American Horror Story: Better AXE Somebody!

By Price Peterson

Oct 13, 2011

Not gonna lie, I am STILL confused about what exactly happened in last week's premiere of American Horror Story. Something about stripping wallpaper and aging debutantes and a gimp ghost? Sure, tons of stuff happened, but what did it all add up to, exactly? Was there, buried deep within that pile of homages, an original, unified story to be told? Well, as it turns out, maybe? Last night's follow-up, "Home Invasion," managed to improve on three of the pilot's shortcomings in major ways. First of all, the story made sense! Second, it ratcheted up the slow-burn suspense, and the result was WAY scarier. Also, it managed to tie together some of the insanely disparate threads. That said, everything was still absolutely crazy though, don't worry about that.

Once again we began with a flashback: It turns out the Harmons' home was once a female boarding house, and in 1968 a couple of co-eds were brutally murdered while their roommates were out seeing The Doors (honestly, I would've rather been murdered). The scene was trippy and suspenseful, involving slow-motion shots of girls walking down the stairs to "Age of Aquarius," a "wounded" motorist, and some truly unpleasant acts of violence. But how about that unbearable moment of dread when the killer disappeared from the frame and his intended victim could do nothing but wait for what was coming? So terrifying! If anything, that moment was far scarier than the (unsurprising) bloodletting that followed.

Fast forward to present day, where it was business as usual/insane at the Harmon residence. There weren't any gimp ghosts or dead ginger twins this week, but everyone else had fallen back into their typical patterns. Ben was still having sessions with Tate (the world's worst teenager), who insisted on discussing what it would be like to deflower Violet. Good times! Meanwhile at a nearby empty swimming-pool-turned-skate-park, Violet was hanging out with the bully she and Tate had terrorized last week? Not sure how that works, but the former bully DID look pretty fetching in her huge floppy hat, face bandages, and white-streaked hair. Also, the world's campiest next door neighbor/murderess Constance was busily baking poisoned chocolate cupcakes. Typical crazy neighbor stuff.

Right after Vivien admitted to Ben that something wasn't right with her pregnancy (how long had they BEEN there, anyway? Four days?) he was called away by his former mistress (Kate Mara) with two words any guilty husband loves to hear: "I'm pregnant." That left Vivien and Violet alone in the house to deal with a horrifying intrusion by a trio of cult murder enthusiasts looking to re-create the 1968 incident we saw in the flashback.

THAT'S when things took a turn for the extremely awesome: The various ghosts of the house JOINED FORCES to protect Vivien and Violet from the would-be murderers! I did NOT see that coming. Tate (who'd been sneaking around the house, obviously), lured two of the murderers to the basement, where they were dispatched by the ghosts from the original incident. And then he personally murdered the third intruder with an AXE TO THE STOMACH. Dang, guy!

Anyway, then THIS happened:

Tate, Constance, and Moira all stood in the basement and conspired to clean up the bodies so as to keep the Harmons unaware of what happened. So they're all definitely in league, but to what end? Only the gimp ghost knows for sure.

Then in the final scene, Vivien announced that it was time to sell the house. Good thinking! Honestly though, credit where credit's due: I thought it would take a frustratingly long time for the Harmons to realize they need to leave this joint. This was only the second episode! Personally I would have been sleeping in my car by night two, but that's a personal preference (anti-dying). I mean, I doubt they'll have an easy time selling the place and/or moving out of it, but they are certainly easier to sympathize with now that we know they're not morons!

One thing this episode slightly cleared up was the ghost-or-not status of many of the weirder characters. We know that Moira (Frances Conroy) was at one point murdered by Constance (Jessica Lange), but it's not clear whether that means she's a zombie or maybe she just had super-awesome health insurance back in the day and got better? Also, what about Constance herself? Or Tate, for that matter? The fact that we got to see the inside of Constance's house (where she seduced a young hunk!) suggests that she's probably among the living. As for Tate, he's definitely had some tangible "interactions" with people and seems to have a mother somewhere (whom Ben called when he tried to cancel their sessions). But perhaps I'm giving these things too much credence, seeing as this show's sense of reality is firmly rooted in dream logic.

As much as this episode made a whole lot more sense than last week's, it wasn't without its WTF moments! Here are seven right off the top of my head:

1. Bianca's elevator dream.

2. Constance's young male lover.

3. Adelaide's mirror prison.

4. Burn victim dude giving Ben advice on being a good husband?

5. Constance could SMELL Vivien's pregnancy?

6. Bathtub ghosts.

7. Tate watching Violet sleep!

Aaaaaahhh!!!


Also, because this is American Horror Story, there were a lot more horror references. Here are the ones I caught:

• Three masked intruders like in The Strangers.
• Axe to the stomach like in The Shining.
• Streaked-white hair like in A Nightmare on Elm Street.
• Madman at the door like in When A Stranger Calls.
• Unhealthy pregnancy suspicions like in Rosemary's Baby.
• Poisoned pastry like in Flowers in the Attic.
• A cake left in the hallway like in Alice in Wonderland.
• Exposition-heavy detectives in the final scene, like in Psycho.
• The names Bianca and Tate as in the Manson family's victims.

