The Toybox

people for the conservation of limited amounts of indignation


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tv: american horror story - first season
children of dune - leto 1
seperis
So finished American Horror Story Season One last night. I can honestly state that this managed to surprise me. Like a lot. I can kind of see how really hardcore horror fans would not get what I got out of it, but it's possibly the most original take on a haunted house I have ever seen.



General

Here is a really interesting and weird idea when it comes to haunted houses that I don't see very often, especially like this. The only thing weird about this house--which is pretty damn weird--is it apparently holds people on this plane instead of letting them to into Wherever. I mean, I'm kind of convinced that is its only superpower, and I'm not even--entirely--sure it was like that from the beginning. The neat part is that it was never explained, either. It's a perfectly neutral Hotel California with absolutely--and I am willing to take arguments on that if anyone noticed something that was specific to the house itself and could not be done by the ghosts--no intentions whatsoever.

I guess I should have guessed from the name. They call it the Murder House, not the Evil House or The Murdering House or The House of Death--all those imply that the house has some cosmic personality or at least nature--because murder is something people do to each other.

The evil in that house is a really interesting morality play on what you have you bring with you, and it works--I mean, it really works--because nothing in that house happens because the house is doing shit except being a limited afterlife prison; it's more that the inmates run the prison. Which is so goddamn cool because I didn't see that coming, not until I noted the math when it came to the murders. There's one rule; you die there, you stay there. Everything else is kind of up to you. Including, interestingly enough, your physical condition as a ghost.

It could be argued is the show being lazy, except I'm pretty deathly sure it's what they brought with them as they remembered themselves or more, how they thought of themselves. I'm willing to admit it could also be the show wanting attractive leads as well, but I'm just not sure of that, and not just because of Tate and Vivien, and for that matter Ben's surprising lack of rope burn or Hayden's collapsed skull or the lack of a hole in Moira's eye--Moira died in her twenties but she keeps aging and that's gotta be how she sees herself.

This is possibly also the first horror show ever that totally faked me out with a surprisingly happy ending. Like--I have no idea what the hell that was, but I was expecting everything--and I do mean everything--but stillborn baby godparent Moira and clean-up and the goddamn Christmas tree. Like--I mean, what the hell.

More on this later. I'm still absorbing the sheer wtfery.

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I really liked season one and I think it did make sense. But I did find myself wondering if the writing process involved keeping intense scenes from earlier drafts even if they didn't quite fit the new draft.

In particular, the first scene with Viv and Ben is her stabbing him after catching him in bed. Which made me think the eventual reveal would be that she killed him, except it would have made no sense.

Within the finished story, it can read as establishing how broken their relationship actually was and setting a certain intense emotional tone. But part of it seems like a set up to something which got cut.

I think it completely fulfilled the emotional intentions in the first season, but season 2 adds a bit more coherence which is satisfying as well.


In particular, the first scene with Viv and Ben is her stabbing him after catching him in bed. Which made me think the eventual reveal would be that she killed him, except it would have made no sense.

This is just me thinking about some of the scenes and how they fit the narrative: all you have is what you bring. I think it was supposed to illustrate the difference between 'think' versus 'do' and what you want/imagine and what is; like Ben and Moira and Ben/Moira/Black Dahlia thing, or Moira switching between the young and old version, and oh man, that explanation of the hand in the fire thing by Ben and the new homeowner husband and the rape of Vivien (first time). Versus Tate and Hayden, who are think and then do, without the--I wnat to say moral filter? I'm not sure how to put it.

I like the happy ending for a variety of reasons, them being: I love happy endings and I would not have called that ending ever and the second one really nailed it. The show didn't ever let it slip that it was going to be anything but misery.

(Also, the reveal on Violet just killed me. I was sure Tate saved her, and only in retrospect I realized that in this show, which does not mind the body fluid route, she really hadn't thrown up enough and Tate's continued hysteria in the bathrub now can be read as the realization he hadn't saved her.)

(I also got a huge kick out of Vivien, Ben, Moira, Constance's attic son, Larry's dead wife, and the other ghosts scaring the shit out of people so they wouldn't end up trapped there as well. They were having fun and performing a public service.)

I thought the reveal on Violet and also the reveal on Tate were quite good. The entire series was paced like a nightmare, don't you think?

