Winter begins seeing the misogyny and danger in her brother. Beverly is up against betrayal.
Kai's life emerges in front of our eyes, as he and Beverly get closer in their psychopathy & their quest to Make America Scared Again.
Ally's downward spiral goes further, as the Wiltons harass her and Kai starts supporting her after the shooting.
FX’s American Horror Story
Season 6, Episode 10: “Chapter 10”
Directed by Bradley Buecker
Written by Brad Falchuk & Ryan Murphy
* For a review of Chapter 9, click here.
The cast of My Roanoke Nightmare attend Paleyfest, where Shelby (Lily Rabe) and Matt Miller (André Holland), Audrey (Sarah Paulson), Lee (Adina Porter), Dominic (Cuba Gooding Jr), Monet (Angela Bassett), William Van Henderson (Denis O’Hare), Rory (Evan Peters), Sidney James (Cheyenne Jackson) – they all answer questions for the crowd on a panel. The fans all go wild. One especially for Lee, who she feels has been unfairly judged. Shit. If the girl only knew.
The Lee fanatic posts online about the second series being “crass” instead of doing anything artistic. We also find out Lee’s headed for a murder trial. And the remaining Polk brother Lot intends on murdering her if the courts won’t do the job.
We get television special on Lee and her history. Her family, the addiction, the custody battle, her husband’s murder. Once Return to Roanoke: 3 Days in Hell was filmed, things changed, as we know. The trial went on. The video of her torture by the Polks was used to get her acquitted, playing sympathy to the juror. But the murder of her ex-husband Mason is still on the books. Her own daughter witnessed Lee crack her dad in the head with a rock: “You killed daddy,” she says on the stand. Only problem is that Flora sounds crazy because she saw ghosts in and around the Roanoke House. And so the verdict comes back Not Guilty.
Now we get Lana Winters (Sarah Paulson) back for another season! A survivor in her own right, she is now interviewing Lee Harris after her big murder trial. “Questions remain,” Lana explains. She’s come out of retirement and everything, just for the live TV interview. We get a very familiar looking format, makes the whole bit feel genuine. Lana asks her questions, starting off with soft lobs and working up towards the harder stuff. First, it’s about the custody. Secondly those murders still linger on in public consciousness. Then we get a Bloody Face namedrop, as Lee brings up Lana’s own history with maniacs.
Afterwards comes an intense moment. Lana asks where Flora is, after reports of the girl going missing just before they began their interview. Suddenly outside is the sound of assault weaponry. Lot Polk has arrived. He wants revenge. Lana tries talking him out of it and only gets knocked out with the butt of a gun. Luckily, a cop busts in and blows the guy away. Lee makes away again.
A show called Spirit Chasers takes Ashley Gilbert (Leslie Jordan), star in the original series’ reenactments, out to the Roanoke House in order to try figuring out: is it all real? A steel fence went up around the place trying to keep people out, but the show’s crew heads in on their own. During the Blood Moon. Isn’t that great? They head on in without understanding how real any of the madness there is, and surely something nasty is poised to happen. As night falls the crew go about their usual routine, detecting spirits and hoping to find conclusive evidence. Soon, the spirits start to wake. Doors slam shut. Air rushes through the rooms. Ashley even finds a bonnet laying around: “The Real McCoy,” he says and not a prop.
Craziest of all, Lee shows up from out of the blue. That is fucked up. She wants to find her daughter, and she looks crazy as hell. She warns the crew and Ashley away. The Spirit Chasers want to help her, although she isn’t too keen. On one of the crew’s thermal videos they see one of the Chen family, creeping around the walls. A recording captures the eerie voices of children, Priscilla to be exact. When Piggy Man turns up, game over! Ashley is dispatched first. Then another, as one of the Chens hauls them off. Police show up and by that time even The Butcher is carving people to bits.
It seem as if the whole thing’s turned into Lee in a hostage crisis. We get plenty news coverage on the ordeal, including Lana Winters at home recuperating well. People want all the reality they can get. From reality television series to complete reality. “When we latch onto something it becomes our destiny,” says Lana prophetically.
At the Roanoke House, Lee and Flora are inside just fine. Her mother asks about what she ate in the woods, how she survived. Mostly she tries to explain to Flora how things ever got so bad, what it’s like to be a parent trying to make the best life for her and her family. None of that is any good when the girl clearly saw her own mother murder her father. The hardest part of everything is the fact Flora still has Priscilla kicking around in her head, or y’know, right in front of her.
