Stacie Passon adapts Shirley Jackson with a faithful, powerful retelling that continues to resonate with the social climate of today.
Two sisters experience a night of terror after a comet causes men to turn violent en masse.
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 3, Episode 11: “Protect the Coven”
Directed by Bradley Buecker
Written by Jennifer Salt
* For a review of the previous episode, “The Magical Delights of Stevie Nicks” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Go To Hell” – click here
Another flashback at the top of this episode, with Delphine LaLaurie (Kathy Bates) coming back from Paris, though reluctantly. She rambles on about the lack of “intellect” and “inner light” present in the slaves, as well as the loathing of her own family. Nobody seems on her level, I suppose; that’s funny. It’s 1830. Delphine has a chicken brought over for slaughter, ending up cutting the head off herself. She feels its blood run warm over her hands. Then cut to up in the dank attic, a slave has a deep injury to his leg, blood pooling out of it. Looks like this is the first time Delphine realized her inner bloodlust. There’s no other slaves kept in cages there as of yet, so it must have been long before her disgusting habits became regular; in fact, this is when she first arrived. Very interesting to see the start of her love of blood. She doesn’t help the poor injured servant, only knocks him out to keep for further use. She bleeds him out and just from the sound of her breathing, it’s exciting to her. “I think I’m gon‘ like it here,” she tells the gagged and moaning man in front of her. Eerie start to this episode, giving us more glimpses back into the history of LaLaurie and her murderous impulses.
Fiona Goode (Jessica Lange) and Marie Laveau (Angela Bassett) show fake sympathy for the dead Nan (Jamie Brewer), who is being laid to rest in the cemetery. All the witches are present. Queenie (Gabourey Sidibe) shows up with LaLaurie reconnected at the head and on a leash; brutally, darkly funny. Everyone is sort of pissy. Myrtle (Frances Conroy) is naturally suspicious of any death in the coven, Cordelia (Sarah Paulson) backing her up nowadays. Zoe (Taissa Farmiga) has Kyle (Evan Peters), who might as well be on a leash. But they all leave after the brief funeral, still wondering where Misty Day (Lily Rabe) could be.
Across town at the Delphi Trust, Harrison Renard (Michael Cristofer) receives word from his right hand man David (Mike Colter) that the story on Hank and his death will be covered up; he was, on record, as a homeless veteran with post-traumatic stress disorder.
Back at the academy, Fiona and Marie are still scheming to get the witch hunters. For once, for good. All the while, we get an excellent voice-over from LaLaurie who goes about the house cleaning up after everyone, lamenting every last minute of it. Even better there are great moments such as Myrtle tasting a beautiful soup made by Delphine, then when Delphine is given a cute little black baby to hold by Marie. So many perfect scenes, it’s a great sequence that lasts almost 5 minutes; the score underneath it all is so good, such an intense and emphatic bit of work.
But the best? A gardener comes in from outside, his hand bleeding; a black man, it so happens. Right as Delphine wonders “what fed my soul back then.” Perhaps a bit too perfect. She’s taken up residence in Spalding’s old room upstairs. The whole voice-over has been Delphine talking to the poor black man she has tied up currently. Such an expertly written sequence, I’m beyond impressed with this episode. This is my second time watching this season again and I’m noticing how well it was actually written. Great job in particular this episode by Jennifer Salt, who is a frequent writer every season in the series.
“You flush my shit, bitch.”
Zoe wants to find out what happened to Nan. Like we’d expect, Madison doesn’t care at all. She’s more concerned with Kyle and his sex. But then Kyle resists, he claims to love Zoe. Is there a fight brewing? Madison gets the room quaking, things flying. A lamp cracks Zoe in the back of the head. Then Myrtle shows up, a little verbal spar with Madison. All three of them – Myrtle, Kyle, Zoe – they see the threat that is Madison. Some sort of devastation is coming. Not sure, though, in which form it will come.
Over with the Axeman (Danny Huston), Fiona lounges in discontent. He seems pretty focused on being able to “give up the axe” and Fiona giving up the coven. He wants to help her sort out who is becoming the next Supreme, to kill her. No good can come of that, either.
Then up in the attic, Spalding (Denis O’Hare) appears to Delphine. He’s impressed with her, what he calls, “art.” Spalding is upset with the new alliance between Laveau and Fiona. He hates that Fiona has forgotten herself, forgotten who she’s supposed to be. A new bond is now forming between Spalding and LaLaurie. They’re forging an agreement.
More news in the house sees Queenie still growing further from the coven, now even more so due to her hating Marie, too. She doesn’t want any of Cordelia’s nice talk and they have a slight confrontation. I hope this doesn’t hurt Queenie because I do love her character, though, I can understand why she’s sort of saying fuck everyone. Nobody has been fully treating her with the respect she deserves.
Still, Cordelia is tough and she is a woman with a vision. Even if that vision comes at a price: her eyes. Down in the greenhouse she tries more herbal magic, but breaks down in the middle. Then, to regain her second sight, Cordelia stabs herself in the eyes with a gardening shear. She ruins her own eyeballs to find the power again. Fiona shows up worried once more about her daughter, even after shunning her previously for the debacle with Hank. But as Myrtle makes clear, she should only be worried if “harbouring bad thoughts.”
