American Horror Story: My Roanoke Nightmare “Chapter 6” REVIEW
Essential Plot Points:
- Well this is different.
- We open on a title card. It explains that My Roanoke Nightmare was the TV success of 2015, beating football, Empire and The Walking Dead.
- Then it talks about how a follow-up series was commissioned…
- And we’re in. With the producer of the show, Sidney, talking to his cameraman telling him to NOT stop filming.
- He goes into a meeting, pitching the sequel and explaining what it will be. They will film EVERYTHING, including the planning process. The planning process for…
- Return To Roanoke: 3 Days in Hell.
- EVERYONE is going back to the house. EVERYONE.
- The actors and the original Shelby, Lee and Matt.
- During the Blood Moon.
- Sure! This’ll go well!
- The pitch meeting doesn’t go super well, especially as the board is concerned about the unsatisfactory ending of the last season, with no resolution to Mason’s murder. Nonetheless, they make the sale and on the way out the producer finds out Shelby wants nothing to do with it…
- He interviews Real Shelby. She wants none of it. Hatchets are found in her front door, people leave her death threats and she’s separated from Matt. She talks about how doing the show should have been a healing experience and instead it opened the wounds.
- Oh, and Real Shelby was caught dating Dominic Banks, the actor who played Matt in the re-enactments.
- Shelby explains that she was lonely, that her husband wasn’t speaking to her and that if she went back to the house Matt couldn’t avoid speaking to her. She agrees, on the condition that Dominic doesn’t take part. Sidney agrees.
- And then immediately confirms that Dominic is signed on.
- Sidney and his assistant arrive at the house, which Sidney bought from Matt. The house is being rigged with cameras and countless special effects designed to terrify the inhabitants. Sidney’s assistant, Dee, is NOT.COOL.with any of this.
- She takes him to one side and objects to the pop up scares rather than the real horror of the “original” season. Sidney tells her he isn’t interested in real horror. He wants to use the show to get justice, and have Lee admit that she killed her husband. He even gets the cast trailers moved out of sight.
- Then a crewmember comes and gets him. They’ve found something behind a nearby tree; a ring of dead, foetal pigs.
- Agnes Mary Winstead is introduced. She’s the actress who played the Butcher. She’s softly spoken, gracious and just a little pretentious. She talks about how she felt a connection even at audition and, brilliantly, we see the auditions and the various other takes on the Butcher.
- Agnes is actually pretty cool until Sidney probes her on the “Hollywood” incident. Which, it turns out, was her running down Hollywood Boulevard dressed as the Butcher screaming, “THIS IS MY LAND! THIS IS MY LAND!” and waving a cleaver at people. It turns out she’s deep in therapy, stole props from the show and claims she’s fine now.
- And that’s when Sidney shows her the chain of foetal pigs. And calls the police in to serve a restraining order on Agnes. He turns the lights out on her, tells her she’s done and leaves. Agnes seethes, still on camera and pursues them out screaming in character as she does so.
- Cut to E!News and actual TV blogger Kristin Dos Santos. Hey Kristin! She’s interviewing Lee, the real Lee, who confirms she’s coming back. Kristin brings up the question of Mason’s murder and Lee reveals her mother-in-law is suing for custody of Flora. So Flora lived! Yay!
- And then we cut to the production office where Sidney confirms with legal that they’re not going to be liable if Lee kills on the show. THIS IS ACTUALLY ROCK SOLID LEGAL PRACTICE AND ALSO TERRIFYING.
- Legal also brings up the issue of Monet Tumusiime, the actress who played Lee who’s a recovering alcoholic meaning the network and production cannot knowingly provide alcohol to her. Sidney is terrified because as he puts it, “Alcohol is the secret sauce of reality TV.” He reassures Sidney that the issue here is “knowingly” giving her alcohol. As he puts it, “If she’s a real alcoholic, she’s going to find a drink on her own.”
- Then they get a call about a major problem on set. They race over there to find an ambulance on site and a blood-soaked bodybag WITH A FREAKING HEAD ON ITS CHEST being taken away. Sid’s shown production footage of what appears to be a crewmember chainsawing their own head off. He talks to the Union rep, who suggests they give the crew a day to get over what happened at the very least. When Sid finds out that the cast are landing in four hours, he vows that they go ahead. Dee, his assistant, wants them to shut down. Sid patronises her. Dee quits. We are officially Team Dee.
- She drives off, talking into the GoPro on her dashboard and explaining what’s really happening. Then, she stops; someone in blood-soaked puritan clothes is standing on the road. She does the sensible thing, drives like hell away from them and then a VERY different, far more organic and unpleasant looking piggyman appears in her back seat and crashes her car.