What else did I miss?


All in all, this episode did a lot to convince me that American Horror Story may just have legs as a weekly serial. I'm suddenly curious as to how the mythology will come together, plus I really hope we'll get to experience more tangential horror events interfering with the house's intentions, like this episode's trio of intruders. Scary stuff! However, let's be honest, we're definitely still in the honeymoon period when it comes to the entertainment value of this show. Some of the violence, particularly in the opening scene, was almost too unpleasant to watch. Also, in horror MOVIES we can accept someone being terrorized for 90 minutes. But for 12 hours? It truly remains to be seen whether we'll be able to maintain sympathy for these people for very much longer.


QUESTIONS, SO MANY QUESTIONS!

... Why do you think Constance was so insistent that Violet eat the poisoned cupcake? Did she know that one of the killers would eat it instead? Or was she trying to bump off daughter #1? Also why didn't Vivien get sick from eating half of one?

... Is Tate the "perfect" son Constance claims to have once had? Is the thing in the basement one of Constance's malformed children?

... If Moira used to work for Constance, then did Constance once live in the Harmons' house?

... Is Ben's former mistress kind of nuts? Do you think she went ahead with the abortion?

... Why was Adelaide so terrified to be reminded of her Down Syndrome? Has she not always had it?

... What did you think of the episode overall? Are you still on board with the show?

  • Comments (71)
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  • marcusj1973 Apr 28, 2014

    Never have I been so close to giving up on a show after the pilot as I was with AHS. The only thing that brought me back was a quick glace at the cast. In addition to the already introduced Dylan McDermott, Connie Britton, Jessica Lange, Denis O'Hare and Frances Conroy...all of whom are great on their own, I saw Kate Mara, Lily Rabe, Zachary Quinto, Morris Chestnut and Charles S. Dutton...just to name a few. This is a heavyweight cast, especially if, like me, you're watching it years after the fact and some of these actors have broken out.

    Still not sure about the quality of the series as a whole through cause while there are some intriguing ideas, I'm not seeing much deviation from the horror standard of normal people acting like dummies and putting themselves in danger.

  • dkeny Oct 25, 2011

    I really like this show, my only concern is that due to it being a Series, how many short seasons before things start to get too far fetched? I do not want to see a finale with the entire cast being dead from the beginning and this was just their hell. NO "LOST" COP OUT PLEASE!!!!

  • nat72 Oct 17, 2011

    I think I know why the house did protect Vivien and Violet: This has to be about procreation. I'm almost sure that Ben isn't the father of Vivien's baby - remember the guy in the black rubber suit - but the evil thing in the house is (maybe through Tate?). By killing the intruders the house did save its offspring and the other potential surrogate mother Violet.

  • dkeny Oct 25, 2011

    I think you got good insight. Also, Tate did mention that they had to ensure the Harmons stays so that Dr. Ben can treat him. There is definitely more to Tate just needing his shrink, I don't even think he is alive!

  • legersem Oct 16, 2011

    I honestly do think that Constance made the cupcakes and offered them to Violet because she's connected with the house and knew that they would end up playing an important role. It seems a little too coincidental to be otherwise.

  • cawylie Oct 16, 2011

    I didn't find anything in the episode as "So terrifying!" For a blogger who seeks everything horror-related to make sense of this show, how does this episode appear as "terrifying?"

    I agree with i'm_right below. "None of WTF moments you listed Price [had] the same effect [as] those in the pilot." Those were scenes we have come to expect from AHS, so, when they happen, they make perfect sense. However, they do make us stick a pin in them for future reference.

    I think this episode should've been paired with the first and redone as a complete 2-hour Pilot since it WAS wriiten by the creators. That would make it more logical for Vivian to say "We're selling this house!" But those (2-hr Pilots) have gone the way of LOST and 24.

  • genzianella Oct 16, 2011

    Streaked-white hair like Nadine in Stephen King's THE STAND

  • maguan Oct 15, 2011

    C'mon! Constance's hunk is just a prostitute, isn't he? That was really clear to me...

  • DanFixx Oct 15, 2011

    What an interesting show this is! During the entire episode, I thought how stupid or naive are these people. Living in a house with all that heavy history, crazy neighbours, weird visitors, torture, murder and blood stained walls... You can't even have a decent night of sleep. Enough to drive anyone crazy. But on the other hand, I would like to have a go at staying here and see what happens... LOL!!!

  • JohnCouto Oct 15, 2011

    I loveit!

    But vivan didn't get to eat the half because they were to busy talking. Can see her put it down afterwards.

  • AshleyWilliam17 Oct 23, 2011

    yes, ALTHOUGH she did put it down after eating small pieces broken off ...Wouldn't she atleast have gotten sick? I guess she is pregnant, so she wouldn't have noticed feeling physically ill. DID ANYONE ELSE FIND IT FUNNY HOW SHE WAS SO QUICKLY PREGNANT AGAIN after having sex with that random person in the black leather fetish suit? Just curious if anyone feels the same.

  • naduzita Oct 15, 2011

    Exactly

  • JoshSutton Oct 15, 2011

    Easily my new favourite show.

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