Up in the eerie attic playhouse of Spalding, he receives the item he asked for. Delphine brings him back a doll baby, which drives him to near ecstasy. Such a creepy moment, he even sniffs the thing. Very “unsavoury” in the words of Delphine.
In the basement, Myrtle gives Zoe some sort of sapphire ornament to keep. “To hawk in case of emergency,” she says. She also wants Zoe and Kyle to leave, to get away from the coven somewhere. Myrtle warns of both Madison and Fiona, each of them with murderous intent towards any next emerging Supreme. Probably smart, really. Is being the next Supreme worth all of that deadly competition?
Harrison Renard, his right-hand David and a bunch of other suited gentleman go to meet Fiona and Marie. The two sassy women against all those unsuspecting dummies. Very calmly, Marie and Fiona talk with Harrison, who is pretty damn on edge. He offers up a century long truce. Fiona counters: “You disband this little merry troupe of assholes, vowing never to harm another witch from now until the end of time.” The ladies play with them a bit before David tries laying down the line. Fiona tells them plainly: “Then here’s my other offer: you can all just die.” After which the Axeman, tending bar unnoticed, turns and chops everyone to death, except for Harrison. Renard has a cup of coffee trying to be nonchalant, his last words being a spit and “Go to hell, witch bitch.” But Fiona has the last word, planting her man’s axe right in the side of Harrison’s neck. A beautifully gory end to their boardroom meeting.
“I love you more than jazz, baby doll.”
At the academy, Marie is getting drunk on French 75 made by Delphine, as Fiona takes off to “hail the conquering king” who “swung a mighty axe” for them. Although, LaLaurie has other plans. She stabs Marie with a huge kitchen knife right in the chest. But a little medication and a knife are nothing compared to the Voodoo Queen. When Marie goes after Delphine, Spalding shows up and cracks Laveau over the head and sends her over the stairs. He tells Delphine to bury her and make sure she can’t dig her way out, similar to what she had done to her. Then creepy Spalding goes back to the way things were for him. Except now he has a little baby to dress up, too. So he gets in his baby outfit, puts the baby in one, and they sit in a rocking chair like two weird babies together. “Finally, a living doll all my own,” says Spalding while they rock back and forth. Wow – damn unsettling, and I dig it. Denis O’Hare is a wonderfully talented actor.
“That ain‘t magic. That‘s an antihistamine.”
Zoe has to try and convince Kyle to go with her, away from the academy. He’s afraid that he may hurt her, or someone else. He has uncontrollable feelings boiling up inside of him all the time. He doesn’t want any of that to inexplicably come out and affect the world around him. Poor FrankenKyle, he’s made up of a bunch of different parts, all warring against one another inside I’m sure. But there’s something about Zoe which calms him.
Then they’re off, running to the bus for Orlando, Florida. The future is ahead of them, bright and gleaming. Is it meant to be? We’ll see.
Another solid episode. I’m looking forward to more developments closer to the season finale in the next episode, titled “Go to Hell”. Stay tuned, friends and fellow fans!
FX’s American Horror Story
Season 3, Episode 10: “The Magical Delights of Stevie Nicks”
Directed by Alfonso Gomez-Rejon
Written by James Wong
* For a review of the previous episode, “Head” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Protect the Coven” – click here
This episode opens with Marie Laveau (Angela Bassett) being tended to with a cup of tea and a warm bed from Fiona Goode (Jessica Lange). Marie even admits to being over “300 years old.” They talk about their new situation only briefly. “Tomorrow we’ll draw the battle lines,” says Fiona. So we’re in for a good deal of interesting stuff.
Even better, as Marie sleeps in the night up shows Papa Legba (Lance Reddick), the voodoo father. He looks incredibly, almost impossibly creepy. Apparently, Legba and Marie have some sort of agreement. He wants what’s coming to him, the terms of their bargain they made “so long ago.” Love the choice of having Reddick play this character. He is a great talent, who has showed it time and time again from The Wire to Oz and much more. Nice addition to this season, and so late in the game.
Then we see Marie saunter into a hospital ward, lightly crying babies behind a glass door. She voodoos her way in to where the unsuspecting infants lay. The music and the cinematography here are beyond eerie, setting such a perfectly unnerving sequence. Marie picks out a cute little baby, takes him away, and runs into some armed security guards. But they’ve got nothing on her. She rolls her eyes back, they go cloudy, and then BANG, BANG! The guards are dead. What does Legba want with the baby? Does he eat them? Oh, goody. Something new and sinister to add into the American Horror Story lexicon of weird and disturbing characters.
