‘American Horror Story: Asylum’ Review: “I Am Anne Frank — Part Two”
This week on ‘American Horror Story: Asylum,’ a character says what we’re all thinking, Anne Frank’s story comes to a conclusion, and we discover the identity of Bloody Face!
Allow me to be frank (Anne Frank, even — sorry) — this week’s episode is a total mess. From the terrible direction to the reappearance of aliens and very alive — and very pregnant — Alma, this week is nuttier than the patients at Briarcliff. If the desired effect of all that wonky camerawork was to make me feel nauseous and in need of some Valium like I want to get on Sister Jude’s wino level, then congrats, Ryan Murphy, success is yours! The weird direction choices this week come courtesy of Alfonso Gomez-Rejon, who’s directed several episodes of Ryan Murphy’s other show (the one we don’t like to talk about), ‘Glee.’ For a guy who spends a lot of time directing candy-coated episodes about high-schoolers singing through their feelings, it’s confusing how the second chapter of “I Am Anne Frank” seems to borrow from Sam Raimi, early Peter Jackson (they’re kind of the same thing), the BBC, and Guy Ritchie. What’s with all these weird swoops and cockeyed angles, guys?
The one redeeming quality to the direction this week was the awesome vintage video vibe during the “At Home with Anne Frank” sequences — while this effect was seemingly random and obviously pointed toward Anne Frank/Charlotte’s inevitable lobotomy at the hands of Dr. Arden/HANS GRUBER, I appreciated the kitschy ‘Stepford Wives’ touch, which once again proves that Ryan Murphy can mash things up like no one’s business. Songs, different time periods, genres — whatever it is, he’ll stick it in a blender. He’s like television’s answer to Girl Talk.
Of course we knew Lana’s departure from Briarcliff was too good to be true, and that Dr. Thredson fellow seemed increasingly creepy after last week’s masturbation therapy. As it turns out, Dr. Thredson is Bloody Face, and this as all been an elaborate set-up to A. Frame Kit for the murders and get him locked up for good, and B. Get Lana out of Briarcliff so he can add her skin to his interior design plans. Thredson is like the O.G. Buffalo Bill, and I’m just waiting for his penis-tuck dance — think of the GIFs!
Jokes aside, this plot was incredibly well-executed and given Ryan Murphy’s avoidance of concepts like subtlety, I have to hand it to him for sneaking up on us with the Bloody Face reveal. There are so many people with dark motives at play on this show that it could have been anyone, and he succeeds in creating a show that’s interesting enough that you never wonder who the real killer could be.
And why would you need to, when this week features more aliens, legless mutant Chloe Sevigny scaring an entire playground (how she got there from the woods is beyond me but that girl’s diet must be something serious — we should be putting pictures of legless mutant Chloe Sevigny on our vision boards), Sister Jude backsliding again, and more Anne Frank business.
Sister Jude and Dr. Arden square off again in a scene that makes me think I’d be surprised to discover that Jessica Lange and James Cromwell haven’t been having some secret classy Hollywood feud for decades — those two can really hate each other and mean it. With Arden pressing charges on Jude after getting his knee shot by Fake Anne Frank, the lady has decided to pick up the bottle and get back to bedding barflies. Between this week and last week, though, Jude’s motives have been all over the damn place. First she believes Anne Frank, but then she sees fit to condescend to her and keep her locked up anyway; she thinks Dr. Arden is evil, but she still protects his good name. The woman is more confused about the plot at that asylum than most people would be if they turned on tonight’s episode without having watched the rest of the season first.
But the Bloody Face/Thredson stuff is a total knockout and it gives us some genuine, unnerving horror. Thankfully, Gomez-Rejon didn’t see it fit to use those crazy camera angles when revealing Thredson’s lampshade made of skin, or the mint bowl made out of a human skull. Instead, we are slowly shown these things just as Lana begins to notice them, and it’s downright unsettling — but this isn’t just some Ed Gein/’Texas Chainsaw Massacre’ homage. When Lana ends up in Thredson’s basement workshop, she comes face to face with her frozen dead girlfriend, whom Thredson urges Lana to kiss before showing her how he took her lady’s teeth. Sarah Paulson equally owns this scene with one powerful look of terror — can this psycho killer get any more horrifying? I’ve a feeling the answer is yes, and I can’t wait to see just how apathetically creepy he’ll continue to be in the coming weeks.
Equally horrific was Sister Mary Eunice’s disappearing of Shelley into the woods with the other mutants (who, I presume, are also results of Arden’s experiments), only to see her return up the stairs from a basement at a local elementary school. Sure, it’s silly to think of how the hell she got there, but watching her climb those steps and scare the pants off those kids and their teacher was delightfully kooky and unsettling.
Next week: Will they finally let Shelley die?!