Stars: Connie Britton, Dylan McDermott, Jessica Lange, Taissa Farmiga, Evan Peters, Denis O’Hare, Frances Conroy, Jamie Brewer, Kate Mara, Lily Rabe, Zachary Quinto, Teddy Sears, Morris Chestnut, Alessandra Torresani
Writer: Tim Minear, series created by Ryan Murphy & Brad Falchuk
Director: David Semel
Network: FX, Wednesdays @ 10 PM
Original Telecast: November 2, 2011
The great thing about AMERICAN HORROR STORY (for those of us who appreciate this) is that it doesn’t seem to have any slow gears. It has various shades of madness, craziness and insanity, but it doesn’t really have what could be considered lulls in the action. This is both relatively rare and very welcome in character-based horror. It’s also very appropriate for a double episode set on Halloween.
Last week, we met the ghosts of Chad(Zachary Quinto) and Patrick (Teddy Sears), an unhappily partnered gay couple who had been the house’s most recent tenants/victims before the Harmon family. Vivien (Connie Britton) and Ben (Dylan McDermott) assumed they were decorators sent by the realtor, but Vivien threw them out after Chad became territorial about the residence. Then, after crazy Larry (Denis O’Hare) had killed her, Ben’s dead girlfriend Hayden (Kate Mara) came knocking at the door, while neighbor Constance’s (Jessica Lange) daughter Addie (Jamie Brewer) was killed in a hit and run. And Halloween night is just getting started.
Violet (Taissa Farmiga) meets Tate (Evan Peters) away from the house. They wind up in a romantic situation on the beach. Violet wants to make love, but Tate can’t – and then five other teens show up, their faces bloodied as though from bullet wounds. Violet assumes they’re made up for Halloween, but it becomes clear that these are Tate’s victims. The shooting rampage Tate has discussed with therapist Ben isn’t something he’s considered doing – it’s something he already did years ago. Violet doesn’t comprehend this, though, and Tate draws them away from her. Then Constance insists that Violet come to her house. It turns out that Tate is Constance’s son, but Constance begs Violet not to tell Tate about Addie’s death.
Back at the house, Ben now thinks that Hayden is still alive and that she and Larry are in collusion on some sort of blackmail scheme. Ben beats Larry severely, but refrains from killing him. Hayden stalks Vivien, insisting the older woman ask Ben what happened in Boston. When Hayden finds out that Vivien is pregnant, she is devastated – Hayden assumes this is why Ben urged her to have an abortion.
Compulsive arsonist Larry tries to start a fire in the bathroom, but Vivien (who doesn’t encounter him) finds it in time and puts it out. Hayden manages to knock Ben unconscious in the basement and tie him up, but he is rescued by the ghost of Nora (Lily Rabe), wife of the house’s builder, who says she has had it with failures in the house. Ben (not realizing he’s been saved by a revenant) manages to prevent Hayden from killing Vivien and confesses that he had sex with Hayden after he’d told his wife the affair was over, and that Hayden had become pregnant.
Vivien calls private security man Luke (Morris Chestnut), who tries to take Hayden to the police station, but she’s mysteriously gone from the back of the car when he arrives. Ben moves out of the house. In the morning, the house’s ghosts return, including Moira (Frances Conroy), who is mourning the death of her mother and the fact that they can’t be together.Chad’s ghost feels like he’s condemned to an eternity in a failed relationship in a house that will never be exactly the way he wants it, and Moira says this is indeed the case.
The mythology of AMERICAN HORROR STORY is evolving in an intriguing way. The ghosts all have issues with one another, but this doesn’t make them necessarily any less dangerous to our still-living protagonists.
In horror movie terms, Ben’s behavior would normally mark him for doom. He’s cheated on his wife, lied to his young girlfriend, been complicit in covering up her death and is starting to lose his self-control along with his mind. This surely doesn’t bode well for his family, but the house is more likely to side with pregnant Vivien – the baby she’s carrying seems to belong to the Rubber Man rather than Ben, though she doesn’t know that yet – than with her duplicitous spouse. Then again, Nora seems to be pulling for Ben, so who knows how this will play out.
McDermott brings up a level of savagery that other performances by the actor hadn’t suggested. He makes Ben almost as scary as anything the house has to offer, and that’s saying a lot.
Since there are now strong indications that Tate is actually a ghost, though he may not know it, we don’t know if we should be worried or just curious about his interactions with his high school victims. His intentions toward Violet so far seem honorable (or at least non-homicidal), but he’s certainly a big piece of the puzzle, and Peters plays the character with appropriate ambivalence.
Lange remains a blast as the mercurial, mysterious Constance. O’Hare is likewise ever-watchable as Larry, whose appearance and propensity for showing up out of nowhere make him wonderfully creepy.
What’s especially nice in this episode is writer Tim Minear’s snappy dialogue –Chad’s mournful closing monologue, delivered perfectly by Quinto, is very funny without deflating the ongoing threat. This week also earns bonus points for not killing Vivien’s dog off (a cliché that threatens to rear its head but then retreats).
“Halloween Part 2” pretty much epitomizes AMERICAN HORROR STORY – nobody’s really sane, nobody’s safe, everything is weird and it’s swell, smart Gothic horror.
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Click on Link: TV Review – AMERICAN HORROR STORY Season 1 premiere
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Article: TV Review – AMERICAN HORROR STORY – Season 1 – “Halloween Pt. 2”