so quickly into the episode. Fair enough, though. A vicious and welcomed surprise.
In another part of the city, Dt. Lowe and his partner Dt. Hahn (Richard T. Jones) investigate more work by the serial killer they’re hunting. Once Lowe arrives back at the Cortez, though, out comes Gabriel painted in blood, panting, falling into the unsuspecting detective’s arms. Another whoa moment and I dig it. Later at the hospital things get crazy – Lowe’s given little morsels of information before Gabriel dies on a gurney suggesting Sally did something to him, as well as the fact there was a murder.
But I’m genuinely worried for Will Drake. The newly vampirised Duffy is lurking around, tempting weak-willed Will with a bit of skin and seduction. Out of nowhere, The Countess (Lady Gaga) emerges to cut off Tristan’s fun.
Another interesting dynamic so far in Season 5 is the one between Hypodermic Sally and Detective John Lowe. There are several things at play in their tenuous relationship at the Cortez. First, we have Lowe as cop versus Sally the criminal. Secondly there’s Lowe as a man who is trying hard to abstain from alcohol, while Sally is – clearly – an relentless junkie. And finally we don’t know how deep Sally’s influence goes, how embedded in the hotel she truly is in terms of what her ultimate power holds.
The other team I’m loving is Iris (Kathy Bates) and Donovan (Matt Bomer), the troubled mother-son relationship. Iris is stuck at the hotel by necessity, not in terms of the supernatural like it seems Sally is trapped. She wants to be close to Donovan. On the other side of things, Donovan himself would rather be far away from her. Within all the supernatural/ghostly this is some of the solid real life drama happening among a cast of pretty kooky (though awesome) characters.
“Fine, you make a list of all the ways I failed you. And you know what I say to your list? Shit on it. ‘Cause my list beats yours. Item 1: I gave you life. Item 2: I saved your life.”
“I wanted to die!“
More good music in this episode with “Rich Kids Blues” from Lykke Li playing over a scene where Donovan feeds on whoever he can along the streets, wandering where he pleases. Except he stumbles across someone he never expected, a woman named Ramona Royale (Angela Bassett) who immediately tasers him before he can do anything with the knife he wields.
Liz Taylor (Denis O’Hare) is always a treat to see. We’re going to find out more about her soon, I guarantee. She serves up some soda pop for Dt. Lowe, whose troubles are beginning to get worse. Meeting with Alex, she brings him divorce papers, which seem a huge surprise to him; he is devastated, actually. This is more of the solid acting from Bentley especially. He does a fantastic job with the emotional aspects of his characters, I’ve found that even in the worst of the films he’s been in over the course of his career; here, with Dt. Lowe, we’re able to see a lot of his range come out because of the insane situation he’s found himself in at the Cortez. Their situation gets murkier with each step throughout “Mommy.”
Alex wanders down one of the hallways to find a bloody Claudia Bankson standing there, mocking. Creepy enough for you? She then sees Holden down another corridor. Just what she needs after all the horrible tension and resentment happening between her and husband John.Up in the penthouse, The Countess meets with Drake – “What if I told you Will Drake had to die?” she asks him. Figuratively? Literally? Either way some saucy stuff is happening in a dangerous triangle between Tristan, The Countess and Drake.
Apparently The Countess has moved on, once more. Obviously to Drake now because of his money. It’s amazing how they work Bernie Madoff into the script as the reason The Countess has depleted funds in the old life savings account. Turns out Bernie did her in, similar to Kevin Bacon and Kyra Sedgwick and many other less famous victims. So that’s a fun little modern addition. Turns out she’s now planning on marrying Will – which has begun with her trying to switch him from the gay team (seriously?) – before killing him. No wonder she stopped Tristan earlier. She needs that cash before they can feast on his delicious blood.
Possibly the most strange and shocking moment in “Mommy” comes when Sally is readying herself to shoot Iris up with heroin. Apparently Iris has decided there are no reasons left to live. Following the huge altercation earlier with her son, Iris obviously doesn’t see any point in going on (Iris: “I just don‘t get the joke anymore… I am the joke?”). Will Sally help Iris, or is she going to do something terrible with her like she did with Gabriel, and who knows how many countless others before him?
Once the weary Donovan wakes up, he finds Ramona Royale in his face. He’s strapped to a chair by the neck. She is pumping his blood, trying to clean him out for some purpose. Then we have an amazingly executed sequence where Angela Bassett playsa very Pam Grier type character; I could not get enough of this, at all! She’s on a set very similar to something like Coffy and playing a definite homage, at certain points, to Grier. I have no doubt about that.
