The name of this mind boggling broadcast madness is entitled, “Welcome to Briarcliff”….which according to tonight’s premier episode is hell on Earth. Name one tuberculosis ward turned Catholic owned and operated mental instution that isn’t. But kids, this one is Hollywood bad. Like last season, creators Ryan Murphy and Brad Fulchuck continue to borrow shtick from other films.
We open with a newlywed couple, played by Adam Levine (Maroon 5’s frontman and some Vanessa Hudgens lookin’ chick) on their honeymoon which consists of touring the country’s most haunted locations.
Enter the spooky, run down ediface known as Briarcliff.
And that’s what they did.
They break through the dilapidated front doors. We are treated to a view of Briarcliff’s innards for the first time. They’re dark and dank–creepy; obviously abandoned for commercial use for years. There are piles of nurses shoes, rusted equipment, falling walls and ceilings and graffiti scribbled on the what’s left of the walls courtesy of hoodlums with exquisite penmanship. I’ve never seen neater gang signs and logos.
The couple vows to kink light fantastic by having sex somewhere in the building’s haunted confines. They’re hoping to find the Death Chute which hauled all the bodies of patients who died from tuberculosis from the building to an on-premise cemetery (just like the Waverly Hills Sanitorium–an old, broken TB hospital whose ghosts have been hunted to near extinction). They also hope they can find the cell which at one time housed Briarcliff’s most famous inmate, Bloody Face, a mass murderer. They find an old exam table–make out on that for a while, then wifey promises mind-blowing oral sex if hubby looks in what appears to be a dumb-waiter. Instead, he sticks his hand in with his phone in camera mode and records whatever is in that hole in the wall. Suddenly, we see a flash on his camera phone…it’s a gruesome face which takes Adam’s arm. He pulls back a bloody stub and commences to go into shock. The wife screams and we’re immediately swooshed back to 1964.
Remember Tate from last season? Well, this go round he’s a short-haired brunette, gas station attendant, dealing with grumpy customers who feel as though they’re being robbed at gunpoint by paying a whopping 14-cents a gallon. He then has a run-in with some friends…the gist of which I didn’t hear because I had to make a potty break. I return to my TV set to find Tate at home where he’s greeted by his Lisa Bonet looking wife, with whom he eloped. Now keep in mind, this is 1964 and apparently, somewhere south of the Mason/Dixon line. Interracial marriages were–oh, let’s just say ‘frowned upon”. Both are scared by what their families AND a Jim Crowish society will think–and do.
Well, after Tate gets home from work, he and the Mrs. have a little carnal knowledge of each other, then suddenly there’s a loud noise and a brilliant white light. He’s convinced it’s his trouble making friends making mischief, so he grabs a gun and heads outside where he’s suddenly bathed in the same blinding white light shining down from above. He fires a couple of shots into the trees, then hears his wife scream and runs back in the house that’s now in total disarray. She’s nowhere to be found and then he has this odd acid trip in which objects around him start defying gravity (an homage to “Close Encounters” one would think).The next thing we learn is that he killed three women, including wife. But wait, there’s more. . We find out that he also skinned them. One eye-witness said he ran out of the house wearing a mask made of skin (Ed Gein anyone??? It was this mass murder’s antics on which The Texas Chainsaw Massacre was based. He’s sent to Briarcliff for rehab until the court system can try him.
Briarcliff is managed by Sister Jude (Jessica Lange), an ice veined broad with a sadistic streak eight miles long. Her right hand monastic comadre is some sycophant nunling with big blue eyes who cowers in her presence. She brings in Sarah Pauley’s character (she was the psychic in later episodes last season). Sarah is a newspaper reporter in Bobbie Brooke boucle suits and narrow pumps guaranteed to create hammer toes. She connives her way into Briarcliff under the guise of interviewing Sister Jude about their institution’s kitchen prowess. It’s staff makes a mean molasses bread, apparently. Now, what this reporter really wants is an exclusive interview with Tate Bloody Face. When Sister Jude realizes that she’s been had, she kicks Pauley out of the institution, banning her from ever returning. She goes home and tells her roommate, with whom she is in love, that she’ll get the story one way or the other. Yes, they’re lesbians. Now, keep in mind, this is this is 1964 and apparently, somewhere south of the Mason/Dixon line. Lesbian relationships were–oh, let’s just say ‘frowned upon”.