With the fallout from Hank Foxx (Josh Hamilton) comes a revelation by Marie to Fiona and Cordelia (Sarah Paulson): she hired him. Now, there’s no doubt going to be further tension and problems between Cordelia and her mother. Fiona sees it as a sign of weakness that Hank infiltrated them: “You‘re not just blind, you are wilfully blind. You married Hank to prove some childish point and brought a viper into this sacred house!” They’ve now go to face the task of finding “the hive,” as Fiona calls it. They need to take down the whole group of hunters, not just one; they travel in packs, like vultures.
In other news, Misty (Lily Rabe) is weary of getting too close to Fiona, whose murderous impulses aren’t exactly secret. Fiona tries to talk Misty up, but the swamp witch is not too interested. Is Fiona driving towards something here? Surely she can’t be trying to kill another one; can she? Well, Fiona brings Misty downstairs. She has a guest to meet her: it’s god damn Stevie Nicks, a white witch in her own right apparently. As they’re introduced, Misty faints. Excellently, Fiona steps over her claiming “You owe me $5” and giving Stevie a friendly smooch. This was hilarious, and fucking awesome. Even further, Stevie sings and plays “Rhiannon” on the piano as the young witches come home. Such a fun inclusion to have Nicks here, like a little treat on top of an already delicious ice cream that is Coven.
“I‘m a huge fan of Eminem. When‘s he get here?”
“Marshall? You‘re not his type. And more importantly, you‘re not the next Supreme.”
There’s new jealousy afoot. Madison doesn’t want any of Misty and her shit, she thinks she has what it takes; her heart murmur is even gone since coming back from the dead. Madison even gives Nan shit, which prompts Nan to use mind control almost ending with Madison jamming a cigarette in her vagina. Lots of inter-coven trouble happening.
But the witch hunters are still the biggest threat to anything, whether or not the young witches are all clamouring over who the next Supreme could end up being. Cordelia tracked down the Delphi Trust, the witch hunters hub. She found out who Hank was, the son of Harrison Renard; Renard is, of course, Francais pour Fox(x). So now, Marie, Cordelia and Fiona are scheming. Trying to figure out a way to get at the witch hunters. Shouldn’t be hard to take down some capitalist pigs, right? Fiona won’t have any help from Cordelia who she sees as “tainted.” There’s a violent emotional nature to the relationship between these two. Sad, because Cordelia is a tough, smart, capable witch. Doesn’t matter, though. Marie and Fiona together? Two bad witch bitches. They set up a cross between the Salem witchcraft and Marie’s Haitian voodoo, attacking the Delphi Trust at the source of their money and causing lots of problems for the hunters. Except it might take the good out of Fiona, who collapses after their spell is cast.
Now we get more talk between Fiona and Marie. Fiona talks about her new love, the Axeman (Danny Huston). Marie explains her debt to Papa Legba, who she conjured back when she thought she was “the shit” and “shockingly strong” magic. Then in the night, Papa showed up to give her eternal life and strength. Unknowingly she “made a deal forged in Hell.” Only problem then was, she had to provide Legba with his price: her baby. And after that she was shackled to their agreement, requiring her to give him an innocent child’s soul when he comes calling. Nasty, huh? But immortality has its prices. That’s a part of why I love this season, there are very interesting portrayals of immortality between the dead coming back, Marie herself and also the curse she threw on Delphine. So it’s fun to see how immortality isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. All these situations help us understand the horrifying aspect of living forever (it’s always been horrifying to me anyways).
Meanwhile, Madison takes Misty on a walk through New Orleans. Fittingly they stroll behind what looks like a music funeral, horns and drums ringing through the streets. Madison tries to fill Misty’s head with the concept that being Supreme will bring more needless stress than it does perks, such as plenty free “merch” and “swag“. Gotta watch out for Madison, though. They end up at a graveyard, deserted except for a couple groundskeepers. Madison wants to show Misty they have equal powers; she literally raises a man from out his coffin and back to life. Certainly impressive. Trusting Madison too much, Misty ends up knocked out by a brick and tossed into the casket; Madison returns the groundskeepers to normal after they were frozen in a spell, and Misty is entombed in a small grey mausoleum. Didn’t see that coming before this sequence, honestly. But should have. Madison is just as vindictive and paranoid as Fiona.
Zoe and Nan drop over to see Joan, after they discovered at the hospital Luke is now dead. Nan wants to see the body; she needs to find out what happened to him in the end. He was cremated, but Nan knows what happened: he was suffocated by his mother. Then Nan goes wild on Joan, forcing Zoe out of the way and making Joan drink down a few gulps of bleach. Yikes – though, I can’t say I hated it. Joan deserved what she got.
In the basement of the academy, Myrtle plays away on the theremin while she and Cordelia have another heart to heart. The younger of the two feels she has “nothing left to offer this coven.” But we know different, as does Myrtle.
The worst comes when Fiona conjures Papa Legba on her own. She wants to do whatever possible to attain eternal life. Only Legba can’t make a deal because she has no soul with which to bargain: “You have nothing to sell.”
Things get dicey now, as Fiona ends up determined to kill all the others in the coven if necessary, all in order to figure out who will be the next Supreme. She has truly gone over the edge. Is this going to do her in, or the others?