CAN YOU SAY HOLY FUCK? A lesbian love scene between Bassett and Gaga? I mean, that’s just unreal. But the whole sequence here is what’s worth it – they’re together, as lovers and partners, throughout decades, falling apart eventually because of The Countess’ never ending need for variety. Then it moves into Ramona and her new lover, which becomes something DEVASTATING. I won’t spoil this any further. Totally need to see it yourself.
What I’m very intrigued about now is how the relationship between Donovan and Ramona will work going forward. There’ll definitely be a lot of fun happening from here on in. Even though it seems things end between them here, I can almost certainly say we’ll find them together again soon enough.
The episode’s finish is a real gut punch, as Donovan finally comes to find love for his mother once she has died in Sally’s room. He cuts his wrist and pours blood into her mouth. Now she won’t be able to die, well at least not easily anyways according to the rules set out last episode by The Countess. An interesting last minute development in “Mommy”, which made it more enjoyable than I found most of the episode. A good one, just not as good as either of the first two.
Can’t wait for the next episode titled “Devil’s Night” directed by the man himself Ryan Murphy. Stay tuned and I’ll be back for another review next week, my fellow horror fans!
FX’s American Horror Story
Season 4, Episode 5: “Pink Cupcakes”
Directed by Michael Uppendahl
Written by Jessica Sharzer
* For a review of the previous episode, “Edward Mordrake Part 2” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Bullseye” – click here
At the top of “Pink Cupcakes”, we’re privy to a scene back at the Morbidity Museum with owner Lillian Hemmings (Celia Weston). In the audience, Stanley (Denis O’Hare) and Maggie Esmerelda (Emma Roberts) fume over not being top in the game, or at least Stanley does for his part. A new exhibit is shown – Paul (Mat Fraser) the Seal. Or is it?
Just a fantasy in Stanley’s head, ruminating on what can be done at the Jupiter freak show. The pair scheme back at Stanley’s motel room. He drops a few gay magazines and Maggie tells him the only thing people in Florida hate worse than freaks are “poofs.” She also negotiates a bit of a pay raise, having to be the one in amongst the crowd at the show. There’s plenty sinister brewing with the both of them working together. But will Maggie/Esmerelda the Mystic follow her heart and get more involved with Jimmy Darling (Evan Peters), will she not want to do what Stanley wishes later on? We’ll see.
Jimmy definitely has feelings for her, as well as vice versa. She offers to read his future, all in an attempt to warn him away from the danger Stanley (and her) are bringing. She foreshadows the liar coming – Stanley – that he will make false promises, she says “go north, to New York.” But when he moves in to kiss her, Esmerelda shies away and wounds his pride. Dammit, Maggie! Almost worked.At the Mott residence, Gloria (Frances Conroy) discovers a dead Dora (Patti LaBelle) on the floor in their dining room. Dandy (Finn Wittrock) pretends to have known nothing about it all, yet Ms. Mott knows better. She chastises Dandy, who leaves with a smirk on his face behind her back. Such a nasty, nasty, spoiled little boy. Later, it seems as if Gloria is fine with helping Dandy, her little boy – his father was similarly afflicted with the need to murder. She reminds him that it’s 1952 and he can’t just go around killing anybody.
Meanwhile Elsa Mars (Jessica Lange) gets together in her tent with Stanley, still posing as a big California agent in town scouting for talent. He’s shining a whole lot of rainbows up poor Elsa’s ass. Although, I can’t say she might not deserve a bit of bullshit for all the trouble she begins to bring on Bette & Dot Tattler (Sarah Paulson), jealous of their budding supposed fame.
Either way, Elsa hates television. She makes it clear that it is “the death of art and civilisation,” but simultaneously there’s a part of her which only wants to be famous, she wants to glamour and the limelight. There’s a weird paradox in Elsa: she wants stardom, would do so much for it almost anything and at that same time scoffs at opportunity all because of her trumped up pride.
Looking for strongman Dell (Michael Chiklis), Jimmy finds only Desiree (Angela Bassett) at the trailer. Turns out, Dell is missing, she doesn’t know where he is or when he’s coming back. So they start to bond a little, albeit slightly passive aggressively at times. This leads to a very tense, awkward and sort of sexy moment between Jimmy and Desiree, as they’re both feeling reject – him from Esmerelda, her from Dell. Furthermore, it leads to a discovery by Desiree.