What bothered me about this scene wasn’t the fact that two women were about to embrace and kiss–demonstrating their love and attraction for each other, but that Sarah P’s lover, an elementary school teacher, insisted that they close the blinds first. Odd. She left them wide open as she sat at the table and sparked up a joint before dinner
One more thing about this reporter. When she enters the grounds of Briarcliff, she’s confronted by what some would call a pinhead, which is a street term for a person who’s microcephalic, a condition characterised by an abnormally small and often pointed cranium. This is often called “pinhead syndrome” and almost always resulted in retardation. Or in the case of this particular inmate character, murder. She drowned her sister’s children. I took one look at the harmless looking tiny headed one and thought of Schlitze, the pinhead star of Todd Browning’s epic 1932 classic, Freaks.
Anyway, we get to see a very shackled Tate enter Briarcliff. He’s greet by guards who rough him up and sedate him with a shot in the neck. He eventually comes to with Sister Jude by his bedside. His hands and feet are bound to the bed. Sister Jude does a little trash talking–insisting he’s an evil killer. He insists he’s innocent and little green men from Mars did the murderous deeds. She calls bullshit on that tale and asks him if his wife’s “dark meat slid off the bone easier than his other victims”. Tate lets loose with the arsenal he has at his bound disposal: he spits in her face. She tells him he’ll regret that, then walks over to this built-in cupboard (which apparently every room in this asylunm has) that’s stocked with a multitude of spank-ready devices: chains, canes, whips of various lengths and malleability, rods, straps, poles and paddles–leftover props from the erotic movie, 9 1/2 Weeks.
In the next scene, Tate is walking into Briacliff’s common room where other inmates/miscreants are sitting, banging their heads again the wall, swatting at imaginary flies, swaying slack-jawed, sitting in chairs in catatonic states and generally looking like extras from One Flew Over The Cuckoos Nest. His hospital gown is open in the back; his whooped, reddened ass looks like a striped barber’s pole. He befriends Grace who has a French accent who insists she sane, although she’s accused of slaughtering her entire family. The Singing Nun’s 1964 hit, “Dominique” is playing over and over again. She tells Tate that one of the rules is that the record must play continuously whenever inmates are allowed Common Room time.
Tate is then confronted by Mark (Mr. Kelly Rippa) Consuelos, completely miscast as a tough talking Brooklynite bad ass, who wants to take on “Bloody Face” They have a fight. Sister Jude comes running in with her nightstick wielding thug/guards and once again, Tate is beaten into submission.
Or unconsciousness, whichever came first.
He’s thrown in a dark, dank cell and fitted with a straight jacket.
The next thing we see is the sycophant nunling having a conversation with the staff doctor played by James Cromwell, who was Archie Bunker’s best friend, Stretch Cunningham…Babe’s dad, Lewis’s father, Mr. Skolnick in Revenge of The Nerds and more recently, Prince Phillip in The Queen. This sawbones is apparently Briarcliff’s version of Dr. Mengele. It’s implied by Sister Jude in an earlier scene that he performs experiments..some lethal..on patients with no family. They die due to ‘natural causes” and are buried on premises…or are they?
I ask because the sycophant Sister Nunling ( who was the ghost of Mrs. Montgomery, the crazy ass doctor’s wife last season) is instructed to haul buckets of bloody meat out to the woods. The bloody buckets are eiteher the remnants of missing patients or sloppy joes that the inmates couldn’t or wouldn’t eat. She puts the buckets down, then hears loud, hunger pangs as the creatures approach; they know it’s suppertime. The Dingaling Nun high tails it out of there, but she’s encountered by the Sarah Pauley reporter who’s been nosing around..at night…in the woods..alone and cons the Nunling to allow her entry to Briarcliff. She obliges, taking the reporter in through a back entrance that few know about. This takes them down to a row of the inmate’s cells; a gauntlet they must past through to get back to the main building. It’s there where we see Mark Consuelos behind bars. He says something rude to the women, then like Miggs–one of Hannibel Lector’s fellow basement cell dwellers from Silence of the Lambs, throws either excrement or seminal fluid at them. A chunk of gooey repulsion lands on the Nunling’s face. She screams and leaves to clean it off, instructing the reporter to stay there and wait for her to return.
