American Horror Story Double Feature
I am going through a wretched bout of writers' block. You writers out there know exactly what I'm talking about. Ryan Murphy also knows and has made the creative process the focal point of the first half of American Horror Story Double Feature, Red Tide.
Spoiler Level: Some
Finn Wittrock plays Harry Gardner, a talented screen writer who has yet to see his big break. He brings his pregnant wife Doris (Lily Rabe), an interior designer, and their daughter, Alma, to Provincetown so he can finish a rewrite on a pilot he’s working on. After an encounter with a pale man in a trenchcoat, the Gardners receive assurance from police chief Burleson (Adina Porter) that Provincetown is a safe place and that they were likely harassed by an opioid addict. One night, Harry visits a local bar called The Muse where he meets famous erotica novelist Belle Noir (Frances Conroy) and playwright Austin Sommers (Evan Peters).
On his way home, Harry is attacked by another Pale Man and kills him in self defense. Harry decides to take his family back home to New York but before they go Harry receives a call from Austin Sommers who offers him a “cure” for his writers’ block in the form of a black pill (“Muse”). Once Harry takes the pill the floodgates of his creativity are opened and he easily finishes his pilot in four hours. Harry’s agent, Ursula (Leslie Grossman), later tells him that the pilot was a huge success and has been bought by Netflix to star Joaquin Phoenix. She convinces Harry to remain in Provincetown and continue writing. After a bleeding cut on his wife’s finger sends Harry into a frenzy, he learns from Austin that the black pill has some side effects…to keep the ideas flowing Harry has to keep taking the pill which causes a blood thirst in those who take it because it depletes the body of some natural vitamins, chemicals and minerals. Austin also tells him another secret about the pill: it only works for those who have an innate talent within. Those that don’t have talent are turned into bald, pale skinned creatures, the Pale People who skulk around attacking people and animals for their their blood.
Harry’s daughter, Alma, who is a gifted violinist, observes Harry taking the pill and sees how it affects his writing ability so she decides to sneak one of the black pills and take it. Her natural talent is also amplified and her mother later finds her outside in a cemetery drinking the blood from a rabbit. Alma, unlike Harry, has no qualms about feeding on talentless people so to keep her under control and also to keep his wife from finding out, Harry brings blood to her in a thermos.
Other characters we meet during the 6 episode first half of AHS: Double Feature include a hustler played by AHS newbie Macaulay Culkin and “Tuberculosis Karen” another weird character played by AHS favorite Sarah Paulson. Previous regular Denis O’Hare makes his return as well for the first time since AHS: Roanoake. Returning also is Angelica Ross as the mysterious Chemist. But the real unsung star of Red Tide is Frances Conroy who delivers a delicious portrayal of writer Belle Noir. Belle is going to give some competition to Myrtle Snow, my other favorite Conroy character who appeared in season 3 Coven and season 8 Apocalypse.
After the two episode premier and for the next 3 episodes people were hailing Red Tide as a return to greatness for the series after lackluster seasons like Cult and 1984. But the finale has left many–including myself–scratching our heads and going “Whaaat?”. It really goes off the rails. A bad ending can ruin a movie or a tv series and this one may cause a drop in people who are willing to stick around for the second half of Double Feature…Death Valley. But I recommend checking it out for yourself. In the least you’ll get 80% of a good, even great, season.
Red Tide really hit home for me. At least till the final episode. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to give The Chemist a call.
American Horror Story Double Feature continues this Wednesday September 29 with episode one of Death Valley.
American Horror Story Red Tide: Little Black Pill
- Writing - 8/108/10
- Storyline - 8/108/10
- Acting - 10/1010/10
- Music - 10/1010/10
- Production - 10/1010/10
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