When he puts his lobster claw between her legs, she begins to bleed profusely. Ethel (Kathy Bates) takes Desiree to the nice doctor who gave her the diagnosis on her liver. Doctor Bonham (Jerry Leggio) explains Desiree’s own body to her, that she was officially born a woman and that her penis is actually an enlarged clitoris due to massive estrogen uptake in her body. She also discovers a pregnancy, now miscarried, but the doc lets her know she can try to have another baby again soon. Good news, right? If only Dell weren’t Dell.
Elsa’s latest show, the Bowie song, goes pretty badly this time around. People in the audience are suddenly disaffected, uninterested in her singing, everyone talking between themselves. She’s suddenly aware of how little her ‘fame’ really exists. Then people start to pelt food and other things at her. A tragic, teary moment really. As much as Elsa is sort of horrible in her way, it’s sad to see such a bright woman feel defeated. She crawls back to Stanley, now ready to make a deal, to try out television.
But as it happens, Stanley is more interested in the Tattler Twins Hour, a nice new television show like he’d promised Elsa. Tricky tricky, Stan. He serves them up beautiful pink cupcakes, ones he injected a bit of poison into. We’re seeing bits and pieces of present and future – present, cupcake is eaten by Bette, future we see the museum owner Ms. Hemmings accepting the dead upper torso of the Tattler girls. What’s really happening? All of a sudden, Bette is dying from the cupcake while Dot looks on in shock. Fast forward to Dot alive, Bette dead next to her, Stanley kneeling on her chest and ready to smother: “You should’ve ate a cupcake.”
But it’s only a fake out. We’re back to reality, and neither of them eat a cupcake. Thankfully. Only there’s still Elsa: she’s threatened by their possible bigger draw for a television show. Dot is smart enough not to trust her, Bette is still too naive for her own good despite all they’ve seen so far.
We’re seeing the becoming of Dandy. He’s narrating his new life, he’s destined to speak the “sweet language of murder” and he is out for blood. This is now where he decides to head out, to an underground gay bar no less, in search of a victim.
Funny enough, he runs into Dell almost knocking his beers over. Whaat? Dell obviously liked more of one particular half of Desiree’s genitals more than the other. He’s sitting down at a table with some pretty young artist named Andy (Matt Bomer). Clearly they’ve been very involved, in some way, for a long time now. Andy isn’t only an artist, he’s a working boy. But Dell is in love with him, he wants to go wherever Andy goes. Still, there’s Desiree back waiting for him at home. Andy knows there’s nothing actually going to happen, they’re not going anywhere together.
“Pain don‘t define me. But I still feel it.”
Unfortunately for Andy, when Dell storms off after their argument, Dandy appears at the table willing and ready to spend some time with the young artist. Though, it isn’t any sex in which Dandy is interested.
They return together to the old bus, Twisty’s previous stomping ground. Dandy asks if they can turn backs, get undressed, then turn for the action. Only when Andy faces Dandy, the creepy, spoiled brat is wearing his new clown mask – the unsettling evil one he took from Twisty. He proceeds to stab Andy, over and over. His first ‘proper’ kill, I guess you could say. Afterwards, he starts to saw away, ripping and tearing into Andy as the poor guy screams at Dandy: “Kill me.”
Uh oh. Gloria Mott receives a surprise call from Dora’s daughter Regina Ross (Gabourey Sidibe), who is away studying at school. But she hasn’t heard from Dora, they have weekly calls and she is obviously worried. At first the conversation proves troubling, then Gloria turns this into an opportunity to ask about how she was as a mother, Regina having been around a lot when Dandy grew up. Regina isn’t much comfort really, only telling Gloria she doesn’t remember her being around a lot. When Dandy shows up covered with blood in his underwear, she has worse things to worry about.
Even bigger uh oh for Dr. Bonham when Dell goes to see him at his office. Wonder why, hey? Ole Dell has a problem with Desiree being changed, he doesn’t want her to leave, he wants to be her only option in the world, or at least he wants to TRY to be that to her. So he smashes the doctor’s poor hands into crumbled, bloody bits. Fixed the problem of Desiree’s surgery awful quick. He further threatens Bonham’s family aside from the physical torture he inflicts on the doctor and his fingers. Nasty, nasty stuff. For a moment in time I actually felt sort of sorry for Dell – a closeted gay strongman in a very very different era – but more and more, he shows me why I ought not care at all about his troubles.