- We get a text card that reads: FOOTAGE FROM DIANA CROSS’S CAMERA WAS FOUND THREE MONTHS LATER BY POLICE OFFICERS. HER BODY HAS NOT BEEN FOUND.
- Sorry, Dee.
- And we’re back! With Audrey Tindall! The actress who played Shelby! And she’s English! And Sarah Paulson actually KNOWS HOW TO DO THE ACCENT.
- We get some production footage of the scene where Edward leads them out last episode. “Shelby” falls over, swears and they cut. “Edward” hits on her in an actually rather sweet way and she shuts him down in a polite and British manner. Sarah Paulson and Evan Peters, AHS MVPs for life.
- She’s doing a video confession when “Edward” – who it turns out is an American actor called Rory – turns up. Oh, he’s Audrey’s new husband! We’re SURE that will not end badly in the slightest!
- After a gloriously cheesy wedding video we see them claim their bedroom and immediately begin making out.
- They’re interrupted by a phone call; Rory’s being called back to LA for a screen test for Brad Pitt.
- Audrey isn’t concerned.
- Except she very clearly is.
- They make their way down into the dining room and see a shadow outside the house; they investigate and Agnes smashes a window with her cleaver. They run for the door and the others arrive.
- Audrey is freaked out and explains that Agnes put her through hell. We get a text card showing the transcript of Audrey’s 911 call when Agnes tried to attack her and steal her Saturn award.
- Rory comforts her and Shelby congratulates the pair of them. She explains that it’s “never too late for love” and Audrey rips her a new one, guessing she’s making a crack about the age difference between them.
- Then Matt and Lee arrive. Maximum awkward.
- Sidney hands out phones that have had everything disabled aside from the cameras. Sidney tries to get Matt and Shelby to sleep in the same room and Matt’s having none of it. Lee cooks off about both those things and Shelby tries to reason with her.
- Later that night, Audrey, Rudy and Monet are talking about the argument and pouring scorn on whether Matt and Shelby told the truth. Matt comes in, tells them to look outside and they see the Blood Moon. They still don’t get it.
- We get a title card that reads: OVER THE NEXT THREE DAYS DURING THE BLOOD MOON, EVERY PARTICIPANT IN THIS SERIES DIED UNDER MYSTERIOUS CIRCUMSTANCES.
EXCEPT FOR ONE
THE SHOW PLANNED BY PRODUCERS NEVER AIRED.
THIS IS THE ASSEMBLED FOOTAGE
- Buckle up everyone
- Later that night, Rory and Audrey are having sex in the hot tub and filming it. Matt moves into the basement to sleep. Shelby sits alone in her room. Monet gets drinking. Lee returns from… somewhere and a blood-soaked, scorched-naked man walks into and out of shot behind her, staring her at the camera.
- Audrey goes in to take a shower, leaving Rory in the hot tub. He tells her he’ll be right in so he may be first.
- Shelby wanders the house, doing her best to avoid a seemingly unconcerned Lee.
- We see her sneak down to the basement to try and reason with Matt. Matt doesn’t think they should have come back, but Shelby thinks the extra people and cameras mean they won’t be allowed to be hurt. Matt isn’t buying it.
- Monet finds Lee in the dining room. Monet’s clearly drunk. Lee tries to reach out to her, and Monet claims she’s a drunk because of the time she spent as Lee. Lee responds that the people who yell murderer at her in the street aren’t seeing her, they’re seeing who Monet chose her to be and storms off.
- There’s a knock at the door and Shelby, who appears to have temporarily forgotten what show she’s in and where she’s living, opens it. Dominic’s outside. Dominic comes in. Dominic and Matt see each other.
- We smash cut to the video confessional. Matt in a torn shirt, with a split lip and out of breath says, “Gotta say… it felt NICE to finally meet Dominic in person.”
- Matt and Dominic beat on each other and are broken up by Rory and Shelby. Shelby COOKS OFF, flipping off the nearest camera and yelling at Sidney.
- Audrey, taking a shower, hears the door open and thinks its Rory. It, of course, is not. It’s the Piggyman.
- She screams, runs downstairs and is embraced by Rory. She explains what happened, Rory goes upstairs to kick the guy’s ass and is stabbed to death by the evil nurses.
- One down.
- Downstairs, Matt sees the word MURDER painted in fresh blood on the wall.
- The others are in the dining room talking about how real this all is. Matt, traumatised, stumbles in and says, “R is for Rory.”
