by Alex Greenberger
“American Horror Story” has a fetishistic fascination with style. Each episode takes on a different mode and therefore each episode takes on a different way of scaring me. The fifth episode returned to the jittery editing style that made the first episode markedly scarier than the rest, and the result was an installment that matched the first episode in its sheer terror.
We begin where left off in last episode: there is a lot of stuff going down in the Harmon household. Larry is knocking at the door…and disappearing. The Rubber Man is standing behind Violet, waiting to kill her…and disappearing. Hayden is dead…but unfortunately, she’s not disappearing. Basically, malevolent spirits are coming and going in this creepy Victorian mansion. (And by the way, why would there ever be a Victorian mansion in Los Angeles?) The stage is set for a lot to happen in this episode, and “Halloween Part 2” doesn’t disappoint.
It’s unusual to see character-driven horror, but “American Horror Story” consistently delivers in that respect. The writers of the show have done an excellent job of humanizing the characters in this episode. Tate, who is usually made to be a psychopath, is, in this one, a very sensitive teenage boy. He shares a very tender scene with Violent in which they have to talk about sex and what it means for their relationship. Of course, they’re interrupted by a group of Brat Pack-style teenage ghosts that want to kill Tate—And what fun would it be if it was just a dramatic scene?—but the scene is a surprise nonetheless. And Hayden, too, even seems normal. She may be dead, but she’s still as emotional as a raving adolescent girl.
The last third of the episode is definitely some of the best work of the entire show in terms of its plot progression. There are a few critical twists in the end, all of which involve Constance and Tate in some way, that really shocked me. I didn’t think it was possible for TV (that wasn’t “Game of Thrones”) to thrill me anymore, but “American Horror Story” almost always throws me for a loop.
And this episode really got to me. There’s one part where Vivien is about to take a bath when the phone rings. It’s Hayden. Naturally, Vivien and Hayden get into a nasty argument that ultimately, as one probably would have expected, ends with Vivien hanging up on Hayden. Vivien is about to get into the bath when she turns around because she feels something watching her. Creepy. But the scene is really taken to another level when she turns around again and sees a message that reads “ASK HIM” (regarding Hayden’s abortion). Simple and scary. That is how it’s done.
In the end, Halloween night ends and the dead are forced to go back to the Harmon house. We close with a montage of the ghosts returning to the Harmon house. They all have their typical quirks, especially the Zachary Quinto ghost, who pushes his boyfriend and says, “Don’t talk to me!” Looks like all the ghosts are back for some more fun!
Alex Greenberger is a staff writer. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org