Saturday, November 19, 2011

Review: American Horror Story "Halloween Part 2"

Non Spoiler Review:
The conclusion to Halloween is a satisfying one to both the supernatural aspects of this two-parter, and the more dramatic and personal side of things with the crumbling Harmon family. Ben tries to come to terms with Hayden's reappearance, as well as his dissolving marriage (and sanity). Vivien also has her hands full with Hayden. Violet and Tate's date is a disaster when they're pursued by a bunch of gruesome teens with a mysterious agenda. It all leads to a whole bunch of revelations and a very long Halloween night.

I'm kicking myself for not guessing the truth about one of the characters, and the surprise came during a very well-written scene. Not only is Jessica Lange a treasure, but Vivien and Violet have the acting chops to face off against her every week. 

With this two-parter, we now have a good perspective on the house and its inhabitants, and a new direction for the Harmons. American Horror Story has proven it's not just a great scare, but a riveting drama with actors who can deliver, kind of like Six Feet Under, had the Fisher house been a nest of Satan.

Spoilers Now!
Let's rewind a bit. When Violet backed up to the kitchen the rubber man disappeared by the time she turned around. So she ran up to her room and barely missed some hands reaching out from under her bed (Adelaide?). Tate appears outside so she comes down to meet him and they head out on their date. 

The Harmons then return home to the house alarm blaring and Violet missing. So when Vivien goes upstairs, Ben answers the door to find Hayden. He slams it in her face.

Vivien gets a call from her daughter letting her know she's safe at the beach. Vivien's a cool mom so says she can be home in an hour.

Ben grabs a knife, but meets Vivien coming down to let him know their daughter is all right. He says he's going to clean up the mess out front (i.e. smashed pumpkins). Vivien's going to take a bath to calm down and then will discuss him moving out. Ben won't give up on the family. 

Outside, he encounters Larry and proceeds to beat him up. He thinks it's pretty funny that Hayden is back and begs Ben to kill him so he can come back and haunt him too. Ben seems to think it's all an elaborate extortion scheme and leaves with another round of threats.

On the beach, Tate and Violet are making out, and she wants to go all the way, but Tate can't seem to, and blames his medication. Then a bunch of teens show up who appear to be wearing various wounds as costumes, only they're not. They have a hate on for Tate and discuss the various ways they're going to kill him. Violet is very confused, so Tate runs off with her.

The doorbell rings again and Vivien greets Luke, the security guy, checking in on the alarm. She assures him everything is okay, despite the neighbourhood kids wrecking their pumpkins. Finally, she gets to her bath, but receives a call from Hayden. Vivien gives her a lecture about once being her age, when she fooled around with a married man herself and was just as disappointed when it ended. Something is missing in Ben, she explains, and it has nothing to do with either woman. But Hayden counters that he found something in her. Vivien snaps and regrets not ripping her face off when she first found them together. Ask him about Boston, Hayden says, and hangs up. Well, bathtime is ruined at that point, especially when someone wrote ask him in the steam on the mirror.

Vivien comes running downstairs screaming Hayden is in the house and to call the police. Ben wants to handle it, as having a bunch of police in front of their house isn't going to help sell it at all. He goes downstairs searching for her and finds her in the basement.

Ben's still thinking the extortion angle, but Hayden is spitting up blood and wondering what's happening to her and why did he bury her under the gazebo? She wants Vivien to know the truth about him. Ben wants to get her professional help. Larry bashes him over the head with a shovel and proceeds to apologize to Hayden for killing her. But she wants to deal with Vivien. Larry is eager to help and takes out his lighter.

Vivien looks out the window to see Chad bashing up the pumpkins in the yard. She goes out to stop him and all he can yell about is how she ruined his Halloween he'd planned with his boyfriend. Patrick has left for the bars for some illicit sex. She runs back inside and shuts the door.

Vivien can't find Ben, but the dog (remember that?) is barking, and smoke is billowing out from under the bathroom door. The curtain is on fire and she stamps it out. She gets another call from Hayden who wants to apologize. She was in the bathtub herself and left a bloody, muddy mess in it. She says she's in the kitchen, so Vivien runs down to see the microwave on and something big and bloody bursting inside. She (and us!) think it's the dog. But the pooch is in the closet as it turns out, and there were just tomatoes in the microwave. Phew.

