American Horror Story: Red Tide - I'm starting to watch and feel the need to talk about this series! (CONTAINS SPOILERS FROM EPISODE 1 AND 2).
American Horror Story: Red Tide
POST CONTAINS SPOILERS.
You know what I hate? Horror films. But, you know what I love? American Horror Story. While the title implies scary, it would probably be more accurate to consider it a branch of the gothic – which is a little less gory and a whole lot less jump-scare inclined in its construction.
For those of you are unfamiliar with the show, it’s basically a 10 episode story with an unsettling or other-worldly aspect to it. The original was set in a haunted house, along the way there has been a hotel which you couldn’t leave, an asylum, a witch’s coven, a summer camp with a mystery murderer on the loose and so on. The series are always confronting and contain plot twists, clever dialogue and incredibly good acting.
Between the series there is no cross over of storyline or characters, but, the same actors play thread their way through the series. It’s actually really good because you see their scope and their ability to create such widely varied personas.
The most recent addition to the franchise is Red Tide – and, I’m not two nights into it and feel the need to give it a plug. The whole series is called, ‘Double Feature’, which made me think this one would be set at a drive-in, but I’m not thinking there might be two parts to the series. (Edit: as I copied the series cover image into this post, I see an above the water, below the water thing going on, I guess this is a bit of a clue, given one half of the image has reddish hues over it).
In a nutshell then, here’s the plot: a husband (a screen writer), his wife (a want-to-be interior designer) and their daughter (who seems to do nothing but play the violin) arrive in Provincetown for the Winter. They are there for some peace and quiet and to allow Harry to write his next big screenplay – but, he’s got writer’s block. He sits at his screen for hours and produces an empty page.
But there is something sinister about the town, as Harry’s pregnant wife and his daughter are chased by a creepy looking figure through the town. A number of creepy looking figures congregate outside of their rental property, and one breaks in and attacks Harry – only for Harry to smash his head in. The end credits, quite hilariously, called these figures, ‘Pale Person 1’ and ‘Pale Person 2’ and so on. We laughed at this, and of course, it gives nothing away about who they are.
The first episode is also punctuated by Tuberculosis Karen, portrayed by the fabulous Sarah Paulson – who typically takes a leading role in the AHS narratives. She seems to be in the background at the minute, but she pops up warning Harry to leave, and to beware of the bloodsuckers. It seemed that her portents of doom were establishing a vampiric storyline.
This was made clearer in Episode 2 – as Harry had met two of the town’s most internationally celebrated stars, a novelist and a Tony award winning script writer. The pair of them invite Harry for a drink, and declare their success comes from a little black pill. I’ll be honest, it looked like a black jelly bean to me – but on taking the pill, if you are talented, it enhances talent. If you are not talented, you become one of the creepy lifeless figures roaming the town. Risky, eh? But, staring at a blank page Harry takes the pill – and, without sleeping, produces volumes of pages which his agent back home declares to be brilliant – in fact, she’s already sold the script and on-boarded famous celebrities for the roles.
Of course, the side effects kick in: the pill (let’s call it the jelly bean) depletes part of your blood supply, and to replenish yourself, you must find a source of nourishment. This leads to the writers group heading out of town to kill a junkie they found online. There’s humour in the moment as Harry notices he feels ‘buzzed’, only to be told that’s the crystal meth in the blood they just consumed.
It sets up the trade-off then: keep taking the jelly beans and be brilliant, live for the success and accolades of all you meet – but, you need to kill people. Or, stop taking the pills and remain ordinary and unappreciated. As Harry sits back down at his computer to continue writing his series, the page remains blank and his choice is made for him as he reaches for his supply of pills. Could he possibly have noticed that his daughter, struggling to play a violin piece, had already taken one too? The second episode concludes with Harry’s wife finding their daughter draining the blood from some forest creature in the local cemetery. An appropriately figurative setting, I’d suggest.
Of course – as any AHS, this show, only two episodes in is asking a lot of questions and while it is providing some concrete plot elements to help audience understanding – I’m now waiting for the something more or something extra that I know is coming!
And, I am very interested to see where a new face in the series, Macauley Culkin, is going. We’ve met his character briefly a few times – and I can only imagine, given his name does have a bit of cachet, that he might do something more. As the second Episode concludes, he is hanging out with Tuberculosis Karen (Sarah Paulson) and has just taken his own black jellybean he had stolen from the romance writer, Belle Noir.
I look forward to checking back in and letting you know how this series is going!