American Horror Story “Chapter 7” Review (Season 6 Episode 7)

AHS new 6

The nurses may have finally finished completing their long-awaited “MURDER” on last week’s episode, but as it turns out, “American Horror Story” was just getting warmed up in the kill-tastic “Chapter 7.” Yep, the show took out some major players this week, and if I was all wrong in my prediction of who the lone survivor might be when all is said and done- adios, Agnes (Kathy Bates), but at least you went out swinging…and killing, almost to the very end- I can’t say I was complaining, either.

This week’s episode played almost like a fun-house mirror inversion of the “My Roanoke Nightmare” first half, as we re-encountered any number of faves from the first half of the season, including Edward Mott, the Polks, various colonists and, of course, “The Butcher” herself- not that they were the only threats around, what with the faux “Butcher” Agnes racking up quite a respectable body count in her own right.

AHS new 4

Indeed, the initial murders were all her, including Sidney (Cheyenne Jackson), who, let’s face it, kind of had it coming, and a couple of his co-conspirators, who got it in pretty gruesome fashion, especially that one PA that kicked things off. Agnes then headed back to the house, where she got a good chop in on Shelby (Lily Rabe) before Dominic (Cuba Gooding, Jr.) came to her rescue.

Agnes runs back to her hide-out, where she proceeds to rant and rave to the camera, drifting in and out of her accent and between herself and her “Butcher” persona. Apparently, the real one doesn’t take kindly to this, as the fire she has going goes out and when she gets it re-lit, she finds herself surrounded by those “Blair Witch”-style stick figures, albeit slightly varied from the ones we saw in the re-enactments, another subtle change in between fact and fiction, and the first of many this episode.

AHS new 3

In the meantime, Dominic relished playing a lesser kind of villain in the house, as in the Puck (of “The Real World” fame) and Omarosa (of “The Apprentice” fame) type, attempting to rabble rouse by stirring the flames with Lee (Adina Porter) and Monet (Angela Bassett), and again with Shelby and Matt (André Holland), the latter of whom coldly told Shelby he didn’t much care what she did or with whom- for reasons we’d soon discover.

TBH, I was never much of a Reality TV fan- in fact, it’s interesting that they referenced Puck, as that’s exactly when things started to go downhill fast for me personally, in regards to the much-loathed subgenre. Before that, I kind of enjoyed “The Real World,” which, if you watch those early episodes, was actually kind of an interesting experiment in which people addressed their problems in a rational, relatively calm way, in a sort of “round table”-style manner.

AHS new 8

But then came Puck, and the minute MTV saw how bad behavior equaled big ratings, they went down the low road and fast, and things were never the same. From there on out, it became all about putting personalities together that were sure to clash, and things just got uglier and uglier. Even worse, the subjects became much more self-aware and started playing up to the cameras more and the shows got progressively more scripted and fake.

Now, you simply can’t watch one of those shows without thinking it all must be fake- it almost has to be, right? At this point? The show “UnREAL” does a great job of showing the truth behind the lie and cleverly deconstructing the subgenre, but “AHS” isn’t really that interested in doing so, at least once they got past that last episode, which was admittedly kind of brilliant in a mega-meta sort of way.

AHS new 9

But aside from the Dominic shenanigans and a few tossed-off “confessionals,” that clever approach is mostly jettisoned in “Chapter 7,” and in its place basically a found-footage slasher movie. Not that I have anything against either subgenre- I actually quite like both found-footage and slasher movies- but it’s also not nearly as inventive and imaginative as “Chapter 6,” either.

At this point, the show just becomes a “Who will live and who will die?” countdown, with most of the fun relegated to the aforementioned inversion of what we saw in the flashbacks, as we see the “real” versions of a lot of what we saw in the first half of the series. To that end, the ladies, sans a healing Shelby, head down the tunnel in the basement to seek out Sidney after their pleas for help seemingly go unnoticed.

AHS five

There, they run afoul of the “real” Edward Mott before exiting the tunnel and heading to the Sidney’s trailer, where they naturally find everyone dead, but also no working phones, computers or cars. Agnes, in “Butcher” mode, pops out to try and claim another victim, but wisely, Lee came strapped, and shoots her and she runs off.

Lee, Monet and Audrey (Sarah Paulson) then head to the woods to attempt to walk back to civilization, where Audrey does another nod to “Blair Witch” via a brief talk to the camera as she tearfully says goodbye to Rory (Evan Peters). She gets her chance for real when blood drips down on her from above, and sees an outstretched Rory, his guts hanging out, positioned in a tree.

AHS new 2

The ensuing freak-out draws the attention of some figures in the woods, who turn out to be the real-deal Polks, including one played by a returning Finn Wittrock. As in the previous installments, they prove to be actual cannibals, with Mama seasoning up Lee’s leg and serving it cold to Audrey and Monet to eat or else, with their punishment being a shock from a cattle prod.

