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Reflecting on ‘Roanoke’

I recognize I’m terribly late on this write-up, but near the end of this season I was terribly distracted by Channel Zero, Westworld, The OA, and most recently, Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure. But considering the news dropping for Season 7, better late than never, right?

Season six of Ryan Murphy’s on-going horror escapade was easily the most divisive: Between the show-within-a-show framing and found footage over-saturation, this is probably the most unique season to date. But does that make it good?

Usually I’d start with the opening theme, but controversially, there wasn’t one for Season 6. Fortunately I found this fan-video, which might be better than the actual season itself:

Let’s get down to it
When approaching this season, there’s a lot to wrap one’s head around – namely the meta-quality of “My Roanoke Nightmare.” Initially I was against this method of story-telling, because as much as I love cheesy ghost story shows, it is common knowledge that reenacting is seldom relied upon. So for “Roanoke Nightmare” to not only consist of 90% reenactment, but to have such a crazy fandom after the fact, that’s fairly hard to believe. All you can really do is accept that this branch of television is widely accepted in this universe (the “Murphyverse,” if you will).

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And yet they managed to make reality tv drama interesting.

Once it’s understood that there are many-a-layers, it’s easy to roll with the punches on this one. That doesn’t mean there still aren’t any inconsistencies. (I still don’t know what the teeth are all about.) But, it does hit on all of the previous AHS tropes: Mommy Issues, Monster, and Something Incredibly Uncomfortable (my vote goes to the Polks, followed by first-person immolation). Not to mention, this is the first season to reference all of the previous seasons (well, the Hotel one was kinda loose, but I’ll let it slide).

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My favorite part of this season was when we as viewers finally saw the ghosts as they were meant to be seen – and they are hella spooky. Initially, it is a cheap trick to rely so much on the popularity of found-footage, but to use this technique to alter the viewing experience as such was a fantastic  exploit of the medium.

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Love you.

My second-favorite part, what I like to call the redemption of Kathy Bates. Her character, Agnes Mary Winstead, was genuinely uncomfortable to witness. I felt like her contribution to this season was a way to show younger, or unfamiliar, viewers her prowess.

Speaking of younger viewers, when Dominic Banks goes on his soliloquy about being a reality villain, is Real World still relevant?  Does anyone under 20 know who Puck is? Either way, the second act is my favorite part of this season, hands down.

Where it drops the ball
Personally, I really didn’t care for the third act. As glad as I was to see Lana Banana again, I wasn’t terribly interested in Lee Harris’ fate.

The trouble is, I’m not sure where the show would have gone afterwards.

Perhaps the larger issue is that the more interesting part of this season wasn’t so much the main characters, but the ghosts themselves – like if Murder House didn’t have Jessica Lange to ground it.

In all, AHS: Roanoke was a great deviation from the rest of the series, albeit a tad half-baked.

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Goddamn Chens

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V/H/S/2

Oh god yes.

Oh god yes.

I realize that I never actually released a review V/H/S, perhaps because I saw it a bit too late.  I’ll be honest, I liked it.  I thought it was a cool idea for a new genre of found-footage films.  And I really dig short stories.  This isn’t to say that V/H/S was perfect (seriously, how does a Skype conversation end up on a tape?), but it was most certainly enjoyable and worth seeing.  I think these films have an appeal similar to that of the Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark series.  Nostalgia a little there?  Anyway, when I found out that a sequel was in the works, I was pretty excited.

All I have to say is, I hope you like zombies.  Much like its predecessor, we’re dealing with about five stories.  Three of the five, including the overarching narrative, feature their own version of the undead.  Whoop-di-doo, I’ve never seen a zombie before.  Keep in mind, I have nothing against zombies, but they’re such a typical go-to these days.  When dealing with short stories, be a little creative, you know?  It’s okay to get a little weird.

In fact the weirdest this movie goes is with the segment Safe Haven, in which we observe the investigation of an Indonesian cult.  Solid setup I admit, but when shit hits the fan, man does it fly.  We go from John Carpenter to Sam Raimi in 0-to-60 – all due respect to both directors, but you know what I mean.  Pre-ball-dropping, I think it’s fair to say I enjoyed Safe Haven and Slumber Party Alien Abduction the most due to story and execution.  Though I do give kudos to A Ride in the Park for a neat idea.

Other than that, zombie scares.  And whatever rehashed spook this is –

Oh gee a creepy little girl.  Please, someone save me.

Oh no a creepy little girl. Please, someone save me.

All things considered, this is seriously a lackluster sequel.  It’s far more goofy than creepy, and it substitutes any actual scares for brief moments of intensity.  The best I can come up with for this is “it’s okay.”

Final Grade: C+