Then the house begins to burn, out walks Flora safe and sound. Inside, Priscilla helps Lee dies, and the house blows nearly to smithereens, the top exploding with fire. While Flora is taken away from the old house her mother and Priscilla walk into the darkness together, torches light the woods, and the Lost Colony descend with the Blood Moon high in the sky.
I absolutely fucking adored this season! So many interesting things went on and the format really worked out in the end. Very fun to bring Lana Winters back, too. Such great stuff. I’m excited now to see what they’ll do next season. This series, for me, gets better each year. Some don’t agree, but I couldn’t care less. A spectacular bit of television, and this season was beyond expectation.
Bloggers try finding the Roanoke House, although they have no idea what Season 2, Return to Roanoke, has in store for them.
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 5: “Chapter 5”
Directed by Nelson Cragg
Written by Akela Cooper
* For a review of Chapter 4, click here.
* For a review of Chapter 6, click here.
Where does the nightmare go from here?
Edward Philippe Mott – undoubtedly related to Dandy Mott from Season 4 – is the one who built the Big Shaker House, the house where Shelby and Matt Miller (Lily Rabe & André Holland) experienced their personal nightmare. We get flashes of this Mott, as a historian tells us about the old property.
And who is it that plays Edward Mott? In a dramatic re-enactment (remember this well; this re-enactment business has a purpose), Evan Peters plays the man himself.
The historian tells us Mott had severe social anxiety. So he went out into the woods to build himself a home, away from the hustle and bustle of the city. Even during the building process, things got strange. Like they would. Most interesting is that Mott had the house mostly to be with his homosexual lover, away from his family. He’s got lots of other things going on, though. Mott is gay; no big deal. It’s his madness I care about. Before the house starts fucking with him he’s already a bit insane.
Then the haunting begins. Poor Edward, he finds his paintings destroyed. The very things he’d only recently rambled about while in the tub with his lover. He interrogates his staff, not getting any of the answers he wanted. He locks them away like animals. That house is bringing out the worst qualities in him. “Do not judge me,” he tells his lover – a black man – who he also points out is only a servant. Harsh, dude. Fucking low.
Finally, in the night Edward hears sqeuals, noticing a fire outside. It’s Thomasin White (Kathy Bates) and her rowdy band of settlers. They do him in, stabbing a pike through his chest before setting him ablaze. Of course the poor servant gets the blame. They even find the other servants down in the cellar, only starved skeletons left. A truly, unbearably nasty history. Real estate nightmare.
With Thomasin right outside the house where we last left the Millers, Shelby and Matt (Sarah Paulson & Cuba Gooding Jr.) wait at their window, calling 9-11. Ambrose White (Wes Bentley) calls out to them about a “merciless reckoning.” The couple try to enact a plan to escape, although splitting up is never good; at least not for the victims of horror. And when Flora (Saniyya Sidney) gets snatched up by a terrifying, ghostly figure that scampers away on all fours, nothing is looking good for anybody. Then the fucking Pig Man shows up, the dead hunters. All the ghosts and ghouls come out to play, commanded by Thomasin and her power. From nowhere comes Mott, leading the Millers into a tunnel downstairs; is he on their side, or that of The Butcher? “I will keep her from killing you, no more, no less,” explains Edward. He wants solitude. Too many souls kicking around in the house. Y’know, practical ghost shit.
Side note: check out the effects on Peters’ eyes as he moves the torch around, very cool.
Out in the woods after Mott leaves them, the Millers and Flora try to find a way elsewhere, but surprise, surprise – they’re stopped, bags over their head and knocked out.Waking up, they’re at the farm where the feral boys were found. Elias Cunningham (Denis O’Hare) is on a table, bleeding, in terrible fucking shape. He tells Matt: “Mama took my leg.” He warns to leave, before she comes back. Mama Polk sounds like a real butcher in her own right. And Mama, she turns up again: it’s Frances god damn Conroy, baby! She’s as bad ass as ever, trying to serve up a bit of questionable jerky. Oh, you know what it is. A little bit of Elias. To boot, he’s bad meat. BAD MEAT! BAD MEAT!
The head smash here is one of the greatest. Ever. Some legitimately enviable practical effects work. Kudos to the technical team here because this is awesome, in the grisliest horror way possible. JUST. WOW.