The finale sees Nan discovering a newborn child meant for sacrifice over to Legba. Marie and Fiona label her a threat. Then, Legba accepts her as a substitute. The two older witches drown Nan in the upstairs bathtub, and Papa Legba deems Marie/Fiona’s union as “big trouble.” No doubt. A sad and tragic end for a character like Nan, who could’ve been a contender for Supreme had she not been disturbingly murdered.
Very excited for the next episode titled “Protect the Coven” – more wildness to come!
FX’s American Horror Story
Season 3, Episode 6: “The Axeman Cometh”
Directed by Michael Uppendahl
Written by Douglas Petrie
* For a review of the previous episode, “Burn, Witch. Burn!” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “The Dead” – click here
This episode begins with a flash to 1919 in New Orleans. We hear the voice of Danny Huston, undeniable. He types a letter, and talks about being the titular Axeman. He tells everyone via his letter that anyone playing jazz will be safe on a specific night, everyone else will be murdered. The girls at Miss Robichaux’s Academy plan to make sure the Axeman does not kill anyone else. They’re witches, they’re tough, and plan to make their Salem ancestors proud.
No jazz plays on the street around the school. The Axeman walks through the neighbourhood, eventually making his way inside the big plantation style house. Upstairs, one of the witches listens to classical opera. The Axeman does not like that. The trap is set and all the women of the house stab him to death on the floor against the firelight.
So if he died in the house, will his spirit linger? I’m sure we’re going to find out now with new young witches boarding at the academy.
Zoe (Taissa Farmiga) picks around through the old belongings of Madison Montgomery (Emma Roberts). In the process, she finds old things belonging to the previous schools of witches, as well as a Ouija board – or a Spirit Board. First, to Nan (Jamie Brewer) and Queenie (Gabourey Sidibe), she brings up the fact the number of witches have gone down progressively each year. Now there’s only three of them. So they make a pact over absinthe, agreeing to watch one another’s backs. The three young witches play a game with the board. Soon, they come in contact with – you guessed it – a spirit. It writes out: AXEMAN. Quickly, the whole thing is stopped by Queenie, who knows better than to mess around too hard with the board.
Fiona (Jessica Lange) is having troubles. Taking chemotherapy alongside other patients, she suddenly has the gift of mind reading, attributing it to the medication. It’s all too much for her. A doctor manages to sit her back down, but clearly Fiona does not want to do it for herself, only for Cordelia (Sarah Paulson) who actually needs her for once in a lifetime.
Zoe wants to release the Axeman in order to find out what happened to Madison. Although, nobody else is at all keen on the idea. But Zoe’s stuck on witches banding together, no matter what the consequences. She goes downstairs with the Spirit Board again, except by herself now. Dangerous things at play here. And then, she’s finding her way into the attic where Spalding (Denis O’Hare) keeps his play things: both porcelain and deceased. The air is thick with a deathly reek, dolls lining the shelves. And finally, Zoe uncovers Madison’s body. Only Spalding intercepts her.
Meanwhile, Cordelia is back at home, walking cane and glasses and all. Hank (Josh Hamilton) can’t touch her without flashes in Cordelia’s head of his infidelity; all she can see is the woman he cheated on her with. She has a “different kind of clarity,” as if she’s experiencing the memories firsthand when they come to her. Strong woman, eyes and face burned yet still not afraid to stand up for herself.
Up in the attic, the young witches interrogate the “twisted tea-serving necrophiliac” Spalding, whose arms and legs are tied to a chair. Zoe scalds his chest with a metal spatula, left over a hot burner. He boasts about his first sex was with Madison; disgusting. This whole scene is nasty, in so many ways. But a great, gritty part to a larger story.
Over at the camp of Misty Day (Lily Rabe), there’s a nice big flower bed planted, she’s watering it and making sure it’s tended. Underneath stirs Myrtle Snow (Frances Conroy). And out of the blue, Franken-Kyle (Evan Peters) turns up, mumbling, filthy and needing a bath, scared as usual. Misty gladly takes him back in, helping him get clean. But memories of his mother come back, he trashes the place and throws things around, smashing the little music player Misty kept. Luckily, though, Zoe shows up – able to take Kyle, also needing Misty.
Zoe chains Kyle up down in the basement, and shows Misty the corpse of Madison. She wants Misty to bring the girl back to life. Although, poor Madison’s been dead for ages. Still after a bit of work, Misty and Zoe manage to pull her back from the afterlife and into the world of the living once again.
Big surprise: Hank is in cahoots with Marie Laveau (Angela Bassett). His wife’s new second sight is causing problems, threatening to reveal their working relationship. We get a flashback to Cordelia meeting Kaylee (Alexandra Breckenridge), the one Hank killed after having sex with earlier in the season; she was, in fact, a witch. Hank’s helping to kill all the descendants of Salem, a job done in conjunction with Laveau. But now, she wants all the witch bitches dead, their heads for trophies.
