Stars: Connie Britton, Dylan McDermott, Jessica Lange, Taissa Farmiga, Evan Peters, Denis O’Hare, Frances Conroy, Alexandra Breckinridge, Morris Chestnut, Lily Rabe, Matt Ross, Christine Estabrook
Writer: Brad Falchuk, series created by Ryan Murphy & Brad Falchuk
Director: Tim Hunter
Network: FX, Wednesdays @ 10 PM
Original Telecast: November 16, 2011
Turns out that even AMERICAN HORROR STORY needs to take a little time out from full-on scares to moving the story along. Usually the show manages to combine the two, but in “Open House,” it gives us a lot more insight into the characters than it does shivers. To be fair, this is partly because we now know what is going on, which makes us less tense than we used to be in certain circumstances. Then again, “Open House” keeps the weirdness quotient high, so there’s not much to complain about.
The efforts of Vivien (Connie Britton) and real estate agent Marcy (Christine Estabrook) appear to be paying off when an interested buyer shows up. Maid Moira (Frances Conroy) is delighted when the prospective buyer expresses interest in installing a swimming pool – this means he’ll come across her bones on the property, she’ll get a proper burial and perhaps Constance (Frances Conroy) will go to jail for Moira’s murder. However, as the prospective buyer reveals to Ben (Dylan McDermott), he actually wants to tear the house down and put up affordable housing. When Constance hears about this, she’s furious.
It turns out that Larry (Denis O’Hare) was Constance’s lover back in 1994. Constance persuaded Larry to suffocate Constance’s severely deformed son Beau, who has since become a ghost in the house’s attic. Ben finds out that Larry lied about setting the house on fire and about having brain cancer. Actually, Larry told his wife that he wanted to leave her for Constance, and Larry’s wife set fire to herself and their two daughters; Larry was burned trying to put the fire out. Larry also is appalled by the idea of the house being torn down.Constance persuades Moira in her younger guise (Alexandra Breckinridge) to seduce the real estate developer down in the basement, where she literally emasculates him and where Larry throttles him into unconsciousness.Constance reminds Larry to make sure the developer dies off the premises so that his ghost won’t be there.
Meanwhile, Vivien discovers she is carrying twins, Tate (Evan Peters) shows Violet (Taissa Farmiga) how to handle the house’s ghosts and we learn that Nora (Lily Rabe) committed suicide after murdering her husband, the house’s original builder/owner Charles Montgomery (Matt Ross), when he succeeded in bringing their dead toddler back to life as a bloodthirsty mutation.
This is certainly plenty to chew on, and the question of why the Harmon family doesn’t just abandon the house deserves the detailed answer it receives here. It also helps that Violet now feels tied to the house by Tate’s ghost. It’s a little less clear why Larry first wanted Ben out of the abode and now wants him to stay, though presumably that will be addressed in upcoming episodes.
There’s plenty of dark humor in “Open House,” especially in a bizarre face-off between the socially-challenged Marcy and the faux-indignant Larry, who claims to have received his injuries rescuing a bus full of children and threatens to sue Marcy under the Americans With Disabilities act. However, there’s not much fear or suspense. The developer is painted as such a nasty, sexist piece of work that he comes off like an early victim in a FRIDAY THE 13TH movie – his death is not meant to be mourned. Vivien, Violet and Ben aren’t greatly menaced in this episode, and the situation with Nora and Charles doesn’t get enough play this time around to get under our skin.
“Open House” adds to our understanding of the AMERICAN HORROR STORY universe, and it’s fairly lively – it just isn’t frightening.
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Article: TV Review – AMERICAN HORROR STORY – Season 1 – “Open House”