American Horror Story: not impressed

American Horror Story: Murder House (on FX)Directed by Bradley BueckerWritten/Created by Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuk and Jennifer Salt

American Horror Story: Murder House (on FX)
Directed by Bradley Buecker
Written/Created by Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuk and Jennifer Salt

[This review contains spoilers]

THE HORROR STORY

The Harmon family moves from Boston to Los Angeles for a fresh new start after Vivien (Connie Britton) miscarries and her husband Ben (Dylan McDermott) has an affair with one of his pysch patients. Their daughter, Violet, struggles with school and depression. Within a short few days of living in their new home, each person notices strange things, and each handles it in their own way. They hire a maid who has been caretaker of the house for the last couple decades. To Vivien and Violet, she appears like an old woman, but to Ben, she is a seductive young lady.

After Vivien and Violet are attacked in their own home while Ben is out of town to visit his mistress Hayden (Kate Mara), Vivien wants to move, but they can’t afford to before selling, and no one is willing to buy the house because, as most of the locals already know, it is more commonly known as “Murder House” and is the last stop of a local horror tour.

The action escalates as Violet becomes suicidal and realizes she is in love with a ghost, Vivien has been raped by one, and Hayden, after showing up in LA, is promptly murdered by a man who once lived in the house. It becomes clear that the creepy neighbor lady Constance (Jessica Lange), her son Tate, and the age-changing maid will do anything to save the house from falling into destructive hands, including murdering anyone who stands in their way, leaving them to become ghosts–or not, to ensure they can’t come back to tell the haunting truth.

"Murder House"

“Murder House”

THE HORROR OPINION

I will admit, the first few episodes of American Horror Story grabbed my attention. I wanted to know what the f*** was going on in that house, and the property, and what’s up with the cooky southern bell neighbor? Who are all the ghosts? Why are they there? And why are there so many?

But by the middle of the season I began to lose interest, and at the end I was just wondering, had the writers even looked up anything pertaining to the supernatural? I may have been influenced by the CW show Supernatural and expected a lot of the same rules for ghosts to follow, but while ghosts are a controversial topic and difficult to research, there is popular lore that is usually present in most ghost stories whether they are shows, books, or movies. I’m not saying it’s not okay to have ghosts that don’t make the room cold, or can’t go through walls, or aren’t transparent, or don’t make lights flicker and doors slam. But if you’re going to change paranormal tradition, all I ask is a little consistency and explanation, which is my biggest grievance against this show.

Tate LangdonLet me start with the ghosts. The ghosts who matter can change outfits and do not show death wounds. [SPOILERS] Hayden has bruising on her arm, and sometimes Nora’s head (only in the back) is blown away. But Tate never has bullet wounds, Moira’s eye, although oddly glittery, is intact, and the gay couple do not show signs of death either. However, the two girls in nursing uniforms exhibit bloody stab wounds and one is always wet from the bath she drowned in. Nurse GhostsThe mother and two daughters who burned alive are still burning when we see them. And at the end, Vivien is not all bloody from childbirth. So, which is it? Do ghosts in the house keep their wounds even in death or not? And where do all the different outfits come from for Tate and Hayden to wear? Are they stealing clothes from the current residents? You’d think the family would notice if ghosts were wearing their clothes . . .

And on a side note, why is Moira the only one who has aged, or at least appears to age only to women? Also, some ghosts know they’re dead and others do not and some have been around for over 80 years. Like Nora, who comes to visit the house one day and is shocked at the shiny new appliances, but in flashbacks she has been in the house for years before present day. Did she just completely not see the house changing since 1920 and stayed in the basement? It seemed like the ghosts became super active only when Vivien, Ben and Violet moved in. How convenient. Young and Old Moira

In the vein of ghosts, I had a hard time with the medium in the show. She obviously could sense a ghost, talk to them, even the spirit [SPOILER] of Addy who does not die on the Murder House property but her invisible soul still lingers long enough to talk to the medium who relays the messages to Constance, Addy’s mother. However, the medium has no idea how to expel ghosts. She and Constance believe that Tate doesn’t know he’s dead and that he must realize that so he can let go and move on, but he does know he’s dead, and he doesn’t move on, so there is obviously some hold the house has on the spirits for not letting them go. But later, the medium does come up with one way to expel a ghost. She tells Violet that the only successful time it happened was at Roanoke, when the angry spirits of the dead colonists were expelled by a chieftain who burned the ghosts’ belongings and yelled “Croatoan” three times. Really, American Horror Story? With all the information that is out there, that is the best you can come up with? Whether you believe in ghosts or not, this has to sound like complete bullshit. Granted salting and burning bones, or calling in a priest, or convincing a ghost to move on to the light may sound just as preposterous, but those are at least common theories that some people swear by. Maybe it’s the Supernatural geek in me, but I didn’t buy this for a second, and I thought it weak writing for a story about ghosts. Oh, but the ghosts do listen and will leave you be if you simply yell “Go Away!”.