Anyway, Mama’s kin made a pact with The Butcher around “200 years ago.” She needs new blood each year. Their family helps, now and then. The crops are the whole deal, so that keeps them going. But cannibals is cannibals; they like doing their thing. Problem is the hillbilly Polks are upset about their feral children being taken away. Mama keeps calling Shelby “sweet meat” and that’s pretty creepy.
Lee (Angela Bassett) got stuck talking to the police, due to Shelby cluing them into her possibly having something to do with Mason’s death, Flora gone. Of course we know the truth, but none of them know what’s been going on back at the Miller place and the Polk farm.Lots of blood tonight! As the Polks take Shelby, Matt, and Flora who knows where, Matt takes advantage, sending a shotgun blast into the cab, as his wife puts one of the men over the truck’s pan into the road. But where can they go?
In the forest they hide. Meanwhile, Lee knows something isn’t right. Mama and her remaining kin take the Millers out to subdue them until they can get to The Butcher. Then Mama goes ahead and nearly chops Shelby’s foot clean off. So. Brutal. This episode has really brought its A-Game in terms of gore.
They’re brought back to the house, again. The Butcher and her colony waiting for blood. Flora is being readied for sacrifice. When Lee arrives, the policeman takes off on her; what a bitch! She’s left to try saving her family on her own. From nowhere, Ambrose smashes his mother with a block of wood, grabbing hold to her and puling her into the fire with him, as they burn alive. Mott frees the Millers, as Lee flies in to save her girl from the Pig Man; to save them all.So that takes us to the end of the story at the house. The Roanoke Nightmare is over, right? Oh, I doubt that.
Shelby has recurring nightmares, long after their experience. Nothing can quite that it away. “We escaped with our lives that night, but I never completely got over it. I‘m not sure I ever will,” the real Shelby explains. And that makes a lot of sense to me.
How do you think the re-enactments will play into the overall season arc? I feel the actors playing the parts are going to be affected by their roles in the re-enactments, in how you always hear about plagued movie productions. I see the actors themselves being haunted further later on. Who knows. I hope it’s a nice surprise either way.
Excited for Chapter 6!
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!
FX’s American Horror Story
Season 6, Episode 1: “Chapter 1”
Directed by Bradley Buecker
Written by Brad Falchuk & Ryan Murphy
* For a review of Chapter 2, click here.
This year’s theme? My Roanoke Nightmare. Delicious.
We open on a series of talking heads. Almost seems like an Amityville Horror sort of thing, too. My Amityville Horror is a documentary by the man who was a child during the supposed Lutz story, and this seems to mirror its style a bit.
Well, Shelby (Rabe) and Matt (André Holland) are a married couple. They tell us about their relationship, what they do for a living, so on. They talk about the “worst night” of the their lives when Matt is randomly knocked out by some gang of kids. He nearly died because of their foolish brutality. We see Sarah Paulson playing Shelby and Cuba Gooding Jr. as Matt, like reenactments of that night. Sadly, Shelby lost her baby on that evening. After the event they took a trip out into the wilderness: “We weren‘t city folks,” Matt says.
Out in the woods is an old farm house. A massive backwoods mansion. The house is cheap, just like the one the Lutz family fell into buying in Amityville. They snatch it up, now owning a surely haunted house. Shelby knew it from the beginning, in the back of her mind.
Strange banging in the night already starts Shelby and Matt off on a rough note. Interracial couple, rednecks kicking around. They’ve had troubles before, but were more than willing to fend any trouble off. Nothing’s too great. When Shelby’s home alone it starts raining teeth. TEETH! That’s pretty fucking unsettling. Of course no teeth are left when Matt gets back. To be expected when you live in a haunted Southern mansion. I mean, even the house, the big windows upstairs, the shape, it’s so reminiscent of The Amityville Horror. Not in a bad sense. Dig the homage.
One evening while cooking, home alone, Shelby sees two young women pass in the hallway, staring at her. Nice bit of tension, as she goes to check out where the women went. Finding nothing, only a suspenseful moment or two. Later when she relaxes in the hot tub outside until somebody holds her under. She calls Matt, who gets home quick, and the police, of course. Although the police don’t care much. Lots of paranoia swirling already. The couple aren’t sure anymore what to believe. So I LOVE the cinematography so far this season – the house especially looks ominous even in how the shadows cast over everything, big windows everywhere like eyes, darkness crowding around them.
