American Horror Stories (S02)
Updated: Sep 9, 2022
Well, it's been a long time coming, but finally my AHS addiction is about to be satiated once more. Weighing in with a whole new second collection of standalone stories, this is going to be a page I return to each week of this season with a quick review of each episode as and when they drop (and I get the chance to see them), so keeping coming back and watch this space!
Episode 1 - Dollhouse
Pretty much what it says on the tin. When an interview goes much better than expected, the reward for the applicant becomes a role that she isn't going to want. The man interviewing her wants her for much more than just an assistant, it transpires.
Having not yet seen the rest of the season, it is difficult to call this in terms of quality, but we would hope for more scares than are offered here, going forward. Most tales should be expected to be simple and uncomplicated, due to the nature of the runtime and their single-use approach, but at the same time, something more visceral, forbidding and malevolent is what I'm after. Let's see what comes next.
Episode 2 - Aura
A woman (Gabby Sidibe) with a troubled past of a home invasion as a child moves to a new gated community with her other half (Max Greenfield), to ensure she feels secure. To be sure, she buys an 'Aura', a camera doorbell that alerts her phone when it senses motion at her front door.
Less feasible than episode one and a good deal more daft. In Dollhouse, the possibility of that reality coming to get you was palpably realistic compared to what we have here. A door camera that displays people that aren't actually there, is a curio indeed. It's great to see Gabby back in the American Horror club, even if this is probably a stretch too far and a welcome to Max Greenfield who feels like he's slumming it from 'New Girl'. I won't ruin it for you, but where possibility was abundant in Dollhouse, Aura spends most of its time in the realm of unlikely, convenient and sometimes downright unbelievable.
Episode 3 - Drive
Bella Thorne stars in this third episode of the series. 'Drive' revolves around Marcy, an avid nightclub goer, who regularly takes men or women back to her car for sex. It just so happens that there are also a spate of disappearances from nightclubs in the area and Marcy's husband (the poor, long-suffering chap in a marriage of convenience, though who it's convenient for is not really clear) and her best friend are both very concerned when she is pursued after a night out by someone in a Jeep that flashes their lights and rams her car.
She escapes, but the stories of these disappearances make her curious, so she decides to do some investigating of her own. The best of the series so far, this is veering back into AHS norms. There are twists, although predictable at times, and some fairly savage bloodletting. The script really isn't up to much, though the performances are satisfying enough to enjoy it.
Episode 4 - Milkmaids
On reflection, it might not have been the best idea to eat Dairylea on Ritz crackers when watching this episode. It's not every day that you can say you heard the command 'lick my pustules' on a tv show, or anywhere else for that matter. Not the moment for spready cheese then. Mid-eighteenth century and smallpox is rife in a normally quiet, god-fearing village, with most of the population coming out in boils etc.
The Pastor visits the local prostitute and she tells him that that she can heal the sick with the discharge from her own wounds and that every man that's visited her has since experienced good health. He has own more radical idea. The story is more than a little silly, but if you think about the time period, it's possible that people really were that stupid. The acting is fine, though never award-worthy and the pace is hurried, as you would expect, squeezing the entire thing into three-quarters of an hour. As a standalone story in the AHS universe, it does just fine, save for a noticeable lack of real menace and malevolence.
Episode 5 - Bloody Mary
We've hit FX diversity quota time again, with the story of Bloody Mary, who visits you when you utter her name three times in a mirror holding a candle with the lights off. She's mean, scary-tall and has an afro that just won't quit. Here, we are introduced to a group of high school friends that do the unthinkable and invite Bloody Mary into their lives, each making a bargain that they must complete to get what they have wished for.
Like ghost stories not dissimilar to Candyman, this whispered horror tale spreads virally through the gossip of curious teens, it seems, causing them to look into the folklore behind Bloody Mary's appearances. As usual, the acting is fine, but this is purely by the numbers and like a hundred other things just like it, but done better really because they had more time. The story is daft, of course, in the same way that the aforementioned Candyman was daft, and this is a diluted, less convincing, less well presented and developed version of an already unoriginal idea.
Episode 6 - Facelift
Wow, time flies, episode six already? Well, here we are. A cautionary tale of trying to achieve extended youth. An aging Beverly Hills widow goes to see a plastic surgeon in an attempt to become her younger self, something that she states is what she desires more than anything else. This particular surgeon comes highly recommended, so she breaks the bank to pay for the procedures, even if she can't really afford it. Be careful what you wish for should be written on their business cards, if truth be known.
Episode 7 - Necro
Y'see, that's more like it! Within the first minute of Necro, you have a young child suckling on a dead woman's breast, and halfway through, well, I won't ruin it for you, but the clue is in the title. A couple of 'oh shits' and a smattering of 'wt actual f?' and we're firmly back in AHS territory. The season was shaping up to be a little tepid, but not so here. This is the series back on track. More of this please :) If you've played The Mortuary Assistant on the PC, you'll know how that environment can be creepy and that is accentuated here by some degree.
Episode 8 - Lake
I'm reliably informed that this is the last episode in this series and I'd like to say it went out with a bang. Except it didn't, really. I was genuinely pleasantly surprised by the appearance in the opening credits of Alicia Silverstone (who frankly needs to work more), but even she had a hard time with this.
Silverstone plays the mother of a son and daughter. We're introduced briefly to the son on a boating/diving trip with his sister and others. Whilst diving, a hand comes out of the sand at the bottom of said lake and drags him to his drowny death. This vision scares the bejeezus out of his sister watching on. Fast forward a few months and the sister/daughter is back from a period of recuperation at the local mental asylum when odd things begin to happen and odd visions of the dead son start to appear to the mother (Silverstone). Moved into action from these visions, she and her daughter travel to the lake in question to get some answers.
Honestly, this is wafer thin storytelling and scripted by a ten-year-old, it would seem. This has been a recurring issue for the series, with lightweight storytelling and sometimes laughable dialogue. I was hoping for much better for the last episode, but this fright-free throughout.