That’s when Sister Jude enters the hallway on her night rounds. The reporter hides by slipping into a vacant cell.
Potty break number two prevented me from learning what happened next.
All I know is that when I returned to my Sealy Posturepedic perch, a whopping eight ounces lighter, the reporter is lying in a bed, with a neck brace or head halo on. She’s also bound to the bed. As usual, Sister Jude is there and insists she’s to stay at Briarcliff ‘to heal”.
After a day or two, her girlfriend worries about her because she’s not heard from her. She knew she was going to attempt to get inside for the real story of Bloody Face, so she came to the institution looking for her. The all-knowing Sister Jude outs her–knows she’s a lesbian and threatens to tell the school board that she’s a big ol’ dyke if she takes the matter of her missing girlfriend to the police. She signs a piece of paper and goes on home, alone and feeling like a total sell out. Some part of this scene–to me, at least–was reminiscent of the Shirley MacLaine/Audrey Hepburn movie, The Children’s Hour.
In the meantime, the sadistic doctor wakes Tate up in his call; jabs him with ten cc’s of something vile and when he awakens, he’s strapped to an examination table. One a nearby tray table is every known torture device…some the Vietcong didn’t even know about. Scapels and syringes with thick needes….a button hook or two from teh set of Cybill. The doctor, whose convined Tate is Bloody Face wants to get into his head and figure out what makes him tick. His eyes are forced open wide with this device that looks like it could be a rotisserie for chicken and once the meds surge through his veins, he has a flashback involving his wife, her screams and being sucked into a cloudy, vapor-like ether by the aliens. In this scene, we learned he was probed by the beings who took his wife and probablyu skinned her for sport.
Potty break number three prevented me from finding out what happened immediately after that, but I’ve read overviews of the episode to find out what I missed. Apparently, during the exam, the doctor feels a lump in his Tate’s neck and with a slice of a scapel, out popped a rhombus shaped piece of metal that morphs into a roach-like spider and flies off.
The next thing I knew, it was present day. The Vanessa Hudgins look-alike wife is screaming at her now armless husband, begging him to stay alert and conscious.. She attempts to run out of the institution to get back to the car, to get help, but the doors are now chained shut. The next thing I see is that some Leather Face lookin’ mother fella is walking down a hall that oddly enough has working light fixtures. She’s confronted by a character than can only be the mythical Bloody Face who looks a lot like Leatherface from all those Texas Chainsaw Massacre movies. Meanwhile, Adam Levine is still lying on the floor, oozing life.
So, what else did I miss? Potty breaks tend to leave holes in the action.
Feel free to fill in the blanks in your comments. I’d appreciate it.
Overall, I’d say episode one was okay, but hardly stellar. Nothing jumped out and scared me like certain scenes from last season, then again, we’re not talking about ghosts in round two of AHS. This season will be mostly about the mind and let’s face it, our imaginations can be scarier then reality.
Case in point: taking that dreaded Sophomore chemistry final. The fear and anxiety it created pre-test, were worse than the exam itself. So was that audition, that job interview….that blind date.
Hearing the A/C click on in the dead of night can sound like Bad Ronald (an ABC “Movie of The Week” from the mid seventies in which a disturbed young man played by kid actor, Scott Jacoby, secretly lived in a the attic of a nice families’ home) stalking you from the other side of the popcorn ceiling in your bedroom.
We’re able to humanize the damndest thigns. We see faces of people and things in tortillas, clouds, a shirt wrinkle, a gouping of ass moles, on tree trunks, on grease stains at an auto shop. We hear people lurking outside our homes, scratching on our windows. It’s really just a breeze propelled tree limb that’s just BEGGING for a good pruning.
