You might think this week's American Horror Story was merely a continuation of the journey we've been on with the Harmons all season, as they live in, and fall prey to, their new life in a Los Angeles haunted home.
But "Open House" shattered what remained of our ignorance of the resident via glorious illumination of the birth of the mansion and some of its inhabitants. The more we learn about the Harmons, and particularly of Ben's nefarious nature, the more we come to realize this is exactly where they are meant to be.
I never imagined Dylan McDermott's "O" face would be so unattractive. As it was happening, I chalked it up to Vivien's dream that Ben was so seen in such a poor light. The sex fantasy portion of the series hasn't been my cup of tea, and we got a glimpse of her impregnator again, the rubber man. Ben's visit to Larry not only revealed more of his true nature, but we learned Constance is at the root of Larry's horrific burns.
Far more explicit than Vivien's dream was the young Moira, as she showed around a prospective buyer. Alexandra Breckenridge, who plays youthful Moira, emulated Frances Conroy as the older Moira so incredibly well that I wasn't in the least bit shocked to see the latter leaving the bedroom, wiping her mouth. The actresses have their mannerisms down so well that the scene was seamless in its transition from one actress to the other. Outside of the topic, it was visually stunning material to view.
Inside all of this perversion, we have a teenager clinging to life despite the Hell of her everyday existence. It's so sad that Violet's best chance at survival is to remain in a severely haunted house. A shame that her father is a psychiatrist, but the only person who can truly understand her is a troubled ghost who murdered over a dozen of his high school classmates. Tate protects her, licks her wounds and steers her toward understanding of herself and her family. He also lead her to a veritable treasure trove of photos and anecdotal evidence about her home.
Dr. Charles and Nora Montgomery built the house... until their son Thadeus, was kidnapped and dismembered. The music played during that portion of the episode was provided a wicked ambiance resembling some of the most classic of horror films. The Shining instantly sprung to mind. So the house started as an office for an abortion doctor. One who was quite... talented.
Learning the Montgomery's story had me on the edge of my seat. Having recently watched Pet Semetery, I was reminded of others who have tried to resurrect their children, and this tale is also woven with bits of Frankenstein and Re-Animator. Constructing the history of Murder House with some of the best horror of all time is just brilliant. There was also a shout out to The Changeling, a classic haunted house story starring George C Scott. I'd highly recommend checking any of these movies out.
The Harmons still talk about their experiences in the house as if they imagine it happening to someone other than themselves. They can admit their desire to sell and imagine the reactions prospective buyers at hearing of the haunting, but the house seems to have a spell over them, allowing them to continue on living there with only momentary lapses of sanity. Perhaps the last shot, when Violet handed to her mother a photo of Nora Montgomery, will drive home to Vivien the urgency of their situation in the house.
On the other hand, what fun would that be?
Carissa Pavlica is the managing editor and a staff writer and critic for TV Fanatic. She's a member of the Critic's Choice Association, enjoys mentoring writers, conversing with cats, and passionately discussing the nuances of television and film with anyone who will listen. Follow her on Twitter and email her here at TV Fanatic.