The girls are trying to bring Madison back to consciousness. She can’t drink anything properly, even ginger ale. All she remembers from before death was a red blur, nothing more. And at the same time, Cordelia is confronted in her bedroom by none other than the Axeman himself. He wants release, he doesn’t want to be trapped inside those “four ugly walls,” not any longer. He’s been promised release by Zoe, but nothing has come yet. He is one mad jazz-man. Hearing Cordelia’s screams, Zoe, Nan and Queenie rush to help. Stupid Zoe, she’s the one who did this with her lies. Then she finds a spellbook, releasing the Axeman from the house back out onto the streets. Is this any good, at all? To have this maniac out wandering New Orleans? Especially when jazz isn’t exactly as prominent, even in the South, as it once was back in his day.
At a bar where Fiona is lamenting her illness, literally pulling off a handful of hair, the Axeman sits down for a drink. Will there be vengeance to come? And for whom?
Next episode is “The Dead”, directed by Bradley Buecker.
FX’s American Horror Story
Season 1, Episode 10: “Smoldering Children”
Directed by Michael Lehmann (True Blood)
Written by James Wong
* For a review of the previous episode, “Spooky Little Girl” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Birth” – click here
The opening scene in this episode treats us to a view of the past. Slowly, we’re unravelling the truth about Constance (Jessica Lange), her eternally troubled son Tate (Evan Peters), and both of their relationships with Larry Harvey (Denis O’Hare).
This sequence shows them all together at a dinner table, nice meat and other assorted foods presented to eat, and Addie (Jamie Brewer) is also present. Another flashback to a different time. This is when Larry’s family has already burnt up, after his wife discovered the affair with Constance, and now Larry has become the stepfather of the Langdon house.
However, we’re finally drawing back the curtain on Larry and his mysterious burns. Now we see that Tate, before going in to kill his classmates, poured gasoline over his new stepfather and set him ablaze at his office building, while Larry was trying to work a regular day behind a computer. Vicious and macabre beginning to “Smoldering Children.”At the same time, Ben Harmon (Dylan McDermott) has finally come to realize that his wife Vivien (Connie Britton) told the truth all along: the Rubber Man did something to her, he attacked and raped her. After coming to see the light, Ben is able to help get her out of the loony bin. Unfortunately, though, Vivien does not want to go back to that house. Obviously; who would?
Things are clearly messed up at Murder House. Ben’s also coming to see the full extent of how hard everything has been on his daughter Violet (Taissa Farmiga). She has missed 16 straight days at school, so he can see how depressed she is, how weak and fragile to the harshness of the world she can be. But there’s something else worse going on in the house, all around them at every turn.
One thing I love about American Horror Story, every season, is how there are plenty of anti-heroes. Then, there are also just not likeable characters who you also simultaneously can feel sorry for at certain times.
For instance, while Larry Harvey has done terrible things in his lifetime, he is also a tragic figure. I do think he’s awful for having an affair with Constance behind his wife’s back – but in the same breath, I feel bad because he’s been manipulated by her. She only wanted back in Murder House, that’s all she ever wanted, so from the beginning the guy has been a means to an end; never an end in and of himself. So, even with all the bad stuff in his character, there’s likability at moments. In the scene during “Smoldering Children” where Constance goes to see Larry, accusing him of killing Travis (Michael Graziadei) because of jealousy, I really did feel for him. He was cowering and looked so pathetic, it was real touching, sad stuff.
An intensely satisfying scene comes when we discover how Constance dispatched of her husband’s body: ground up into dog food. I mean, that is perfect! I wondered why his bones hadn’t turned up in the hole out in the yard where Moira (Frances Conroy/Alexandra Breckenridge) was found earlier in the season. This was just too good for words.
Very quick and creepy scene with guest star W. Earl Brown playing Phil Critter – an exterminator whose expertise is called in by Ben Harmon. Murder House seems to be having an epidemic of flies and other bugs flittering about, so Phil gets into the crawlspace and tries to root out the problem. However, too bad for Phil, as he comes across Tate Langdon down there; the young man attacks him, claiming he has taken lives and deserves to repent for his sin, and shoves the bug repellent sprayer down Phil’s throat. SAVAGERY! Love a good, brutal horror kill like that. Just goes to show American Horror Story isn’t solely about that high aesthetic feel all the time. There is downright shocking and gory horror sometimes, along with brutish kills such as this one.
Even further with Larry, we see him reunite with the titular smoldering children, as well as his deceased wife. He promises her Constance will pay for what she’s done, however, his wife reaffirms it was only him who did anything to the family; he was the one who broke his vows. A tragic scene, as it seems to constantly roll in when Larry is concerned. I feel bad, yet don’t feel bad. Sort of a war within myself. Part of it has to do with the burns; I always feel bad if I see someone scarred so viciously by fire, it’s a truly horrific thing to have gone through. Still, it’s tough to give in totally and feel pity for Larry, as so much of his fate came by his own filthy hands.
What we’re seeing more now in the past couple episodes is how much Tate has to do with the influence of the house. It’s as if the walls have assimilated Tate into its structure, he’s become like a figurehead for Murder House and its vile intentions.