These Polks are actually not nearly as over-exaggerated as the faux ones, growing pot to sustain themselves and “living off the land” for food. They’re not drooling movie-style redneck rejects from “Deliverance,” but more like survivalists living off the land who just so happen to enjoy a little “sweet meat” here and there when it presents itself. It’s not unlike the “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” clan, but not as over-the-top, which makes them almost scarier- though, to be fair, “AHS” has nothing on Tobe Hooper’s original classic, that’s for sure, so I can’t stress that “almost” enough.

AHS new 5

Meanwhile, back at the house, Matt gets up and, seemingly in a trance, walks down to the basement. Sleeping on the couch in the den, Dominic spots him and follows him down, only to spot him talking quietly to someone: “I’ve been waiting for you.” He runs upstairs and fetches Shelby and leads her back down there, where, much to her horror, she once again sees Matt hooking up with the real-deal witch.

Thinking him to once again to be under her spell, Shelby wacks at the witch with a crowbar, scaring her off, at least for the moment. Then, shockingly, she discovers the real reason Matt returned to the house- he had never been the same since his witchy hook-up in the woods, and couldn’t stop thinking about her. Declaring his love lies with the witch, not her- never a good thing to say to a woman with a crowbar- Shelby then proceeds to bash his skull to a pulp, like that first scene in “Irreversible.”

AHS new 10

Dominic does his best to calm her down, saying that she’ll have to own up to what she did, as cameras undoubtedly caught it all. Then, he hears a noise outside, and looks to see Agnes, this time armed with a bunch of gas cans, obviously aiming to burn the house down, with everyone in it, which is technically just Dominic and Shelby at this point.

Unfortunately for her- and maybe for Dominic and Shelby as well, who find themselves in a similar position as Matt and Shelby back in the day- the “real” Butcher shows up, along with her followers, looking way more horrific than Bates’ version, though it would have been even cooler if it had been, say, Jessica Lange. Be that as it may, she promptly lives up to her nickname, as she cleaves her weapon right into Agnes’ head, thus putting an end to my prediction in the process. Oh well.

AHS new 1

That’s where we leave things, with, for the record, only Dominic, Shelby, Lee (one assumes), Audrey and Monet still standing at this point. Not sure how they’re going to drag this out for three more episodes, but we’ll see, I guess. Although, word on the street is that episode 10 will mark yet another stylistic change, so guess they only have to wrap it up in two more, technically. But you’d think one more would do it, really.

Therein lies the biggest problem about this season. Despite a shortened run of only ten episodes, not to mention largely drastically reduced running times of said episodes, with many only clocking in a just over thirty-five minutes, a lot of this feels dragged out, big-time, when it really shouldn’t.

AHS new 7

Ironically, a lot of this is due to the fact that we’ve basically been seeing variations of the same things, just in different formats: spoken word, then re-enactments, then found-footage style, peppered with behind-the-scenes bits and the like. Is it relatively inventive in places? Sure. But is it undeniably repetitive in places? Definitely. Especially when it could have been done in a much-more compact, streamlined fashion.

I’d have gladly accepted slightly longer episodes if they had wrapped up the first half in half the time, then done the same with this part. Then they could have still done their other big twist, only in a much quicker amount of time. Sure, it would have meant an even shorter season, but I could live with that. Maybe those Brits are onto something with their shortened seasons after all.

AHS new 12

I will say that the show’s saving grace this season lies in two things: its sense of humor, and the admittedly impressive and amusingly gratuitous amount of gore. Audrey said it best, in fact, killing two birds with one stone, when she stated: “Leave me alone. I’m not American. I’m not used to all this carnage.” That’s funny, largely because it’s true. We Americans just simply can’t help ourselves- even when we under-do things (i.e. the shorter season and shorter episodes), we still overdo them, you know?

That said, I will say that more centered, straightforward approach does take care of a lot of previous seasons’ biggest problems- having WAY too much going on. It might keep things livelier to a certain degree, but it can also be annoying, especially since it almost always results in a lot of subplots not getting resolved in a satisfactory way. It may remain to be seen if this season can stick the landing, but at least it’s not as all over the place as, say, “Asylum” or “Hotel” or as meandering as “Freak Show.”

AHS new 11

What did you think of the latest episode of “American Horror Story”? Sad to see anyone go? Is the latest version of the story doing it for you, or does it also feel a bit repetitive? Any idea what the next big twist is going to be? Who do you think will be the last one standing- I’m shifting my alliance to the most improbable- Lee, because that seems about right, the way things are going. Sound off down below with your thoughts, and see you next week!