Living in the house only gets worse, as you’d imagine. Weird noises get Matt out of bed and he finds a mutilated pig on the porch outside. He doesn’t tell his wife, he assumes it was the redneck boys who wanted to buy the house. So like a smart person, he hooks up lots of cameras and a nice security system hooked to his phone. Better yet, he gets his sister Lee (Angela Bassett) to go out there and look after Shelby. Lee was a bad ass cop, whose injury from getting shot on the job led her to taking medication a bit liberally. One day, really lit up on pills, she chased a serial rapist and her addiction was discovered. This got her fired, before wreaking absolute havoc on her personal life; she lost her husband, even her daughter. A sad, human tragedy.
Nothing changes in the house. Just because a security system’s in place and a former cop is looking after Shelby doesn’t mean whatever inhabits that house is going away. Paranoia runs mad now with another person kicking around. Only makes it easier for Shelby to confuse ghostly apparitions with Lee moving things, walking around, et cetera. An added interest is that Lee is still an addict. She asks Shelby not to drink, though I’m not sure how well that will hold up. On the other side is the fact Lee is also sceptical of her sister-in-law.
Then the house starts working on Lee. A lone wine bottle rolls across the floor at her, so she assumes it’s Lee being a bitch. “Why would you do something like that?” she questions Shelby. Now the accusations fly between the both of them. Meanwhile, Matt gets a text from his automated security: people in hoods carrying torches have headed through the gate up to the house. Oh, my. He tries to call the ladies, but they’re too busy arguing.
Suddenly, Shelby and Lee are interrupted by a videotape playing on the television, the strange noises from the night coming out – then on the tape appears a pig-headed man in the wilderness, squealing and bloody. Like anybody would be, the women are terrified. The hooded people with their torches get inside the house while the pair hide, and Matt rushes from a couple hours away to try getting home. When the ladies finally come out of hiding there are tons of creepy stick figures a la Blair Witch Project hanging about the house. Cops once more do nothing.
When Matt is back he watches the video, only getting angrier at the local hillbillies. He still doesn’t want to leave; Shelby takes off in the car thinking only “fight or flight.” On her way she hits somebody in the road (it’s Kathy Bates and she just walks it off). Shelby chases her into the nearby woods and gets lost. She winds up finding more of the stick figures that were hung in the house, which sends her running into a place where the earth below seems to breathe. Deeper in she comes across a man missing some of his scalp and skull, brain exposed. And in the darkness lurks a man holding a torch, among many others holding torches – Wes Bentley’s character. We’ll just have to wait and find out who he is, as well as what happens to Shelby out there.
I don’t care what any of these other horror sites are saying – they probably won’t continue watching after the first episode of the series, anyways. So fuck ’em. This was a great start to the new series. Fun references, eerie shots and sequences, a bit of character intrigue and gritty development. “Chapter Two” will likely be good fun.
Martha Marcy May Marlene. 2011. Directed & Written by Sean Durkin.
Starring Elizabeth Olsen, Sarah Paulson, Hugh Dancy, Christopher Abbott, Brady Corbet, Maria Dizzia, Julia Garner, John Hawkes, Louisa Krause, Adam David Thompson, Allen McCullough, Lauren Molina, Louisa Braden Johnson, Tobias Segal, & Gregg Burton. Fox Searchlight Pictures/Cunningham & Maybach Films/FilmHaven Entertainment/BorderLine Films/This Is That Productions.
Rated 14A. 102 minutes.
I’ve quickly come to enjoy Elizabeth Olsen’s talents as an actor. Each performance seems to bring something new. Bursting into feature film with the previous, and underrated, Silent House, her range is wide. She can play many parts, though, I believe her best has come from the subtle, quiet roles I’ve seen her in. Since 2011, she’s gone on to do some good stuff, and markedly bigger pictures. Although, I hope that she’ll soon be done with Avengers and get back to the smaller, indie-type stuff where she excels most.
Martha Marcy May Marlene gives Olsen the chance to dig into a meaty role, as the titular character, across her confused identities. In a story that mainly concerns the lingering effects of abusive cults, the misogyny of many of these so-called off-the-grid cults, many other issues alongside, the story takes on a highly personal tone as we venture into the psychological savagery of a woman who’s come out the other end of a physical, mental Hell. Director and writer Sean Durkin extracts the existential dread of the main character in an uncomfortable study of her personality as it shifts back to regular existence following what an enigmatic cult leader puts her through.