At the end of the episode, Elsa shows up at the Mott residence – she’s brought along the Tattler girls. Cut to black. Shit!
Next episode is titled “Bullseye”, directed by Howard Deutch.
FX’s American Horror Story
Season 5, Episode 2: “Chutes and Ladders”
Directed by Bradley Buecker
Written by Tim Minear
* For a review of the previous episode, “Checking In” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Mommy” – click here
After the first and at times devastating premiere episode in Hotel, “Chutes and Ladders” (definitely a reference to the original owner of the hotel based off H.H. Holmes) begins with Hypodermic Sally (Sarah Paulson) shambling around her room. She appears to be sowing Gabriel (Max Greenfield), still alive, into a mattress. Ah, the same fate as that terrifying man from “Checking In.” It’s a disturbing moment, watching Sally push Gabriel’s face down inside the mattress.
Then we zip through the vents, down to where one of the Swedish tourists, caged in the neon contraption, is being fed on by the little blonde haired children. They’re sucking at her wrists. One of them turns away: “Yuk. Tastes gross.” Only because, as Iris (Kathy Bates) makes clear – they’re dead.Liz Taylor (Denis O’Hare) brings the new fresh body into a room with Iris and ghostly maid Miss Evers (Mare Winningham) dump the body down a chute. It sails downward through the hotel, into a big basement, landing dusty on a pile of other bodies.
What’s creepiest is the white room again, where the children eat treats and play games and watch things on the massive screens – Iris filters off a bit of blood into a nice crystal decanter. Bringing it upstairs, The Countess (Lady Gaga) and Donovan (Matt Bomer), the latter trying his best to avoid his mother, have a tall glass of the red stuff. A little while afterwards, The Countess heads out to a function, not for the art but “for the hunt”. I love the way Gaga plays the character, I’m not even a fan of hers regularly yet I feel Ryan Murphy & Brad Falchuk did a great thing casting her in this role; just how she sort of moves through every scene, elegant and scary at once.
Dr. Alex Lowe (Chloë Sevigny) is out giving house calls. It’s excellent how the writing incorporates our modern day issues in this season. For instance, Lowe has to deal with anti-vaccination parents. I find this a great touch, and as always there are issues brought out in American Horror Story which are absolutely prevalent in society today.
Over at the Cortez, Detective John Lowe (Wes Bentley) wakes up in Room 64. Everything is pretty eerie. As if out of nowhere, Miss Evers comes in asking if he needs anything. Then suddenly, a quick glimpse of the wretched, disfigured creature (that raped Gabriel in “Checking In”) standing just above Lowe’s face, steel drillbit dildo protruding out. In the shower, Lowe witnesses to dead people having sex. But then he wakes up again in bed, radio on once more.
I feel bad for John Lowe. He’s obviously scarred by the disappearance and loss of his boy Holden (Lennon Henry). The worst part of that being Holden, we know, is in the hotel. Lowe continuously sees the little boy running around the halls yet can never seem to catch up with him.
He ends up having a brief run-in with Sally and a bar-tending Liz Taylor, trying his best not to fall off the wagon. Basically in this scene, Sally makes him talk about his worst days, the hardest times of his life, and it stirs him up. Though, for now Lowe leaves. For now…
Dt. Lowe receives a package from the Cortez where he’s staying back at the station – inside is what looks like an Academy Award stained with bits of blood. Hmm.
Over at the grand Cortez Hotel, Will Drake (Cheyenne Jackson) has a big party happening, lots of guests such as Vogue’s Claudia Bankson (Naomi Campbell). Things seem to be bumping in the lobby with a ton of people lounging, chatting, and so on. When Sally turns up, not allowed into the party, she mysteriously eyes Lowe’s young daughter Scarlett (Shree Crooks) – perhaps another little blonde child for the Countess? I hope not, I already feel viciously bad for Dt. Lowe. He’s seen some hard times.
At the huge fashion show Drake is putting off, we’re introduced to model Tristan Duffy (Finn Wittrock), whose presence there is somewhat of a major draw. Of course, Duffy is a fiendish cokehead and all around playboy, walking the runway as if every single person there wants to bed him. Amazing change for Wittrock in this season, compared to his also amazing portrayal of Dandy Mott in last year’s Freak Show. Even in that first scene, from the back room to the catwalk, he is fantastic. After his disastrous walk, Drake confronts him backstage; Duffy only cuts his face with a straight razor and announces his retirement from modelling. Savage!