And don’t even get me started on the ending. I do not believe for a second that Vivien and Violet would have allowed what happened to happen. They weren’t stupid, they weren’t new to how the ghosts in the house acted and what motivated them. It was a weak, unsatisfactory, cop-out ending.

The Harmon Family

For me, what started out as a creepy, mysterious story about a haunted house turned into a lot of over the top drama with inconsistent rules for the supernatural. Call me traditional, but I like some order regarding the paranormal. And the second half of the season just seemed to be murder after murder and the characters became extremely frustrating. I did like the reality of not being able to move out of the house because of the cost; that’s generally overlooked in every other haunted house story. Somehow the affected families are able to just pick up and leave, but not in this case. However, at the same time, all three Harmons were going crazy. They knew they were, and they did nothing and continued to do nothing even when they had the power to save half of their family. Overall, the show had good moments and bad, was entertaining but at times unbearable. And while I can see why some people would absolutely love this show, it turned out to not be for me. I had too much issue with the world the show created and the inconsistencies within it. I may check out season 2 to see if it has improved, but I doubt it.

RATING

2 AutumnrRaindrops (out of 5)

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Apocalypto

Apocalypto

Apocalypto
2006 – Directed by Mel Gibson
Written by Mel Gibson & Farhad Safinia

SUMMARY

After taking down a tapir, a small group of hunters meet a band of bloodied and beaten people who wish to pass through the forest to find a new beginning after their village has been ravaged. They are allowed to pass, and the hunters take their kill back to their wives, but one, Jaguar Paw, is concerned, and cannot help sense that danger may be coming their way.

Early the next morning, Jaguar Paw’s small village is attacked. He sneaks his pregnant wife and young son down into a pit and returns to help his fellow villagers fend off their attackers, but all is lost. The survivors, men and women, are trussed to poles and are forced to march. They are led to a large city where the women are sold into slavery and the men are to be sacrificed. After watching a friend die, Jaguar Paw is led to the altar, but he is saved by an eclipse that is a sign the gods are appeased. He and the other captives are led away to be “disposed of”, but Jaguar Paw escapes, injured, into the jungle, but the enemy will not give up so easily. Jaguar Paw must outwit and outrun his captors if he is to rescue his wife and child and lead them to the safety he promised before his capture.Apocalypto1

WHILE WATCHING

I want to say that I enjoyed this movie. I want to say I was entertained, but those are not the appropriate adjectives. I’m not sure if I would say this is a good movie, but I it is a well-made one. Like his The Passion of the Christ, Mel Gibson used languages of the time. In this film, Yucatec Maya. Apocalypto felt like a foreign film and I tend to watch foreign films differently. After awhile, I forget I’m even reading subtitles, and I am just watching, listening to different sounds I may not otherwise hear in English films, and unable to turn away lest I miss key information. However, I believe that had I not been able to follow along with subtitles, I would have still been engrossed in this film.

apoc-attackThe first half of the film was brutally violent and difficult to watch. Lacking the usual sound effects for punches, kicks, and weapon slices, the sounds were dull, solid, and realistic. I was appalled at how barbaric humans can be, and often were. I was hardly able to relax throughout the film, wishing I could turn away from the violence yet mesmerized by it at the same time, even the human sacrifices. And even though Jaguar Paw is saved from a brutal death on a sacrificial altar, the relentless chase lasts for the second half of the film, and again I was caught up in the action, tense and unmoving. Finally, a bit of respite comes at the end, but just barelyand I sat in silence throughout the credits, reflecting on the journey I’d just been a part of.

REFLECTION Apocalypto-Still1

I put this movie in to try to get a sense of what Maya women wore as I was trying to put together a costume for an end of the world party on the 21st (Which was all in good fun; I know the Maya did not believe it was the apocalypse on 12-21-12). I wasn’t planning on watching the whole movie, but as I mentioned above, I was taken away and absorbed right in the story, and I couldn’t stop watching it. Throughout the whole film, I kept thinking about how violent humans were and still are, how evil we can be to each other. After watching the movie, I looked up some of the historical facts and critiques of the film, and while I understand it is not completely accurate to the exact time, it does show us in a very realistic way how people once lived, and in some places still do.

For an entire day afterward, I couldn’t stop thinking about throughout the history of human existence how many families have been murdered and raped, villages ransacked and burned and all in the name of what? Slavery, god, hatred, love? Despite what critics have said, despite historical inaccuracies, and despite the brutal intensity,  Apocalypto is a powerful film. I’m not sure if I’ll ever watch it again–probably, maybe–but I will recommend it to anyone looking for a film filled with raw human emotion, cruelty, and honesty.

RATING

4 AutumnRaindrops (out of 5)

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