The Cutprice Guignol

The Fourth Year: American Horror Snorey

American Horror Story Recaps: Chapter Six

God fucking dammit, American Horror Story.

Yeah, that big twist that Ryan Murphy promised we would never see coming- I think we all pretty much did, but that doesn’t undermine the fact that episode six of My Roanoke Nightmare is by far the best the season has offered up so far. Manic, goofy, and engaging, Chapter Six is a welcome fucking relief from the uninspired plots and bad accents we had to put up with only a week ago.


Okay, so what actually was that twist? The episode opens with the reveal that My Roanoke Nightmare was actually the surprise smash hit of last season, and now producer Sidney (Cheyenne Jackson, showing his face at last) is following it up with a second season entitled Three Days in Hell where both the cast of MRN and the real-life Shelby, Matt and Lee return to the house over the blood moon. We’re launched into the story as Sidney puts the finishing touches on the show’s production, and bad omens begin to haunt the set.


I think one of the best parts of any season of AHS is getting to see who the actors are playing this time around; meeting Sarah Paulson’s pretentious and catty Audrey Tindall and Evan Peter’s fratty, flirty Rory Monahan as the actors who played the characters we’ve been watching for five episodes is an interesting conceit, and the actors all look like they’re having a ball pulling it off. Kathy Bates is magnificent as ever as she unwillingly reveals the Jared-Leto’s-Joker depths of method acting she went to in order to get into character as the Butcher; the shot of her howling malevolently after Cheyenne Jackson and his co-producer as they flee her house after delivering her a restraining order is just delicious stuff. Obviously, though, the star of this episode is Cheyenne Jackson himself, criminally underused in the previous season but here served with a script that allows him to revel in the gleeful callousness that he insists on bringing to his role as producer. He’s great, and an encouraging addition to a show that often gives the most interesting roles to it’s old-faithful cast.


And yeah, this episode is just an enormous amount of fun. Kathy Bates has a little collectable bobble-head figure of the Butcher sitting on her shelf; Sarah Paulson sneers “pathetic and fiery-just how I played her” after Lily Rabe winds up arguing with her now ex-husband Matt. This is the kind of camp I want to see from this show, not the kind that revolves around weird serial-killer dinner parties. It’s shallow (which I’ll get to later), but it’s crazy-entertaining, a front on which the show has been failing on for a while. As the (far grungier and more unsettling) ghosts begin to emerge from the shadows and the cameras start rolling, I’m happy to settle in for a gory trot through all the found footage genre (one of my personal favourites) has to offer.  It’s not new, necessarily-both The Grudge and Grave Encounters franchises (not to mention Ghostwatch) have pulled off similair twists- but hey, I’ll allow it.


So, yes, this is a good episode. Really good, in fact (and directed with great panache by Angela Basset, for what it’s worth). But I’m the queen of pissing on everybody else’s good time, and that isn’t going to stop just because they made Sarah Paulson and Evan Peters kiss just like I do when I mash my Tate and Lana dolls together when no-one else is around. And, while this episode is good…it doesn’t make up for the utter shite we’ve put up with for the last few weeks.


*squeezes between them* 

Yes, the plot holes and obvious stylistic choices made in the first five episodes were there to hint at the trashy origins of My Roanoke Nightmare, but that doesn’t make chapters one through five any better in retrospect. If I recommend this season to someone (and that’s a big if, as there have only really been two honestly great episodes so far), it’s going to be a bit awkward when I have to tell them to just sit tight through the entire first half of the season because the twist is pretty solid. I threw my hands in the air at the end of that episode with a disgruntled “Fine“, not because it wasn’t good but because the first five episodes are nothing but pretty bad set-up for this. I get it, I get it, I do- but just because this twist is moderately interesting and well-executed doesn’t mean that everything before it becomes so in retrospect. You know?

And while we’re looking at this season as a whole, let’s look at My Roanoke Nightmare in the context of the show. I don’t mind horror being nothing more than silly, goofy fun, I really don’t. In fact, that’s when I think it’s often at its best- see Nightmare on Elm Street and it’s ilk. But…do you remember when this show used to mean something? Yes, AHS has often been hamfisted with its themes, but even in the drecky mess that was Coven they had that brilliant scene where Jessica Lange brings a baby back from the dead (Oh God, I’m tearing up just thinking about that). Season one and two took on hefty themes- mental health, motherhood, guilt, religion, sexuality- whearas the show seems content to settle for just throwing in a pile of fun lines, overblown performances, and silly little horror homages. There’s nothing wrong with that, per se, but I wouldn’t mind if the show took on something a little more…meaningful? I’m not asking for Proust here, just for the show to remember it’s more thoughtful roots once in a while.