Okay then! That was not entirely unexpected but executed so much better than we’d been hoping for. AHS turns on a dime and suddenly we’re on the other side of the camera and, thematically, very much through the looking glass.
The show wastes no time getting down to business on that and it pays off constantly. The reveal that “Shelby” is, in fact, an English actress called Audrey is impressive. The reveal that Shelby had a fling with Dominic who played “Matt” is more so. But it’s Kathy Bates as Agnes Mary Winstead who’s really chilling. The way the show goes from standard interview to curdled confrontation is brilliant and sets Agnes up as a major antagonist.
Except we think that would be too easy. As this season shifts gear again, we end up with something akin to the early Dark Castle remakes of classic horror movies. Here’s a spooky location! Here’s a group of people! Place your bets! That model is always fun but added to the discussions of identity here it’s incredibly entertaining throughout. The show has moments of Big Brother-esque on camera bitching, cheeky cut backs to the “previous season” and some really powerful scenes. The confrontation between Lee and Monet in particular crackles with tension; one of these woman has ruined the other’s life despite never having met her before. Perception is everything, until reality really does kick in.
But the breakout star this week, aside from Evan Peters’ second role of the season as the puppyish and doomed Rory, is Cheyenne Jackson. A small part of Hotel, he relishes getting the spotlight here. Sidney is a Machiavellian nightmare, a man who will say and do anything to get his show on the air. He claims it’s for justice but, frankly, we’re not buying it. We think he’s jealous of the attention his cast got and this time round, he wants some of that for himself.
And, in doing so, he too blurs the lines between reality and fiction, dead and alive. Sidney’s a producer who’s also a star, the house is a modern home on ancient land, the real and fictional Shelby, Lee and Matt are all there. The show has been turned inside out and the Blood Moon is rising. This is going to get complex, bloody and even more fun than it already is. We can’t wait.
- “They’re not seeing me. They’re seeing the person you chose to put on the screen.” All the stuff about identity and perception in this episode is fascinating. But this moment, between Lee and Monet and how different they are is the best
- “I’m interested in using horror to find JUSTICE.” Such a great line and he’s lying to himself. Sidney’s using horror to find ratings. Justice is just an added bonus.
- Angela Bassett’s direction is GREAT. The show feels completely different, very organic, and slightly choppy as it needs to be. Plus we love the title cards and the multi-camera format and hope they stay. Plus we want to see lots more from her on that side of the camera. She brings the same presence, lightness of touch and intelligence as she does in front of it.
- Ned Martel wrote “Room Service” and “Battle Royale” last year. We gave them both 4.5 stars too. Much more from Martel and Bassett both please.
- The scene with the lawyer. We love a good solid piece of legal procedural work and it really helps the episode too. Nicely done.
- The burnt man scare was brilliantly done. Was that Mason?
- Rory answering the phone with, “Harow?” is surprisingly adorable.
- Audrey using “mental” and “crackers” shows someone is actually paying attention to English vernacular. Regardless, we’re increasingly convinced the godawful accents on the pilgrims were very definitely a feature and not a bug.
- The format change. We LOVE IT. Cheyenne Jackson was one of the best elements of last season and giving him stuff to do on screen is already paying dividends. Plus, this gives the show a distinct Ghostwatch vibe and, as anyone who saw that knows, that’s high praise indeed.
- Audrey going bitchy feels a little off beam. Actually a lot off beam. Perhaps we’ll get more context for that as the show goes on.
- Some people have complained that the reveal on the near-total cast death toll robs the show of tension. We think it adds it. There are at least three fake-outs this episode and it gives the series a very different, more slasher movie-esque, feel.
- Okay! So we know they’re all dead bar one and we also know episode ten is either another massive twist or a sort of standalone. That gives us, assuming no more off camera cast get killed, seven people on camera at any given time; Audrey, Shelby, Matt, Dominic, Monet, Lee, Rudy and Agnes. That’s two an episode. This is going to get bloody FAST.
- Oh, and if the crew is dead too, which given the first couple of incidents we see here is not off the table, then that’s a couple of hundred deaths and major property damage in the show’s immediate future.
- Our money is on Shelby surviving by the way. Given how much every other character is driving her down we suspect she’s going to get terrible, relentless, blood soaked revenge. Or at least walk out of the house instead of being carried.
- Poor Dee, we hardly knew you. Shannon Lucio we know pretty well thought thanks to her work on shows like NCIS, Longmire and a turn on early Agents of SHIELD as Project CENTIPEDE member Debbie.
Review by Alasdair Stuart