“I think I’ve spent enough time in the Murder House,” Nicholas Bechtel’s character says near the end of the latest American Horror Stories, and it’s a sentiment I think we can all agree with at this point. If the point of the series, as a spin-off from American Horror Story, was to feature self-contained episodes rather than ongoing arcs, why have 3 of its 7 episodes been contained to the existing universe of the show? Even if we ignore the fact that they only exist because of external material, tying together practically half a season rather than actually exploring self-contained tales flat out contradicts the thesis of the series.
Alas, “Game Over” forces us back into Murder House, and I’m tired. I’m tired of how empty the self-awareness of the series is. I’m tired of sitting through some of the laziest horror filmmaking and uninspired kills around. I’m tired of the creators of the show not even being able to commit to their own internal logistics. I’m tired of the series just adding more and more unnecessary cast members to this stupid house for no reason other than empty psychobabble, ineffective jump scares, and bullshit musings. At this point, I was half expecting DJ Khaled to start yelling “AND ANOTHER ONE!” as soon as someone gets stabbed in Murder House. As Kaia Gerber’s Ruby notes, “The repetition is the point. The endless nothing filled with pain is the purpose. The only thing that we need is more souls to feed the suffering.” And, boy, am I suffering.
The episode’s cold open is an onslaught of winking jokes at the audience. They aren’t funny, but Brad Falchuk and Ryan Murphy (taking the reins back from Manny Coto) certainly think they are, even though all they’re doing is making fun of fans of the show. Yes, I too think fans who want to fuck serial rapists and killers are weird and kind of suck. And yes, I think there could have been an interesting way to explore how fiction and reality intersect. But American Horror Stories doesn’t care about that. Instead, it just makes the whole thing into a video game, a logistical nightmare that I have not stopped being angry about since the episode ended.
For everyone who ever complained about the logistics of any relatively clear sci-fi movie, here’s the journey “Game Over” takes us on: There’s the American Horror Story reality, there’s the AHS video game reality, there’s whatever reality exists in which people watch American Horror Story, and then there’s also the American Horror Stories reality. The way these things overlap makes no sense, and I know it’s stupid to get hung up on something like this, but it really emphasizes how little interest the creative team behind the show has in its characters.
One can create a sandbox that solely exists for death and goofiness, but Falchuk and Murphy clearly want us to be invested in these characters. The first set of episodes of the series had somewhat fooled me into buying into the relationship between Ruby and Scarlett, but here, it feels empty and shallow. It asks us to care about these two figures whose story had already come to its natural open-ended closing in “Rubber(wo)Man” without building on their relationship. It brings back Dylan McDermott for the most pointless cameo of all time (he references crying and masturbating! Wow! Groundbreaking! Please insert an eye roll here) and posits “closure” for him and the other ghosts from the past. Worse than that, there is nothing compelling about the relationship they try to write between Mercedes Mason’s video-game-creator mother and her son. So much of the episode keeps harping on this concept of there being “a point” to Murder House but what we’re given here proves there is none.
Every callback to the past feels like someone kicking a dead horse. One could make an argument that that’s exactly the point of framing it around a video game that is ultimately exploiting the thing it’s supposed to be a tribute to, but nothing in the episode itself implies that kind of criticism of the gaming industry. It becomes something of an unintentional auto-critique; American Horror Stories as the hollow result of someone desperate to mine a creative property (American Horror Story, and more specifically Murder House) for all it’s worth, without understanding what makes it work.
“Game Over” even promises an ending to Murder House, burning it down via fire and giving two characters we just met this season a “happy ending” as condos have been rebuilt. The other ghosts have “ascended” according to the episode, but also, it might all just be a joke because it took place inside of a video game. Or did it? Who knows. Who cares. Falchuk and Murphy can’t even commit to their conclusion of Murder House through this episode because everything is a fake-out and nothing matters. Instead the episode ends by reassuring the audience that these things are never really over and that the spirits of Murder House could be out there in the world.
There is no escaping the Murder House. Not for the spirits. Not for me. Not for you. Not for anyone. And I truly, madly, deeply wish it was.
- “I never want to see or hear one more thing about Murder House again” is the biggest mood of all time.
- Of course McDermott was solely brought back to make a joke about crying and masturbating. Of course he was. Why did I expect anything better?
- Okay, I have to rant for a second: Have Brad Falchuk and Ryan Murphy ever played a video game? Do they know what video games are like? Do they know what kind of video game they were trying to parody? What few glimpses at actual “video game” concepts we get are such a mish-mash of horror game subgenres that I truly don’t understand what it is going for.
- Adding onto that, even the opening credits (still the best part of the series) don’t really make much sense to me as a game, which kind of sucks because there really is a worthwhile stand-alone episode to be made playing off the concept of gays who are hooked on Dead By Daylight and the way that game just shoves popular horror imagery into pointless (but fun!) multiplayer gaming. Then again, that would have to involve semi-creative kills and this show clearly doesn’t know how to do that. Just trap someone in the game and make jokes about pay-to-play content and skin packs that add new characters to the mix. There’s so much potential in this! And they did NOTHING!
- Also, jeez, everything here is going to be video game-related and I feel like I’m starting to sound like I’m nitpicking, but did this woman just randomly decide to make an American Horror Story game because her son likes the show? Like, and then she later jokes, “I’m just gonna make a video game about True Blood or something normal.” Ma’am, you don’t have the rights to any of these things. You clearly have no idea what you’re making!
- I was going to compliment the joke that Noah Cyrus makes about Sarah Paulson shit-talking AHS’s Roanoke season, but the more I think about it, the more annoyed I am that Falchuk and Murphy threw their actress under the bus to defend their own product, even if it’s supposed to be a “joke.”
- American Horror Story was once a charming kind of bad. Where did that go and why is it so boring now? And will it ever find its way back to being fun? I don’t know, and maybe I should stop caring.