In “Smoldering Children”, it’s obvious how deceitful and misguided Tate is because we’re seeing him manipulate Violet. Instead of telling her the truth, he wants to commit suicide with her.
But then, she comes to discover something extremely tough to understand: “it’s too late for that.” Violet is already dead, she killed herself and became a part of Murder House herself. I’d suspected this ever since her long absences from school first became apparent, now it’s a confirmed fact. Violet has been wandering awhile in the house as a ghost, no different from Tate, the Montgomerys, or any of the other entities. While I did suspect this, I was still shocked by the revelation. That’s how good this series is, you can get lulled into a feeling by the way they present the story and plot/sub-plots, then out of the blue an episode will show things in a certain way that it comes to have a strong impact. Such an example comes in this episode with Violet’s revelation.
When she sees herself curled up and dead on the floor – reminding me very much of the dead bodies from The Ring – it is WHOA! Great, emotional moment between her and Tate. And while some may see this as Tate being more likeable, after trying to ease her into the realization, he’s still a dirty little bastard. He raped Violet’s mom, he has killed and maimed and tortured countless men and women. The afterlife love he has fell into with Violet does nothing to change his character, except it blinds us to his true intentions. This comes out in spades here.Being accused of killing Travis, Constance ends up saved from the predicament by Larry; he takes the fall for the murder, giving up details nobody else could’ve known. Of course it’s all because of his affiliation with Murder House. I love this scene because we get a trove of treasure out of O’Hare – from the way he talks to Constance, his shuffle and the arm held against his chest, tendons burned into that position by his fiery accident. A marvellous performance!
Also, I found this portion of the episode to be fitting. Larry decides it is high time he pays for everything he’s done, all the crimes and the death he has caused by his very own hand, so that’s why he decides to let Constance go free and take the wrap. But tragically, again with Larry, he’s too in love with Constance. He could’ve turned himself in for crimes, other ones, instead he decides to let her walk and take that punishment. It’s a sad scene when she goes to see him in jail, but it’s beyond perfect and eerie and sad and beautiful.
Next episode is titled “Birth” – the penultimate episode of Season 1, and it is directed by series regular Alfonso Gomez-Rejon.
Stay tuned for more horror and tragedy and all around weirdness.
FX’s American Horror Story
Season 1, Episode 4: “Halloween – Part 1”
Directed by David Semel (Hannibal, The Strain)
Written by James Wong (Final Destination, The X-Files, Millenium)
* For a review of the previous episode, “Murder House” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Halloween: Part II” – click hereAnother flashback now, we open “Halloween: Part 1” with the (partial) deaths of the gay couple who previously lived in the Harmon’s latest home.
Chad (Zachary Quinto) and Patrick (Teddy Sears) are getting ready for Halloween. At least, Chad is anyways. Patrick is heading out to the gym, or he says so – turns out Chad knows that he’s unfaithful. They have an argument, but it’s clear they’re in love. The spark is simply a little light on their love life, apparently. When Patrick heads out, Chad is getting ready for more decorations when the Rubber Man shows up – y’know, the one with whom Vivien (Connie Britton) had sex at the end of Episode 1 – and proceeds to drown him in the bob-for-apples tub. Patrick shows up, an intense stare-off ensues, then the credits roll. Highly creepy. I loved this opening!
The house is not selling, which obviously makes Vivien nervous. She keeps hounding her real estate agent, who in turn suggests they bring in a fluffer – did they intentionally reappropriate this word, or is it to show how little this woman knows about sex culture? I don’t know, either way it was hilarious.
Of course, this all plays into what will happen later in the episode. Look out.
Then Ben Harmon (Dylan McDermott) keeps finding himself stuck with Larry Harvey (Denis O’Hare). The melted man is demanding a little pay cheque for handling the body and disposal of Hayden (Kate Mara) whom he killed in the finale of the previous episode. I can all but literally feel the noose tightening, slowly with each episode, around Ben’s neck. On one hand I feel slightly bad. On the other, he only keeps on compounding his infidelity with stupid move after stupid move. All that being said, the house is manipulating every last one of them, the entire family, in the most cruel of ways.
More this episode between nasty, resenting mama Constance (Jessica Lange) and her sweet but troubled daughter Addie (Jamie Brewer). You can see how insecure Constance is in general, as she somehow believes Addie is going to steal her young, hot boyfriend. It’s sad really, however, I think it’s wonderful writing. We’re seeing that sad side of L.A through this first season. While there are so many typical failed actress angles in film and television, I find Constance and Addie truly moving, while at the same time finding Constance’s behaviour towards her disabled daughter awful and deplorable. It’s simply excellently written work.
Chad and Patrick show up once more. Only Chad is somehow alive, as last we left him his dead eyes were floating in the tub of water and apples.
What I enjoy is how the gay couple’s issues with infidelity mirror those of the Harmons. Fascinatingly morbid scenes between them all. Not only that, Patrick comes onto Ben while they’re alone. Of course Ben turns it down, he’s not gay. All the same there’s this unsettling moment where Patrick tells him “we’re alike” in the sense of their infidelities, and it rings true.
