American Horror Story Needs to Get to Its Twist Faster

first_img Every season of American Horror Story has some kind of twist. A moment where the plot changes, and the season reveals its true nature. In the past, I’ve been curious about the twist, but there’s been enough going on to make the episodes preceding it fun and scary. This season isn’t doing that for me. Even though it only focuses on one family, with no time jumps or detours, it feels like the most unfocused, sloppily-written season of AHS yet.It’s not hard to see how it could be scary. Ally is seeing scary clowns, but there is also a gang of clowns committing murders. Ideally, we don’t know what’s real and what’s in her mind. Except the show has already settled into an easily-recognizable pattern. When a clown shows up, we can be reasonably sure whether its real or one of Ally’s panic attacks. If it’s the latter, the stakes are gone. This is probably intentional. Making us think we know what’s going on so the show can subvert our expectations later for a big scare. That doesn’t excuse the complete lack of tension it’s giving us now.The funny thing is this episode was actually better than the previous two. Kai’s influence became a little clearer, it started out strong with a decently scary scene, and everyone finally turned on Ally. There were still too few scares, or even moments of tension, to save it. The biggest shock of the episode was a guinea pig exploding in a microwave. After which, there was no concern that someone might be in the house, it’s all about blaming the neighbors for nuking the rodent. It’s like they mapped out every opportunity to create a sense of dread and did the opposite. I’m not even mad about using animal cruelty for a cheap shock. I’m more mad that they went about it in such an easy, cliche way. There are plenty of ways to make the poor guinea pig’s demise shocking and disturbing. This idea is so old it was used as a gag in a 1980s LucasArts adventure game.Cooper Dodson (via FX)The episode did feature one of the more effective uses of the clowns. They only appeared in the opening scene, and they actually did something pretty horrific. Moments after we learn that a woman has just gotten over a phobia of being trapped in a coffin, the clowns show up at her house, and bolt her and her husband into a pair of coffins. Now, that’s how you start an episode of American Horror Story. It’s too bad that nothing that follows lives up to it. We barely hear anything more about the murder, except for a news report that mentions the murderers left the same smiley-face symbol found at the scene of the Changs’ murder-suicide.That symbol shows up a couple more times in the episode. First, on the Mayfair-Richards’ door just before they discover their new pet about to pop. After Ally accuses the Wilton’s, Harrison tells her she’s been marked by the killer. Oh is that what that is? Maybe that reveal would have been scarier if the symbol had been given any attention before this. Ivy and Ally then find the symbol painted outside the Wiltons’ house, and Ally decides to be spiteful and not tell them. Meadow is then killed offscreen at the end of the episode. Because telling is way scarier than showing. The symbol shows up in much more effective fashion when Ally investigates the mysterious truck spraying her neighborhood with chemicals each night. We don’t know what the chemicals do, but it kills a ton of birds in this episode. Ally sees someone spraying her yard and pulls off his gas mask. Underneath is another mask, with the same clown face symbol on it. It’s not scary, but it’s unsettling enough that I’ll give it a pass. This season, I’ll take what I can get.Leslie Grossman (via FX)American Horror Story is showing signs of getting to whatever point it’s trying to make. I just need it to get there soon, because I can’t care about Ally anymore. At least in this episode, everyone is starting to get as fed up with her as I am. After accidentally shooting Pedro, Ally is let off. Michigan is a Stand Your Ground state, and Ally is being called the “Lesbian George Zimmerman.” It’s that kind of nuanced writing that makes me think Ryan Murphy turns in scripts in crayon. The cop stands by her. Ivy stands by her, going so far to blame herself for sending Pedro over. So now Ally’s stupidity is emanating from her, lowering the intelligence of everyone around her. Horror movie characters are always a little stupid, but Ally’s bad even for that. Ideally, she’d have some redeeming quality that makes us want her to survive. That’s where the dread in a good horror movie comes from. Ally doesn’t have that. She’s selfish, obnoxious, and painful to watch for as long as the show forces us to. It reads like Ryan Murphy overheard parts of someone explaining the plot of Get Out and created a character based on that. Ally is here because Murphy didn’t want to make the Trump supporter the only bad guy. As a result, this season has all the hot centrist takes of an episode of South Park with none of the jokes. The only consolation is the other characters are getting fed up with her as well. As the episode goes on Ivy slowly begins to realize that Ally is acting like a lunatic, and stops trying to defend her all the time. By the end, she leaves her to possibly die in a house targeted by a serial killer because she saw a video of Ally getting fingered by the babysitter. Of course, she doesn’t think to ask who was filming. Or why her son was on a deep web porn site. Priorities, Ivy. Maybe a few days away from Ally will get her brain working right again.The only assurance that all this is going somewhere interesting is that Kai’s plan seems to be coming together. We see him building up whatever cult he’s presumably starting, doing the fear ritual with Harrison and Meadow. In a somewhat creepy moment, he forces Harrison to admit that he wishes Meadow were dead… which is exactly what happens at the end of the episode. Kai appears to have a spooky amount of control in this town. When protesters stand in front of Ally’s car, he calmly parts them and says “enough.” They immediately disperse, and Kai looks to Ally like a blue-haired conservative Jesus. Were the protesters all paid by him? How much power does this guy have? There are elements of something scary in this mess. I just wish we didn’t have to dig through so much crap to find them.Billy Eichner and Leslie Grossman (via FX)At least Billy Eichner was a highlight of the episode. Only one of his scenes was at all creepy, but he’s funny enough that anything involving him is enjoyable. The scene where he and Meadow angrily pelt Ally with Taco Bell coupons and call her a racist was actually really funny. If whatever twist is coming doesn’t make this season any scarier, can it at least involve his character more? As whatever Kai’s plan appears to come together, there’s a sense that the season is building toward something big. But since we’re given no clue as to what that is, and the story we are given isn’t interesting or scary enough to sustain multiple episodes, it’s getting harder to care each week. Right now, it feels like they’re throwing together every political conspiracy theory and hoping it turns into something interesting. It’s not working. Whatever AHS: Cult has planned, I really hope it gets there soon. I don’t know how much more of Ally’s story I can take.Let us know what you like about Geek by taking our survey. Stay on target Top Movie and TV Trailers You Might Have Missed This WeekAmerican Horror Story Takes Us Back to the Days of Witches and Warlocks last_img read more