Thursday, October 13, 2011

Dollar Bin Horror Review:American Horror Story-Episode II-"Home Invasion"

By Eric Polk-
Usually, I find the second episodes of a new series to be much better than the first. Whether it is the sense of the unknown abating, the nerves easing, or whatever, it seems that second episodes put the show on a solid footing and last night's episode of American Horror Story was no exception.

In 1968, three young women are all dressed up and headed to the Hollywood Bowl to see The Doors perform. On their way out, they get into a snippy exchange with the house’s other occupants, a slightly older nurse and a younger woman named Maria who’s a devout Christian and also studying to be a nurse. Once the three Doors fans split, a knock comes at the door. The nurse and Maria believe it’s the girls still messing with them, but it’s actually a man with blood on his forehead, pleading for help. They let him in. If you’ve seen A Clockwork Orange, you know that’s not a good idea.

Jump ahead to the present, and once again we’re with the Harmon family. Ben is again meeting with Tate, but this is their worst meeting yet. Tate tells Ben about his inappropriate thoughts about Ben’s daughter, Violet, while revealing to Ben that Violet spilled the beans on her dad’s past infidelity. A clearly discomfited Ben, whose phone has been buzzing throughout the session, says their time is up. Tate leaves, and Ben is left to deal with the phone. No big deal, it’s just his past haunting him. Ben’s former lover from Boston is calling him, and guess what? She’s pregnant. More soap opera nautical nonsense.

One night, as Ben and Vivien are sleeping, the burglar alarm goes off. Ben checks it out and follows sounds and movements to the basement, where Addy is having herself a good time rolling a ball around in the dark. Ben tells her to hit the road, but as she leaves and Ben heads back upstairs, the ball comes rolling back, a la The Shining. Ben doesn’t see it, but we do, and we’re properly freaked out.
Then we see Constance whipping up some cupcakes. At first, it appears she’s being neighborly, but then she orders Addy to get the ipecac syrup, which induces heavy vomiting and stomach discomfort. She empties the bottle into the mixing bowl, and for good measure, she has Addy spit in the bowl, too. Constance brings the cupcakes over to the Harmons, but they’re only for Violet.

Constance detects that Vivien is “with child,” and Vivien, who’s worried that she hasn’t had morning sickness yet, asks her neighbor whether there’s anything else she can tell her about the child. Constance says the baby’s fine, but after she speaks of her own past problems with motherhood. Addy isn’t her only child, she reveals, and her others all had “problems,” too. All except one, a boy who was “perfect,” but left her by some other means.

Under false pretenses, and with stalker Larry’s encouragement, Ben heads to Boston to deal with Peyton’s pregnancy, leaving Vivien and Violet all alone in the house. The doorbell rings, and Vivien goes to answer it. Through the peephole, she sees a woman with a head wound similar to the intruder’s we saw in the opening segment of the episode. Vivien doesn’t quite trust the woman’s pleas and refuses to answer the door, opting instead to call 911. But the phone’s missing, and when Vivien then tells Violet to call the cops, her phone’s also gone. Then we see that they’re not alone. Only this presence isn’t supernatural–it’s a trio of masked intruders who get their kicks re-enacting famous murders. In this case, they want to pay homage to the attack we saw in the episode’s opening sequence, with Vivien playing the part of Maria, and Violet playing the older nurse, who was drowned in a bathtub, we learn. As the would-be murderers shed their masks, we see that there’s one man and two women, one of whom turns out to be Ben’s patient Bianca.

Violet makes a run for it and runs into the always-present Tate, who tells her to lure the bad guys to the basement. Violet is caught again by the two invading women, who prepare to drown her in the bathtub. Meanwhile, Vivien is being tied up by the male intruder downstairs. She sees that Addy is in the house and prompts her to run for help. At home, Addy interrupts Constance, who is with a much younger gentleman caller. Constance reprimands her and locks her in the “bad girl closet,” which is full of mirrors and clearly horrifying to Addy, who screams and screams. Back at the Harmons’, Violet dupes one of the female attackers into believing that the actual bathtub used in the 1968 murders is in the basement. Bianca, however, is retching up her guts and is left alone. She saw one of Constance’s ipecac cupcakes and just couldn’t help herself. Next thing she knows, there’s Tate, burying an axe in her midsection, just about cutting her in half.

Once in the basement, Violet sheds the other female intruder, leaving her with Tate,the corpse of the older nurse from the 1968 murders rising from her watery grave. Upstairs, Vivien gets away from the male attacker by knocking him out cold. Vivien and Violet flee the house screaming for help, catching Constance’s attention. Back at the house, the male intruder comes to and seeks out his partners, leading him to the basement, where he runs into the ghosts of the 1968 murder victims. Later, we see Tate, older Moira and Constance standing over the intruders’ corpses, discussing a plan to get rid of the bodies.

This episode is much, much better than the pilot. It's creepy, gory even for basic cable. The subplots are still very soap opera-ish(I mean affair girl getting pregnant?) and you have to really concentrate to follow this but then again, the same can be said for giallos. It's nice that we see a little more history of the house but I'd like to have a little more than a sampling.

I'll be watching next week.

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