Moreover, Chad seems to play the devil’s advocate by dropping very subtle suggestions for Vivien in regards to her husband’s cheating.
Jessica Lange and Jamie Brewer work so well together, it is unreal. What I find intriguing is how Brewer, a girl with down syndrome herself, plays a young woman just like herself. For her to have to act out some of those scenes between Addie and Constance, it must’ve been difficult. So to see these two actors working in intense scenes off one another, the subject matter tough and unflinching, it’s a testament to their abilities, as well as the writers who are tackling these situations head-on.
More bits of 1922, as the subplot of Charles and Nora Montgomery (Matt Ross & Lily Rabe) unfolds further into the darkness. Their baby, stolen by someone obviously hating the Montgomerys for their work in abortions, turns up cut to pieces; stored in jars much like Montgomery kept fetuses and other macabre things. To Nora’s surprise, her husband tries to Frankenstein their child back together with bits of his tiny, broken body and the amputated pieces of animals. It is real horrifying and nasty stuff.
Vivien has found out about Ben being in contact once again with Hayden. The tension further boils up between them and Ben scrambles to try and fix things. While he knows the truth – Hayden is dead and gone – Vivien of course does not and worries more will happen. Somehow, Ben is almost able to convince her, but then Hayden’s phone starts ringing Ben on his cell. Somehow. The look on Ben’s face says it all; incredible work.
More horror movie score working its way into the series – a bit of music from Wojciech Kilar from Bram Stoker’s Dracula directed by Francis Ford Coppola. That movie is one I absolute love, so to hear a piece of music from it used here again excites me. Glad to see Murphy & Co. know the quality stuff, despite what anyone says about that film. It was an incredible movie with awesome music and an overall well-crafted aesthetic, so I’m glad it’s receiving homage in some form here.
The most tragic thing happens in “Halloween: Part 1”, as Addie – pretty girl mask on and all – runs into the road after a bunch of young girls she wants to trick-or-treat alongside. She’s promptly smashed by a car, something I never once expected. I didn’t realize when I first saw this season, as it originally aired, that Addie made her way out so quickly. On second viewing, I’m amazed that it’s only the fourth episode and already Addie dies. Crazy how you sometimes forget things like that when watching a television show. Just goes to show how much is going on in one season of American Horror Story, that such an important, sorrowful event happened early on and I thought it was much later.
BEST SCENE: a doctor at the hospital faints after viewing Vivien’s sonogram, obviously seeing something which affected her. It’s quick, effective, and spooked me. Nice horror movie moment right there.The finale of “Halloween: Part 1” is incredibly wild, weird, and creepy. The house is surrounded by people, both past and present – and otherwise – as even a living dead Hayden shows back up at the door. All the while, Larry Harvey is looking for his money, screaming, raving out on the porch, as Violet is left to fend for herself. Then there’s also Rubber Man, standing in the background silent as ever, right behind Violet. There’s seemingly no escape; for any of them.
FX’s American Horror Story
Season 1, Episode 1 – Pilot
Directed by Ryan Murphy (Nip/Tuck, Running With Scissors, The Normal Heart)
Written by Brad Falchuk & Ryan Murphy
* For a review of the next episode, “Home Invasion” – click hereYou’ve got to admire a series that opens things up in the way Ryan Murphy introduces us to his world with this pilot episode. Not only is it creepy, Murphy lays out the familiar pattern we see running through the entire series: flashbacks which speak to the present day events. Plenty of shows and films use flashbacks, but the way American Horror Story overall as a series uses them is such an intriguing technique, which the writers and directors pull of elegantly, as well as quite horrifically. What I love so much about this aspect is the fact that Murphy has only directed 3 episodes of the series – including the first episode of the newest season, Hotel. So, although he is a creator of the show along with Brad Falchuck, it’s still amazing to see how much influence he has had over the entirety of the series. It’s a continual thing we see in each season, how the flashbacks all come to bear on current day events we’re seeing.
With the opening of Murphy’s pilot we get to see a young Adelaide Langdon watching a creepy, and no doubt haunted, house all by herself; we’ll get to know Addie plenty as the season wears on. Up come a couple redheaded little shits, twins, who are mean to Addie and head inside to cause havoc.Immediately, there’s this eerie sense about the house. Of course, once inside the redhead twins find much more than they bargained for upon entering. There’s this absolutely horrific, brief image of a figure in the dark – awful hands and terrible looking teeth, gnarled, vicious coming at them. I thought that was an excellent start to the horror.
Then there’s an amazing tonal shift. We meet up with Vivien Harmon (Connie Britton) who has recently miscarried, as is expected the experience was horrible. After a doctor’s appointment, Vivien heads home to her beautiful home. But in the kitchen she thinks there’s a noise from upstairs. Calling 911 and taking a knife from a block in the kitchen, she heads upstairs only to find her husband Ben (Dylan McDermott) obviously in bed with another woman. Though, we never see her. Outside the room, pleading for forgiveness, Ben gets cut on the arm by the knife Vivien is holding. More words from little Addie echo out of the past, words she’d spoken earlier to the twins: “You’re gonna regret it.”