Wow, this review is pretty fucking negative for an episode I enjoyed as much as I did. Well, let’s tie it up with Fan Theory Corner to lighten the mood!

Lou’s Poorly Articulated Fan Theory Corner

  1. Matt will be the only person to survive the three days in the house, because he’s protected by the wood witch creature who really wants his dick/his baby/his soul (delete as appropriate).
  2. Finn Wittrock is turning up in this season; surely, SURELY, he’ll be playing Edward Mott (as he played Dandy Mott in season four). Taissa Farmiga will also return, and I reckon she’ll be stepping into Lady Gaga’s shoes.
  3. Evan Peters character isn’t really dead; he intimated that he wanted to leave the house early, and this gives Sidney a way to stir up some genuine panic amongst those who remain. Or maybe I just really want ginger Evan Peters to stick around, I’m not really sure.

American Horror Story Recaps: Chapter Five

Have you ever been to a haunted house? You know, not an actual one, but something some savvy local businessman might set up to rake in some of that sweet Halloween dough. You stumble from room to room, being bombarded with any number of zanily gruesome images, in an attempt to instil some sense of horror into your soul. But much as you might try to buy into it, to gamely play along, there’s a little voice at the back of your head going “This is all bullshit, isn’t it?”. That’s how I feel about this episode of American Horror Story.


Ellie, this picture is for you, because I’m not sure you’re going to like what I have to say about this episode.

Okay, alright, let’s get the obvious out of the way: Evan Peters and Frances Conroy cropped up in this episode, and they were both great. Evan Peters is one of those mind-buggeringly talented performers (I recently watched season one of AHS again, and his performance as Tate Langdon is better than you even remember), and despite the fact that he was handed another way-overblown-camp role, he was great. As Edward Philipe Mott, who originally built the house, he’s by turns sinister and tragic, unsettling and pathetic- and bloody hell, he only gets about twelve minutes of screentime (though I was a little concerned his ritual sacrificing might involve another in AHS’ illustrious line of bummings-to-death– thankfully, I was wrong). Frances Conroy, as a cannabalistic redneck matriarch, gets even less, but her tiny exchange with Kathy Bates was the high point of the episode, two magical actresses bringing some prestige into all the chaos.

But, beyond that, this episode was terrible. Fucking awful. To artlessly drag back in my haunted house analogy, it seemed more intent on bludgeoning us with unpleasant images and ideas that actually tying up the themes that were present at the start of the season. We stagger from Matt, Shelby and Flora being pursued through the house by Samara from the Ring (I mean, that was her, right?) while Kathy Bates and company wait patiently outside to horribly murder them, then bumping into the ghost of Mott in the basement, who leads them through a spooooooky secret passageway, from whence they end up in the woods, encountering the cannibalistic clan of Conroy (trademarked) who smash in Denis O’Hare’s face for, um, reasons, before getting dumped back at Kathy Bates’ feet just before her son has a change of heart after four hundred years or so and chucks her in a fire, facilitating their escape. By the end up, I wanted my admission fee back.



It’s a mess- an ugly, gory mess (the close-up in Denis O’Hares crushed visage was so clearly there for shock value, as was the lingering shot of Shelby’s brutalised leg). None of it meant anything. The first episode of this season set up an interesting story of a brittle love on the brink of breaking- and all of that is forgotten as Angela Basset swoops in to save the day (in the interest of transparency, I have always dreamed of Angela Basset pulling up next to me in a car and ordering me to get in) and the lot of them escape to presumably set up the next episode’s big twist. What a waste. What a pointless, messy, ugly, and uninspired waste. Even the occasionally fun writing or inspired direction here took a back seat to shit like Wes Bentley giving a speech in an accent more terrifying than half the shit they seemed to think was actually unnerving. As a British person, I am actually a little offended that Wes seems to think that we sound that much like a bunch of wankering divs.


