American Horror Story: Murder House

"We have to get out of this house."

I think by now it's been established that this is a polarizing show that you'll either love or entirely despise. Online commentary seems to fall into one of two extremes, some considering it wonderfully intense and intriguing, others thinking it's one of the stupidest shows on television. Of course, it is pretty stupid. The writers are creating such a batshit little universe that it's hard not to laugh most of the time, the first residents of the house being this week's nuttiest creation. There's the disturbed Matt Ross character sewing up bats and fetal pigs in the basement, and his equally nutty wife roaming the halls in the modern day, shrieking at the sight of a kitchen appliance. Everything is being played so broadly that most of the laughs appear to be unintentional, but there's a method to this level of madness, and I think American Horror Story is carving out its own little niche successfully.

After last week's questionable behavior, I actually felt a little bad for Ben this episode. The show is really piling it on him, first with his psychotic ex-girlfriend, then the revelations about his attraction to the elderly Harmon housemaid (Connie Britton's reaction shots in that scene were hilarious), and finally his drugged-out hallucinations during a patient's suicidal episode. Of course, none of this can disguise the fact that Ben is a horrible, horrible individual. While he's sure having a bad day, he's still the guy who plots to incite an abortion for his crazed lover, and then buries her in the backyard when Denis O'Hare hits her over the head with a shovel.

I don't know what's funnier. Watching the actual show, or putting the events of each episode into text. Something about it just reads terribly. Heh.

Like always, the strongest moments occurred whenever Jessica Lange appeared on-screen. We discover that she and Moira have somehow been stuck in the house since 1983, when Constance shot Moira dead along with her cheating husband. I liked all their scenes together, and Moira's sadness at the end was pretty affecting. Would the discovery of her body somehow have released her from the house?

American Horror Story is still so preposterous and zany, but it's also hugely entertaining at this point. Maybe I like it so much because I'm naturally a fan of trashy soapiness? Scenery chewing just works for me in general.

Notables

- There's always a lot of casual misogyny in Ryan Murphy's shows (most of the females on both Nip/Tuck and Glee are irrational and crazy), but I feel the elaborate violence directed at women on this show just makes the misogyny even more overt. Attempted rape? Shovels to the face? Ladies beaten to death? Ugh. They really need to quit with all of that, even if it is a trope of the horror genre.

- So it's not just Ben who sees the younger Moira. Is it all men, or does Moira control who she 'glamors' to? Does she have any control over it? She did mention that while women see into the souls of other women, men only see what they want to see. Hmm...

- Hayden is totally gonna haunt this place now, right?

- Funniest moment of the week: Vivienne's horror as a murder tour bus suddenly pulls up outside of her house. So silly...

- There are some incredible genre vets on the writing staff, including Tim Minear (Angel) and James Wong (The X-Files, that great short-lived psychic show The Others). Good pedigree.

- Adina Porter, aka Lettie Mae on True Blood, was on Ringer this week, too. Small world.

Are You There, Campiness? It's Us, Pretty Much Everyone

Ben: That's why you prance around in that little maid's outfit, like you're headed to a fetish ball?

Constance: You are a thief of biblical proportions, after all. Your specialty being weak husbands.

Constance: Every time I find my heart breaking just a sliver for you, I suddenly remember. You made this mess for yourself, and I also remember every time I see that ghostly eye that I was and continue to be... a hell of a shot.

Marcy: That's how I felt when the boys, you know, did what they did. We'd gotten rather close. They'd have me over for Bloody Mary's and omelets on a Sunday. So to find out what nasty little perverts they were... You probably heard about the poker from the fireplace being rammed up his --

Previously posted at Unwelcome Commentary.

4 comments:

MovieMark said...

Nice review, ad-er...Maxpower ;)

I'm really enjoying this series. I don't think it's amazing or awful, I'm firmly on middle ground with the show. This was probably the most realistic episode, or at least the most grounded (dead women with bullet holes not withstanding). There are so many questions to ask about who is dead and who isn't.

I wonder if Ben killed that girl with the shovel? I have a feeling than Denis' chartacter is only in his head. Just a random thought.

Keep it up. It's good to read your reviews again :D

Paul Reed said...

Put me down as being on the side that thinks it's "intense and intriguing". It's my favourite new show. I probably look forward to AHS airing more than any other show. It has Connie Britton, slutty maids... what could be better?

HellBlazerRaiser said...

I finally watched all three episodes in full.

I'm loving it.

The obvious antecedent of this show for me is THE SHINING.

(1) the HOUSE itself seems to have some kind of power and a mind of its own.
(2) deceased creepy twins.
(3) Moira appears sexy and young to lead male character, but is really an older woman. And dead.
(4) Ben trying to make amends for a past misdeed (like Jack for trying to make amends for his alcoholism and Danny's arm).
(5) the HOUSE taking advantage of and exploiting Ben's weaknesses.

It looks like anyone killed or buried on the property can't move on and haunts the house.

I couldn't tell if Moira was killed in Constance's house and just buried on "Murder House's" property or if she was killed in "Murder House."

Sylar was (I don't think we know yet if he was the murderer or the victim, but I guess we'll find out next week) on the property and he's haunting the house (I don't think it was him in the rubber suit in the first episode [EW confirmed it was actually Dylan McDermott in the rubber suit.]).

I assume Tate is a ghost, but I'm not 100% sure. I think that sequence in episode one of him in the skull face actually occurred – he killed kids in his school and then killed himself on the Murder House property.

I am loving this show.

maxpower03 said...

MovieMark Hey, I know you! Are you still writing somewhere? And I hadn't thought about Larry being in Ben's head. But, then again, Violet saw him (sort of) in episode four. I definitely think there's something to your theory though.

Paul Agreed. Even with the writing so polarizing, there's something incredibly watchable about the show and its characters.

HellBlazerRaiser I totally see the Shining comparisons. The whole show feels lifted from other sources, but somehow that doesn't weaken it so far. Interesting theories, too, about the ghosts. That's what's making this show so fun. It's like Lost all over again.

Thanks for the comments, everybody.