American Horror Story: Rules
Been quite a while since my last post, but not without reason(s): illness, travel, injury, writer’s block and, turns out, obsession. Although I’ve played Arkham City twice now, completed MGS4 and the entire God of War series, and should have probably blogged about that, I’ve been far more fascinated by a new phenomenon: FX Network’s American Horror Story.
AHS is the story of troubled Harmon family, Ben (Dylan McDermott), Vivien (Connie Britton), and their daughter Violet (Taissa Farmiga), as they flee from their troubles in Boston (including a miscarriage and resultant infidelity) to Los Angeles, where they move into a residence known locally as “Murder House” due to the high number of people who’ve met their untimely deaths there. Over the last nine episodes, the Harmons have gradually learned that Murder House is inhabited by the spirits of all who have died there, trapped on the property. And not all of them are happy about it: some plot to break up and/or murder the Harmons, while others have far more nefarious designs (including trying to bring the Antichrist into being and ushering in the Biblical Apocalypse).
I’m not even going to try to summarize all the story tangents and character motivations going on here. AHS is a densely plotted show, presented as a Dynasty-like soap opera, a la the show Dark Shadows from the 70s (a property about to be revived by Tim Burton and Johnny Depp, no less). Each episode features so many intense conversations, murders, sex scenes, flashbacks and revelations that the viewer becomes an instant addict of this intriguing series. For the last nine weeks I’ve been literally aching to sit down in front of the TV every Wednesday night.
And here I thought television would suck after Lost.
Tonight’s episode “Smoldering Children” bears the following description, via Cox Communications digital cable guide: “Violet learns the rules of the house; Larry’s condition is explained; Constance is interrogated.” So let’s focus on these facets of the story only.
Larry: Let’s start with the poor deranged bastard everyone referred to as “The Burned Man” prior to the series’ premiere. Larry (expertly portrayed by True Blood’s favorite insane vampire, Dennis O’Hare) is a previous owner of Murder House. In 1994 he bought the property from Constance Langdon (Academy Award winner Jessica Lange), who then moved into the house next door. Larry became obsessed with Constance, to the point where he allowed her deformed and mentally handicapped son Beauregard to remain chained in the upstairs attic. When Constance was facing charges of criminal child neglect, she convinced Larry to murder Beau by smothering him with a pillow. Larry then revealed his love for Constance to his wife Lorraine, who went and immediately set their twin daughters’ room on fire. What happened after that has not been shown. The other thing about this version of the story is that it’s the second or third version, and has changed every time (previously, Larry told Ben that he set the fire himself, killing his own children and receiving his wounds in the process). But if what Larry says is true, then why haven’t his burned and “Smoldering Children” appeared in the house? And obviously his wife didn’t die in the fire either, since she hasn’t appeared as a ghost. But according to the description and the previews for tonight’s ep (which shows Constance confronting Larry about what he did) we’ll finally get the truth about Larry.
Constance: Constance Langdon is the former owner of Murder House. Having moved to LA with aspirations of acting, she gave up her dreams out of disgust with film nudity (though I suspect either pregnancy or obsession with Murder House played a bigger part) and lived in Murder House from the early 1980s (when she murdered her philandering husband Hugo and their housemaid, Moira) until 1994, when her son Tate (Evan Peters) went on a murder spree and gunned down fifteen of his classmates in what is known as “The Westfield High Massacre” (yes, intentionally modeled on Columbine). In a previous episode (“Halloween: Part 1”) she attempted to drag her dying daughter Addy onto the Murder House grounds before she died, so that she would be trapped in the house as a ghost; this way she would still be able to talk to Addy as she does Tate, from time to time. Constance has also been seen conspiring with Tate and Moira to dismember and hide the bodies of two home invaders that threatened Vivien and Violet, and she also took part in the murder of a prospective home buyer who planned to tear down Murder House and build condos. So whatever Constance is going to be interrogated about, by whomever, she has a lot to answer for! However, I suspect her questioning will have more to do with the recent disappearance of her boy-toy, Travis, who was murdered by the ghost of Ben’s psychopathic lover, Hayden, making him the most recent victim to join Murder House’s crowd of undead souls.
