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American Horror Story: Coven Recap: “Head” (Season 3, Episode 9)

Well, we’ve hit that point in the season when the writers start to toss things at the wall willy-nilly. In last year’s Asylum¬†it was in episode nine (“Coat Hanger”) that, as ScreenRant put it, the writers started leaping “from dangling plot thread to dangling plot thread in an attempt to set up all the pieces for the push into the final episodes.”

Myrtle in American Horror Story: Coven

How did your hair grow back after you were burned at the stake and resurrected? “Honey, I’ve been buying in bulk in Korea for years!” Photo copyright 2013, FX Networks.

“Head” opens on an idyllic father-son camping trip in the Chattahoochee National Forest; they share coffee from a thermos as sunlight filters through the dust motes hanging in the air. They speak earnestly of hunting, of a desire “not to miss.” When the time comes, though, little Hank hesitates a bit too long while a jaundiced, pale witch with a halo of red hair begs him to let her live; she almost kills both father and son before Daddy shoots her in the head. Does it strike anybody else odd that witch hunters would be able to just, you know, find a national forest and literally hunt witches like they were game? “Got a nine-pointer, son!”

Kyle Cooper’s Prologue Films¬†created the titles for The Walking Dead, Sleepy Hollow, Prometheus, and a number of others. Before that, Mr. Cooper designed the titles for Se7en, which have stuck with me as a profoundly spooky, entirely unsettling sequence that drops you face first into the deeply dark world of Fincher’s film. A friend pointed out that perhaps the “scariest” part of American Horror Story is the opening credits. The show isn’t about terror, jump moments, or psychological thrills. It’s about making you feel as bloody uncomfortable as possible. The credits succeed at that – slivers of imagery, jerky movement, artfully timed shots so that just when you’ve got your head around a severed goat’s head or an insectile, humanoid creature in the trees, it flips to the next spooky-ass thing. Beneath the images a ghastly series of sounds plays, subwoofers prodding at your eardrums as dripping water synthesizes a rhythm and a guitar squeals discordantly. The effect is chilling and discomfiting, and you can’t look away. The credit sequence is near-perfect (but the rest of the show certainly isn’t).

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