Love the opening theme; quite creepy. Also, as we go on through these reviews just know I’m all the way caught up – I watch the episodes as they come on, it’s only now I’ve started to review them. So, what I really dig is how Murphy has another opening done for each one to go with the theme of every season. Anthologies, when done effectively, are so much fun in so many ways! American Horror Story is at the top of the anthology heap, as far as I’m concerned.
Lots of fun characters introduced here in the Pilot. Soon, we see the family move into a new home – the creepy house from the episode’s opening scene. Vivien and Ben, along with their daughter Violet (Taissa Farmiga), move on in and then we get to meet more of the cast.
The always amazing Jessica Lange plays Constance Langdon – a Southern belle living in Los Angeles. Not only that, she is the mother of Adelaide (Jamie Brewer), who just so happens to barge on into the kitchen and frighten an unsuspecting Vivian with more prophetic creepiness: “You’re going to die in here.” From these two, expect tons of craziness throughout Season 1.
Evan Peters is Tate, a troubled kid sent by his mother to see the new therapist in the city, Ben Harmon. They talk about death, dreams and visions of death and blood and murder. Sick things Tate has inside him. Meanwhile, Tate sees pictures of himself with blood running down his face – other shots show him walking down the hallway, just as the dream he has described, with a macabrely painted face, skull art, and a black trench coat. Very cool and disturbing stuff already! Tate, from the get-go, was always one of my favourites in Season 1.
I love the imagery right off the bat, all the visions going on every which way. Also, the scene where Ben all of a sudden goes downstairs, lighting the fire, only to have Vivien interrupt him wondering what he’s up to. It’s such a weird, dreamy scene, and even Ben doesn’t realize if he’s awake or dreaming. This begins more weirdness to follow.
Furthermore, there’s the fact Moira O’Hara (Frances Conroy) shows up – she was the maid of the house. It seems she pretty much comes along with the house. But there’s something else about Moira, she’s a shapeshifter.. of sorts. While Vivien Harmon sees an older Frances Conroy, Ben Harmon sees Moira as Alexandra Breckenridge – a young, taut, sexified girl in a French maid’s outfit, legs up to her throat in fishnets. So I love the duality here and the dynamic this introduces into the Harmons’ lives.
It’s as if the house is pushing them all, further and further. With every single turn.
Certainly, the tension between husband-wife duo Vivien and Ben Harmon sets up so much of what we’ll see going on throughout Season 1. What I enjoy about this whole angle is that, similar to a movie like Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining, not only is the family inside the house contending with the house’s evil, they’re battling their own demons.
While I love Dylan McDermott, his character Ben is the type you hate to love. He’s obviously flawed, as he cheated on his wife in her weakest moment. Then he tries to blame her saying that it was him in his weakest moment, that “you got a dog” when she ought to have been cuddling up with him at night.
So the intensity of their family situation, the anger Vivien has towards Ben and the perceived hostility he has in his head towards his own wife, it all adds to the already supernatural forces so obviously at work in the house.
The creepiest, of course, is when Vivien has sex with who she believes to be Ben, dressed up in the latex-looking suit they’d found hanging earlier in the attic; a weird S&M, tight black getup. All the while, thought she sees visions of Ben, her husband is downstairs holding his hand over the oven’s burner. Immediately we know that American Horror Story means to get up to some awfully strange, intense business.
As well, we get views of the evil looking person/thing from earlier in the episode’s opening sequence. Tate has Violet bring a girl over – the one who slighted her hardcore during her first day of school – and in the basement he intends to scare her. However, Violent sees it all, too. Something horrible, ugly, fierce. It’s balding, stringy hair, and the teeth in its mouth look yellow, jagged. I LOVE THIS! So terrifying.
Denis O’Hare plays Larry Harvey, a man who has obviously been in a terrible fire – half of his face is burned, better yet it’s melted. He warns Ben about the house, after lurking around, skulking at the edges of Harmon’s peripheral vision. Larry claims he killed his family and burned down the house, all due to the house, the voices of the house inside his head – he said he was like “an obedient child.”
We’ll watch how his character plays further into the plot of Season 1 as it moves along. Nice introduction to this character.
Two fantastic actresses – Jessica Lange and Frances Conroy – have the chance to go head to head. However, it’s brief. Yet within those few moments they share a great scene, as Constance (Lange) tells Moira (Conroy): “Don‘t make me kill you again.” This is another relationship we’ll see more of once the episodes roll on. Intriguing to say the least.
One other thing I love in this first episode is the use of the music from James Wan’s Insidious. A neat little touch. This technique is employed time and time again in Season 1, which I find is a nice nod to the genre fans out there. It says that Murphy not only understands the horror genre, he is also a fan.
Great episode. We’ve seen so much setup in less than an hour, it’s almost overwhelming. But not quite!
Stay tuned for the next episode, “Home Invasion”.