Tate and Violet return home, but he's avoiding her questions about the teens, who have now followed them back to her house. Violet goes out to talk to them, and they realize she knows nothing of who they are and what he did to them. They tell her to look up Westfield High, as they're quite famous. Tate comes out and runs off to lead them away. 

Larry is tossing gas around the room until Chad shows up and asks him what he thinks he's doing to his house. 

Ben wakes up in the basement, tied up, with Nora (!) standing over him, telling him he's pathetic for allowing Hayden to take everything that means anything to him. Nora unties him because she won't permit another failure in the house, then tells him to save the baby

Hayden confronts Vivien in the bedroom and asks what she thinks Ben is capable of. Murder? She wants to talk about Boston and the pregnancy. Vivien thinks she means her pregnancy, which comes as a shock to Hayden who realizes that's why Ben didn't give a hoot about her abortion. This is the last thing Vivien wants to hear. Hayden smashes their family photo and comes at her with a piece of glass.

Hayden says it's better if Vivien and her baby just die now because Ben will hurt them in the long run. That's when Ben shows up. Hayden demands he come clean about Boston. He confesses he went there to be with Hayden. Because she was pregnant. That means Ben was lying about not seeing her in over a year. He admits he went back months later and lied about that too. Hayden puts down the glass. Vivien is broken. That's when Luke shows up with a gun, answering the panic button again.

Violet calls 911, but Connie shows up and demands she come with her. Addie's dead because of her. Connie takes her home and tells her about her night—going to the morgue with Addie, where she made up her daughter's face as a pretty girl. Violet is so sorry, and Connie admits she was just trying to be kind, and it was her mother that sent her out into the world. Connie confesses Addie was more like her than her other children. Violet wasn't aware of others, so Connie drops the bomb that Tate is her son (!), and he can't know his sister is dead. He doesn't react well to certain things (duh!).

Tate returns to the beach as the others catch up. He doesn't appear to know who they are, but they go on to tell him how he killed each of them. They want an explanation why they were targeted. Tate thinks they're in his head. The cheerleader says she should be 34 years old, but he doesn't give them the answers they're looking for. They have to go as the sun is coming up, so leave him alone.

At sunrise, all the ghosts in the neighbourhood (everyone we've seen so far) return to the murder house. Moira tells Chad her mother is dead. Chad won't speak to Patrick who was out cheating all night. He tells Moira he feels like he's doomed to be trapped in an unhappy adulterous relationship working on a house that will never be as he wants it. You are, Moira says.

Luke is taking Hayden in to the police, lecturing her about pining after men she can't have and torturing Mrs. Harmon. But when they arrive she's gone from the back seat.

Ben packs up a bag and Vivien says nothing as he leaves.

The Verdict:
I can't believe I was so dense that I didn't catch that Tate was a ghost all this time, but it all fits nicely with what we've seen and the rules evolving around the house. That he's Connie's son is a great twist (and another awesome scene with Violet). Now the question is how he died in the house. Suicide?

Also revealed is that Tate's fantasy of killing everyone in the school is actually a memory and the ghost kids (including Zoe Graystone!) are back to ask why he murdered them. Given the cheerleader's comments, the shootings would have happened in the 90s. 

Connie and Violet's scene was amazing (Taissa Farmiga looks to be quite a talent), and that flashback to the morgue with Addie was heartbreaking. But was that Adelaide under the bed, reaching out to Violet? There appeared to be some red sleeves, like the dress she was wearing for Halloween.

Even more Ben nastiness—he was cheating on Vivien even after he was caught the first time. It's going to be tough to continue to hope for some happiness for this guy unless the writers can pull a twist to explain some of his behaviour (and likely that deals with his past he hinted about with Tate). Though credit goes to watching Ben crumble as all his lies come back to bite him in the ass. At least Vivien kicked him out without any further backtracking. She's definitely going to bang security guy Luke (though I can't see him lasting very long).

There are still some lingering questions. What happened at the hospital? Ben and Vivien aren't even talking about the nurse fainting or what was seen on the ultrasound? And how in hell can Vivien stay in that house now? 

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