Violet: Several episodes ago (“Piggy, Piggy”), morose and depressed teenager Violet stepped into the basement and, within a few seconds, encountered all of the currently-known ghosts at one time. Terrified and overwhelmed, she retreated to her room only to find that someone had turned on her stereo and written the words “I LOVE YOU” on a chalkboard hanging decoratively on her wall; a message from her Lasher-like ghost boyfriend, Tate. Reaching her overload point, Violet swallowed a bottle of sleeping pills. We then saw Tate dragging her to the bathroom (cuz ghosts can do that in Murder House; more on that in a minute), running a cold shower for her and gagging her to make her throw up. And though Violet revived and Tate seemed to have saved her, we didn’t actually see her throw up anything (she just kinda wretched a little).
Not only that, but Violet hasn’t left Murder House since. Her father recently tried to scold her for missing two weeks of school. At dinner she doesn’t eat, claiming she’s “pretty stuffed on bullshit” (meaning the lies Ben and Vivien tell each other and her) and then excusing herself from the table. The one time she almost fled the property with Vivien, a couple of familiar ghosts appeared in the back of the car, causing them to flee back inside the house. Lastly, Violet and Tate were recently depicted “post-coitus” which, when asked, Violet said didn’t hurt but was “intense.” Most women do report feeling pain their first time, though painless breaches of virginity supposedly occur.
All of these “clues” have led many viewers to believe that Violet is dead. But through the power of Murder House, she hasn’t realized it yet and neither have her separated (and perpetually self-involved) parents. Tonight’s episode appears ready to provide the truth about whether Violet is alive or dead. The previews indicate that a foul smell will begin emanating from under the house, the cause of which will be discovered by an exterminator who enters the crawlspace. These may be the remains of Violet. However, given the string of recent events, the foul smell could also be emanating from the corpses of the home invaders killed by Tate and… well, whatever that thing is living in the basement (the Frankenstein-like reassembled baby of Frank and Nora Montgomery, the builders and original residents of Murder House). Or, it’s even possible that Larry failed to get prospective home buyer Escandarian off the property before he expired. If he orchestrated such a betrayal (in direct disobedience to Constance’s orders), then his intentions remain to be seen, though it could be tied to his need to own Murder House once again.
Whatever happens with Violet tonight, we’ll finally get the “rules” governing the spirit world in “Murder House.” Many of these rules have already been revealed or hinted at, including:
1. Anyone who dies in Murder House becomes a ghost trapped on the property, unable to leave,
2. Ghosts can remain invisible and “unknown,” or they can manifest, be seen, and interact with the environment (including rubber bondage suits, and weapons),
3. Ghosts can have sex with each other and live people, without said live person being aware of the difference,
4. Ghosts can murder people. Ghosts can murder other ghosts temporarily, though they soon come back to life as if nothing happened,
5. Ghosts remain in the same mental state as when they died. For example: Hayden was murdered by Larry while experiencing tremendous anger at Ben and Vivien, combined with a longing to have Ben’s baby, and she has remained violent and malicious in spirit as well as viciously covetous of Vivien’s expected twins; Charles Montgomery was murdered while high on ether, and seems just as blissfully oblivious every time we see him; Nora Montgomery shot herself through the brain in a fit of insanity, and as a result can’t seem to make new memories, especially in regard to the fact that she’s dead or that her baby is gone. But how then does this explain Tate and his apparent amnesia over all his murders as well as the fact he’s dead? Well, I mainly think Tate is a big liar! But on the other hand he may have been possessed at the time of his psychotic break, possibly by a ghost yet to be revealed, and this caused him amnesia at the moment of his death (which is why he couldn’t respond to the policeman’s question, “Why did you do it?”).
6. Every Halloween, ghosts can fully manifest for 24 hours and leave the Murder House property. If they do not return to the property of their own accord when Halloween is over, they will vanish and apparently can’t manifest for a full week afterward, as seen with Hayden,
7. Being murdered on the property gives one’s ghost the instant knowledge of all that’s going on, as evidenced by Travis’s attitude upon seeing his own corpse seconds after Hayden murdered him, and,
8. Whatever other rules are revealed in tonight’s episode.
Needless to say, (especially after my obsessively detailed posts about Lost) I’ll be talking more about American Horror Story here, so feel free to leave your comments and theories in the comments or the forums.