Martha (Elizabeth Olsen) leaves her little commune one day to a restaurant. There, she manages to get ahold of her older sister Lucy (Sarah Paulson), whom she hasn’t seen for a couple years. Eventually, Lucy picks Martha up and takes her back to the home where she lives with husband Ted (Hugh Dancy). Having been away for so long, Martha has to readjust to life outside the cult commune where she’d been living with the oddly charming leader Patrick (John Hawkes), as well as other men like Watts (Brady Corbet).
However, coming back to the way life used to be is not so easy. At first, Martha has a hard time figuring out what life was before Patrick. And then, just as things might start to turn around, she makes the mistake of calling home, back to the commune, which puts her, as well as her sister and brother-in-law Ted in harm’s way. Or is it all paranoid delusion?
Nobody knows. Except Martha Marcy May Marlene.
The normalization of odd behaviour is evident clearly while Martha tries to readjust to life on the outside, back in the regular world outside the strange cult in which she lived for those couple years. First, she strips bare and goes skinny dipping in the lake along with her sister’s husband Ted, out where anybody passing might see including kids. Later it’s obvious how used to asking for permission she’d become after being in the cult so long, she can’t even go for a swim without asking the only man present. Another moment sees Martha creeping into the dark of her sister’s room while she’s in there having sex with Ted, behaving as if it’s completely fine. Because she’s so used to have a shared man around the house that it’s completely okay to be in bed next to a couple making love. Every aspect of her life is permeated by the abusive, controlling nature of Patrick, whose cult has indoctrinated so many women into a misogynistic world view that only serves to hold them down.
Patrick is a misogynist. There’s no telling why or how he got to being that way. He’s simply and utterly misogynistic. One of those most poignant scenes, so brief and so quick where we get this illustrated boldly. As Martha – renamed Marcy in her new family – introduces Patrick to a new girl, Sarah, he greets them smiling. However, notice he quickly corrects Marcy: “Sally, yeah,” he says casually. It’s so sly and fast you’d almost miss it if you were sipping a drink. His intentions are clear almost all the way through, even if on the lowdown. He renames these girls to fit his wants and his needs. If he needs a Sally, then Sally this Sarah shall be. This is the least of his controlling nature. He uses each subsequent girl to get the next girl into his bed, as Marcy then stirs up new Sally’s drink, the same one she had before her first night in the arms of Patrick, along with a bit of special pills.
What’s very interesting about the cult Patrick operates is the fact he doesn’t just manipulate the women; the men are also manipulated. Not as drastically and deviant in nature as what happens to the girls in the commune, but the men are certainly brainwashed, too. Watts – played by the always intriguing Brady Corbet – is a part of the entire system. Though he reaps the benefits of being there, including having sex with Martha, nothing happens that isn’t Patrick-approved. Even sex with Martha is done under the watchful eye of Patrick. So whereas the women are drugged, raped, converted to the church of Patrick, those young men are also programmed and attentive to Patrick’s needs. Their slavery to him is of a different sort, but slavery nonetheless. They enact all of what he requires, and in the process become nothing more than other assorted pawns in his overall game. More wheels in the cogs of his machinery. The women are his fuel, that which make him king in their commune, as well as that which drives him to such misogyny as is seen through all of his actions, both overt and less noticeable. The men are simply useful to keep that fuel flowing. Likewise the girls are part of that. Patrick doesn’t even go out on jobs at houses on the first night or two, he has the girls and boys led by Watts go out to set everything in motion. Proof of power and control over others, proof of his cowardice to boot.
The cinematography is outstanding. Many of the shots cast everything in such a beautiful darkness. Others come in a radiant light. All those close, tight shots of Olsen capture her pensive qualities, the paranoia, the guilt, everything. On top of that, the sound design and score make things very subtle. There isn’t any music outside of incidental stuff, so the sound design covers those gaps with a bit of ambient noise here and there, as well as just the general sounds of the action, the voices, et cetera. Everything in this movie, from atmosphere to writing to acting, combines to make Martha Marcy May Marlene into an important character study of those brainwashed into cult-like thought, behaviour, living. Olsen’s Martha is a tragic and unsettling character whose tribulations under cult leader Patrick amount to some darkly emotional subject matter. Watching her transition back to real life, if that’s ever even possible for her, is sublime, in that it touches on some sore spots wondering how someone like Patrick could ever prey on the vulnerable types his commune attracts. The entire film is a solid dramatic thriller led by Olsen’s talents and rounded out with the calm, thoughtful direction of Durkin.