HIGHLY problematic

And I’m still left with so many fucking questions-I mean, where to start? To begin with, why didn’t Kathy Bates and company just kick in the door and murder them from the off, since there was nothing apparently keeping them out of the house? Why did Wes Bentley have a random change of heart then, when they’ve been doing this for centuries? What was pig-man all about- where did he come from, who was he before he was balancing a jauntily-angled severed pigs head on his face? Why, when we had a huge dump of the house’s history courtesy of Denis O’Hare earlier in the season, didn’t we find out about Edward Mott before this? Why weren’t there ghosts of all the dead servants craicing about all this time? Where was Lady Gaga in all of this- she’s the cause of all of this, the reason it’s happening, was she busy that night or some shit? Why did the cop drive away, and why would he give her a lift in the first place if he was just going to leave? How on Earth can Cheyenne Jackson be considered main cast when he hasn’t been on-screen yet and we’re five episodes in? What was the deal with Shelby feeling the ground breathing out in the woods in the first episode? Why is this show never half as interesting as the fan theories people come up with for it? And, most importantly, who heard Wes Bentley’s accent and let him do it in front of a camera, and can we keep him away from that person for his own well-being?

This aren’t ambiguities, they’re plot holes. I feel better now that I’ve got that out, but that creeping sense of doom is coming once again- the same I got last year with the Doctor Who recaps, the knowledge that I had committed to this so I had to continue. Once again, AHS has less shot itself in the foot than taken off everything below the knee with a dull, uninspired episode that offered more questions than answers and yet swanned off at the end all chuffed with itself regardless. After a promising, interesting start, the season swiftly devolved into all the worst parts of this show, packaged in a slightly different wraparound, and told us it was innovative. And, without a doubt….it just isn’t.

American Horror Story Recaps: Chapter Four

Aaaand we’re back. I don’t mean these recaps; I mean American Horror Story is back to it’s usual cavalcade of mediocrity, after three relatively promising episodes.

There’s a few things I’d like to talk about this week, most of which have little to do with this actual episode, because there wasn’t much about it that I haven’t already covered. Kathy Bates continues to have a raucously good time as the murderous villain. I still like Andre Holland a lot. Wes Bentley continues to sound like that It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia scene where Dennis tries to imitate the British version of himself. The horror is gory, the plot is thin, the acting is solid. This bog-standard American Horror Story, and it’s starting to wear pretty thin.

Denis O’Hare provided a brief glimmer of hope in this episode before swiftly recieving a series of arrows to the chest (“Oh!” exclaims my boyfriend as the scene unfolds. “That reminds me, Arrow was back today!”) and destroying any hope I had that one of my favourite actors of all time might actually get a properly meaty role in this season.We got to see a whole lot more of Lady Gaga’s feral wood witch character, and that was kind of neat- Gaga goes have a magnificence about her that fits with big, sweeping, mystical roles like this-and that’s where everything new that I liked about this episode finished. With a capey fairy with some mud on her face swishing about the woods with YET ANOTHER bad British accent and Denis O’Hare cropping up for ten minutes to deliver some relatively dull exposition before dying. That’s not good.

The episode leaned too heavily on flashbacks for me not to want to yell at the screen “Just bloody get on with it already!”. With as many flashbacks as Batman Vs Superman had dream sequences (well, nearly), the show kept grinding to a halt as it tried desperately to fill in all the gaps surrounding the story of the missing Roanoke settlers and the old owners of the house and what the fuck Lady Gaga’s deal is and-

You get the point. This episode was slow, boggy, and a little boring, despite the gratuitous amounts of gore they hurled in our direction. I have very little to say about it beyond that, in all honesty- well, apart from the fact that we’ve seen this season before.

Yeah. the format’s different, and the “big twist” we’re being promised in episode six (that will have a hell of a lot of work to do to redeem this messy season) could shake things up. But this is Murder House- ie, what the show did in season one. And no, I’m not just saying that because it’s set in an area with ghosts in it. A pig-man leapt out from behind the shower curtain, as a character in season one was afraid of. Nurses haunt the house. Spirits are allowed to move “through the veil” and into the world of the humans but once a year, around Halloween. The season started with the loss of a baby- in Nightmare, a miscarriage, and in Murder House, an abortion. I don’t care how you wrap it up, this is the same shit being served to me again, except without all of Jessica Lange’s Southern-Belle-From-Hell charm or Francis Conroy’s moving performance or…well, any of it, really. Evan Peters has yet to make an appearance in the season to date, and the show is feeling his lack of presence- hell, the scaled-down nature of the cast is taking it’s toll. The whole thing is starting to feel like a cheap knock-off of the first season-and, while that’s an awesome thirteen episodes of television, if I want to watch it, I’ll watch it. What I wanted was new, innovative AHS- and as of now, I’m still waiting for it.


