American Horror Story is in the middle of its new season entitled “Double Feature” and tonight wrapped up the first story, “Red Tide,” so I thought I’d do a quick review. Mild spoilers to follow…
“Red Tide” spanned six episodes and told the tale of a pill that could enhance your natural creative talent, but if you weren’t talented and took the pill, you’d end up as a feral Nosferatu-looking blood-sucker.
Enter Harry Gardner (Finn Witrock), his pregnant wife Doris (Lily Rabe), and their nine-year-old daughter Alma (Ryan Kiera Armstrong). Harry has brought his family to the small coastal tourist town of Provincetown, Massachusetts to write his masterpiece script. Meanwhile Doris fancies herself as an interior designer, and Alma is a violin prodigy.
Since they arrive in the winter, the town is pretty dead…in more ways than one.
Out one night, Harry runs into fellow writers Belle Noir (Frances Conroy), a famous erotica novelist, and Austin Sommers (Evan Peters), a playwright. The two tempt Harry with a black pill they swear will supercharge his writing and creativity.
At first he resists, but a bad bout of writer’s block causes him to down the pill. Four hours later he has fully written a script that his agent Ursula (Leslie Grossman) says everyone wants to buy.
He wants more pills of course, but starts noticing nasty side effects, including a need for blood. Unfortunately Alma has stolen a pill from Harry’s stash, and starts craving blood, too.
Meanwhile there are subplots of the town sheriff (Adina Porter) investigating mysterious deaths; best friends Mickey (Macaulay Culkin) and Karen (Sarah Paulson) who prostitute around town, as well as providing other services for a fee; a creepy tattoo artist/thrift shop owner (Billie Lourd); and The Chemist (Angelica Ross), the woman behind the black pill.
The season started out as a serious horror story for the first five episodes, but as usual in an AHS season, the finale was a bit of a mess. The entire Provincetown build-up was over in less than 30 minutes, after which the surviving characters relocated to Los Angeles and started handing out pills like candy.
It was like they were trying to shoehorn a second season of the story into the remaining 30 minutes, and every time you thought they were going to wrap up the Red Tide story line, they kept adding a new coda. It was like the ending of Lord of the Rings: Return of the King where you kept thinking it was done but no…here’s more.
I noticed there was also more profanity and sexualized violence in this half-season. I’m not averse to a well-placed swear word but it felt more like they were doing the language and vulgarity just to see what they could get past the censors, rather than it actually adding anything to the story. AHS: Cult and AHS: Hotel had this issue, too.
For the most part “Red Tide” was enjoyable except for the finale. Even if the last few seasons fell short for you, this first part of the “Double Feature” season is worth a watch.
I’m giving American Horror Story – Double Feature: Red Tide 3.5 out of 5 stars.
AMERICAN HORROR STORY – DOUBLE FEATURE: RED TIDE
Directors: John J. Gray, Loni Peristere, Axelle Carolyn
Cast: Finn Wittrock, Lily Rabe, Ryan Kiera Armstrong, Evan Peters, Frances Conroy, Macaulay Culkin, Sarah Paulson, Leslie Grossman, Adina Porter, Angelica Ross, Billie Lourd
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