I've got to say Jessica Lange stands out for being able to move from high camp to menace to genuine feeling. Evan Peters was rather impressive as well, doing menace then wounded soul then despicable "nice" guy.

And despite the general happy ending, they did manage to remain true to the horror with the baby.

Jessica Lange was amazing. She's--I don't know, but honestly? I'd rather be in a locked room with Tate than with her. Tate's, y'know, crazy but his crazy is fairly predictable, but it's like she has a random crazy!switch that goes on and off without warning. In a lot of ways, her being normal and nice freaked me out even more because it was genuine niceness.

She quite literally lives in her own very special world.

Evan Peters was rather impressive as well, doing menace then wounded soul then despicable "nice" guy.

Tate was really, really, really hard not to like, and I can't honestly say I've pulled it off yet. I mean, don't get me wrong, murder and rape (via pretending to be Ben in the suit and the later failed sexual assault) were really bad, but there's also the hilarious rejecting Hayden because he was in love with Violet and then promising Nora (the oldest ghost) a baby because she was unhappy and so goes to kill the gay couple since they hadn't gotten on getting a baby yet and they needed a new family to get one.

(Only in retrospect, him knowing a.) about Chad and Patrick's original plan to have a baby, b.) their marital problems, and c.) Patrick's infidelity equaled No Baby Here So We Need A New Couple--the logic is just so ruthlessly focused with his problem solving. Or when he went after the son of the new couple to get Violet a boyfriend and didn't want to look him in the face while he killed him.)

I think what I liked best about the ghosts was the sheer variety of types and personalities. I swear, Travis, Constance's BF, was okay, dim, and wtfery actually in love with her (which, dude, I mean, wow) and like a puppy of adorableness, and has tea parties with the burned little girls, which I am convinced he somehow drew out of hiding with his awesome and he genuinely enjoyed Addie's company and dude, he should totally be the ghostly nanny for the stillborn baby. Travis - the most zen ghost ever.

And despite the general happy ending, they did manage to remain true to the horror with the baby.

The evil Tate Mark II baby or the stillborn baby? I agree on both, but especially the second, because it was so utterly mundane and adorable that it took you a moment to realize eternal dead baby. Which again, get Travis to babysit.

But part of it seems like a set up to something which got cut.

I forgot to actually say that I agree that either something was cut or they had some consistency issues with how they were doing the house. The ep where Hayden was killed and Ben drops her in the hole (where Moira is) and Constance telling Moira she will never be able to leave now doesn't make sense, since it's dying in the house, not the final location of the body, that decides.

Also, Ben digging that hole at teh beginning of the Hayden death ep was--retrospectively--very odd in that I now don't know what set him to do it or how. When I was working with the Evil House theory--which was such a fantastic red herring--it made sense that the house was doing something to him and Constance's remark on a gazebo at the beginning of the ep while looking at his hole seems to imply--something? Moira had drugged him, yeah, but that specific spot is odd. It kind of argues the house has some agency, but it's powers of evil seem to be limited to making people sleepwalk and dig holes, which are the saddest superpowers ever.

I kind of think you're right--either there was some changes in the storytelling to make it a ghost-driven house rather than a house that drives ghosts, or there was some cutting that would have hinted or clarified that.

I have to admit, I love how many ways the show can be watched and interpreted. It's not just horror, it's smart horror.

(Also, that house had to have been built by a Timelord; there are way too many rooms there. I'm beginning to wonder if it's not just ghosts can see or not-see each other by choice, but also be selective about which ghosts can see them. And possibly there are like, several dimensions of that single basement or something because dude, it's like the neighborhood bar; everyone goes there and I'm still not sure how many ghosts there actually are--they just show up.)

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I thought the dog was dead from Hayden! It was very weird to realize it was the only surviving member.

I have a lingering sympathy for Tate, and I cannot even justify it, except he is a really good psychopath and is great at generating sympathy. Hayden I almost feel bad for, and I feel a lot of it is that she really fought to be as unsympathetic as humanly possible.

Also? Tate Mark II: The Baby? I mean, I will buy he's evil, but dude, why do I think Constance saw a very similar scene when Tate was a kid?

If you think season one was full of WTF, try the second...

Dude, wer'e starting it tomorrow!

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