Blogerversary, etc

I’m a little late this year, but hurrah- The Cutprice Guignol is over four years old as of this moment! I now have an honours degree in this blog. And history and journalism, because somehow I graduated this year, but whatever.

Again, thank you for all your support this year- all the comments, clicks, and shares keep this blog going, and it still makes me unremittingly happy that people actually want to read the shit that I write. I can’t believe how long I’ve been going for now, and that apparently not everyone is utterly bored by this little internet-corner’s very existence. Have a picture of me and my cat by way of thanks:


Scoop thanks you for your continued support, and also wonders if you have treats. 

Other stuff: I’ve been posting a little less than normal recently. That sucks, because I love taking the time out to write stuff for The Cutprice Guignol; getting to write about whatever issues, TV shows, or movies that have been bouncing around my head is awesome, and coming here to write stuff about them is my happy place. However, being a recent graduate and all that crap, I’ve been working a lot- a whole fucking lot, in fact, just to make ends meet. Which means that this blog is naturally going to take a bit of a back burner. I’ve got no intention of shutting it down or ending my work here, but posts will be down to probably one or two a week till things get settled down, which I’m hoping will have happened in the next couple of months. American Horror Story recaps will go on as normal, and in the meantime the blog directory is right there for you to get your teeth into if you just can’t bare to be without my fabulous self till then.

So, again, thanks for all your support, and here’s to another wonderawful year at the Guignol!


American Horror Story Recaps: Chapter Three

Well, this episode was…something. To be honest, I think this was a pretty solid outing for the show, but the whole thing has been overshadowed by Ryan Murphy not being able to keep his big mouth shut.

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Final Fifty Shades Darker Recap: Chapter Twenty-Two

And so, friends, we reach the end of another Fifty Shades “book”. Hush, hush, hold your tears, for as soon as my American Horror Story recaps are done, I’ll be back for the final segment of this thrillogy. In the meantime- Let’s. Do. It.


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American Horror Story Recaps: Chapter Two

Since last week’s recap, I have been drowning under a big pile of work while this blog has lain sadly dormant, but more importantly, Sarah Paulson won a fucking Emmy! I mean, not for American Horror Story, so this is tangential at best, but still. At last! And she looked like some kind of divine, haughty mermaid while she did it. Ugh, this news has been making me smile all week. Sarah Paulson might legitimately be the peak human we have to offer right now, and I’m fine with that.

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Fifty Shades Darker: Chapter Twenty-One

Quick side-note: I wrote about Fifty Shades and consent in pop culture earlier this week, and you can find the article here if you missed it.

You know there are only thirty-three pages left in this hideous book? I can’t believe how quickly we ploughed through this one- and, with the glistening prospect of Fifty Shades Freed on the horizon, how far we still have left to go. This is the second-last chapter (!) of Darker, and Ana has just given Christian some time in the playroom as a birthday present.

Christian asks if there’s anything Ana doesn’t want, and she replies that she doesn’t want him taking pictures of her- a clear reference to the fact she found his stash of photos of previous subs, which she still hasn’t confronted him about, by the way. He’s baffled, but agrees, and they enter the playroom, where Christian puts on some music.

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American Horror Story Recaps: Chapter One

So, in the absence of Doctor Who, my recapping muscles have been twitching, rumbling, desperate for use. I needed something to fill that void. A new show to cover-something that fits the Doctor Who mould. Something from a creator I love to hate. Something that can either be fantastic or fucking abominable. Something I’ve watched, passionately, for years. Something…spooky.


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Fifty Shades of Grey, The Path, and Pop Culture’s Consent Problem

I don’t think it’s out-there to say that pop culture has something of a problem with consent. I’ve been thinking about this particular subject recently, after I published a Fifty Shades Darker recap in which the leading man raped the leading lady- because a lot of the conversations I had surrounding that scene pointed to the fact that, while she initially said no, when he carried on, she relented and they ended up having sex.

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