Little Scarlett is taken to see something interesting by Lachlan Drake (Lyric Lennon), Will’s son. They end up in a strange room, like a pool but emptied out. He takes her down to see these strange glass coffins, where the little blonde children are sleeping. There, she sees her brother Holden who opens his eyes intensely. Spooky moment! This goes on to lead her on a bit of a journey alone.
Up in the penthouse, Duffy is scavenging for cocaine (a nice little reference to Lars Von Trier; a favourite director of mine). He’s interrupted by Donovan, they have a bit of a row. But the Countess shows up as well to stop anything further from happening, letting Duffy wander off. She’s playing a bit of catch and release, I believe, no? When former model Duffy finds himself a bit lost in the darkness of the Cortez’s shadowy corridors, things go from a little unsettling to a whole other level of madness. First, it’s a sandwich from room service he tries to eat in the hallway – it looks good to him, but after it’s in his mouth the sandwich appears rotten, full of maggots wriggling in and out of the bread.
But secondly, when Duffy goes into a room to try and look for more cocaine, or anything else, he runs into Mr. James March (Evan Peters) whose Old Hollywood charm is more than evident. It’s only after a few minutes, the situation becomes murderous. Miss Evers brings in a tied up prostitute and March orders Duffy to kill her, but he refuses. Revealing a nasty neck wound, March then kills her himself. This sends Duffy back into the darkness of the halls until he’s snatched up by the Countess herself.Scarlett Lowe manages to get back to the Cortez on her own. When she locates the room where Lachlan brought her during the fashion show, the coffins are open, empty. Where are the children? Are they in the sterile white room? Well, Holden is anyways. Scarlett enters and meets him, again after all this time. She shows him a picture of their family all together. She further wonders why Holden hasn’t grown up thought she has herself. Instead of being happy, though, Holden is very happy at the hotel telling her “I am home.” The kicker comes when she tries to take a picture of her and Holden, he leans in almost to bite her neck; you just know the picture will not be coming out correctly.
One of the nastier scenes comes when Scarlett runs into the hall – Sally scares her with a huge smile, a laugh, and then grinds her own teeth and gums into a bloody mess. What a freaky shot! Great, great makeup effects, as usual.
The Countess has turned Tristan Duffy into a vampire like her and Donovan. They have an intense bit of sex afterwards, Tristan loving the new life of vampirism. Will this cause some tension now between these two and Donovan, between the Countess and Donovan more so? You bet your ass it will. Almost more animosity comes from Donovan towards Duffy, though. They’re the boy toys of the Countess and neither are hugely happy about them both being in contention for her attention.
We’re also privy to the rules of American Horror Story‘s vampires, such as the sun doesn’t kill but should be avoided, coffins aren’t needed as long as you’ve got nice black-out curtains, you can die though being immortal can be achieved through being smart and intelligent about how one handles the effects and responsibilities of being a vampire. This whole sequence is fucking awesome! Not only are Gaga and Wittrock incredible together chemistry-wise, we further get to hear more about the Countess, her birthdate, all the wild stuff she did back in the day, what she lived through, and more. Real good writing here that I found super intriguing!
Dt. Lowe tries to leak information out of Iris – after Scarlett returns safely, obviously her parents are livid. She gives him the lowdown on Evan Peters’ new character, James March; the original builder/owner of the hotel.
For those who don’t know, this character is hugely based on H.H. Holmes, right down to his appearance – he built a massive murder hotel, essentially, including chutes for dropping bodies, secret passages, and so much more. Here, we get a look at 1925 when James March built the hotel. Excellent, eerie scenes shot in black-and-white showing us a brief glimpse of March and his strange ideas about how the architecture of the hotel ought to be constructed. When a construction foreman asks questions about the strange design, March brings him up to this office, stabs him in the neck, then slides his body down a chute where the body heads to the basement. There was asbestos lining the walls, thick to dull out any sound, hallways which lead nowhere, plus tons of other creepily constructed torturous elements. A vicious and interesting sequence from its beginning to end. There are some savage moments, some funny ones, and lots of intensity.
Most fun of all? Room 64 is the office of James March, exactly where Lowe is staying.
“Just ‘cause I‘m sucking on a dude doesn‘t mean I‘m gay.”
I won’t spoil all the fun. Great episode, especially the Countess and Tristan together near the finale. Could not get enough!
Look forward to the third episode, “Mommy”, directed by Bradley Buecker once more. Stay tuned for more madness, my friends!