I have a feeling that the producers of Season Two will attempt to force our imaginations to do some of their theatrical bidding. If you noticed, none of the violence was ever shown. Fancy editing cut away from the scene just before Sister Jude picked her spanking weapon of choice. When the jack booted thugs-slash-Briarcliff nightstick brandishing guards were just about to bop Tate on the head for fighting with Kelly Rippa’s husband, the scene changed. We saw no head to nightstick contact….no cane-to-ass skin shellacking. We really didn’t see what are obviously the good doctor’s physically/mentally augured experiments–the ones that endured makeshift lobotomies and Lysol enemas–the ones that perhaps Sister Nunling was feeding out in the woods.
Of course there were holes in the plot–other than those my tee -tee sessions created. The same very same zombies or….bloodthirsty E.T’s that killed Tate’s wife and others, DIDN’T kill the snooping reporter who was out late at night, by herself, on their turf. The time line flip-flops were a bit incongruous, but what the hell, TV aint brain surgery.
Still, if I were to be totally honest, I must say that I’m not sure how I’m going to feel about this season. Granted, one episode into it might be too early to make any kind of statement, but let it be known right here and now that I’m not a fan of UFO’s or the little green men who pilot them. Zombied out living dead do nothing for me–regardless of when they attack, be it dawn, night or day. Psychological wear and tear is just fine when properly mixed with a little Wes Craven, John Carpenter and Tobe Hooper. If tha’s the case, I’ll definitely stay tuned, but for me to do it weekly, there will have to be rock solid wow factor that frankly, episode one didn’t have. Again, it’s early. I’ll give it time, but I’m going to need more zing.
Next week, we’ll be introduced to Zachary Quinto’s character. There’s mention of an exorcism. Perhaps that’ll add some of the zing I’ll need to return each week. We’ll learn more about Bloody Face who based on the last scene of the episode is still working the halls of Briarcliff, in search of more victims for his dining or experimental pleasure. That said, the person I would say behind all that sinew would be the doctor, but considering he was in his mid to late 60’s in 1964 when this season takes place, that seems improbable. Perhaps its Sister Jude who needs a steady flow of nut jobs to inahbit the cells at Briarcliff to keep its numbers up. Maybe its the monsignor, but with them, it’s the same numbers game. That would mean they’ve been steadily murdering people for….48 years!!!!!! Hell, even Pol Pot’s official villainous reign of terror lasted a mere eight years. I seriously don’t think it was or his Tate. Maybe its the ghost I need for viewing staying power or maybe even an otherwise invisible or nebulous space alien with a jones for blood. The only way it can take human form is by skinning its victims and wearing their flesh. Who knows? But one thing is for sure: Bloody Face will be this season’s version of last year’s mystery guy in the black, shiney Latex onesy.
And speaking of last season, it took four episodes to see Dylan McDermott’s finely honed ass. Remember when Ben stepped out of the shower?? Well, by the time the clock reached 42 minutes into the Season premier, we were treated to Tate’s butt, Sister Nunling’s ass and glimpses of the hiney belonging to the Vanessa Hudgin’s look-alike getting banged on a rusty old examination table….with restraints still attached.
By the way, Ben, played by the dashing Dylan McDermott has just signed on to appear in one or two episodes this season.
Lastly, how did you like Sister Jude’s priestly fantasy? Who knew under that black habit of hers was a silk slip–red, to match her passion and her out of this world, tasty as hell, coq au vin?
Once again, imagination at work.
But is it enough to garner Sister Jude her second Emmy nomination and win?
Let me know what I missed. It had to be substantial because I feel like a plate of an only half eaten meal was removed before I was done. If I were to compare tonight’s premier gastronomically, it left me feeling as though I’d eaten a big but mediocre tasting meal and the only thing that could make me feel better is a loud, forceful, shingle shaking belch. But alas, I cannot burp and if I can’t burp, I can’t feel sated. Sad but I feel this way after the season premier. I can only hope the next seven shows offer me burpability.
I’ll give it one more proverbial college try and will return to FX and this lowly computer next Wednesday night.
And I promise I’ll drink less beer.