Review: ‘American Horror Stories: Facelift’

American Horror Stories Facelift

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Well American Horror Stories fans, we’re nearing the end of a truly excellent season of television. Something I wasn’t initially expecting going into season two, as season one of the AHS spin-off was such a mixed bag. However, season two has brought quite a few stand-out hours of television, with Dollhouse, Aura, Drive, and Bloody Mary really standing out as top-tier episodes and fantastic horror stories to boot. With the drop of American Horrors Stories: Facelift, audiences only have two more episodes until the finale of this Hulu exclusive series. 

The hope is that the season ends just as strongly as it began. American Horror Stories: Facelift seems to be in safe hands, with Manny Coto returning once again to write this twisted reality of a horror story. Directing this episode is Marcus Stokes who is new to the AHS universe, although has some impressive credits to his name. Not only has Stokes directed many episodes of the CW’s The Flash, along with episodes of The Walking Dead, Supergirl, and Arrow, but he also worked on visual effects for Smallville and films like Star Trek Into Darkness, Spider-Man 2, The Matrix Reloaded, and episodes I and II of Star Wars. So with this dynamic duo of talent behind this episode, how does American Horror Stories: Facelift rank?

[Warning: Spoilers from American Horror Stories: Facelift are below!]

The tale in American Horror Stories: Facelift

From the moment audiences meet Virginia Mellon (Judith Light), it’s apparent that she is someone who is terrified of aging. Through the use of medications, a lot of makeup, and some rather weird concoctions and rituals, she goes to great lengths to keep herself looking young. A fact that seems to put her at odds with her step-daughter Fay (Britt Lower). This mother-daughter dynamic is at the core of this episode, as Fay seems to care for Virginia a lot, but Virginia only seems to care for herself.

One day while cruising for her neighbor in a wine and cheese shop, Virginia runs into a college roommate, Cassie (Cornelia Guest) who looks significantly younger than Virginia. Cassie shares her secret with Virginia, directing her to Dr. Enid Perle (Rebecca Dayan), who developed some revolutionary anti-aging procedures. However not only are these procedures crazy expense, but they are also incredibly painful. Throughout the healing process, Virginia starts to see visions of demons, however, it’s unclear if these visions are from the pain or from something supernatural.

American Horror Stories Facelift
Judith Light as Virginia Mellon. American Horror Stories: Facelift (Hulu).

Dr. Perle convinces Virginia that she would attend a private retreat to help with the healing, a retreat filled with past patients of the doctor. Virginia, who is covered in face bandages feels out of place and questions the doctor about the process and when she can see her new beautiful new face. The rest of the episode plays out like a twisted Most Dangerous Game, with Light’s character the one being hunted.

The good and the bad

While this episode wasn’t my favorite from this season, it also wasn’t the worst. The one running thought that I kept coming back to during American Horror Story: Facelift was that the episode felt familiar. The first part of the story felt like a direct rip-off of Death Becomes Her. An aging, rich, vain woman crosses paths with an old acquaintance who directs them to a person who can make them younger. Almost every beat felt like a complete match. 

Granted the ending doesn’t match the Meryl Streep and Goldie Hawk film. Compared to that film it is vastly different. That being said, as stated above, Facelift shifts to a version of The Most Dangerous Game. Again, feeling familiar in a completely different way. When the group, which felt rather cultish, begins the hunt, it not only reminded me of the short story that I read in ninth grade, but it also had some The Wicker Man vibes. A group of people selects one person to sacrifice in honor of a god.

This odd combo of Death Becomes Her, The Most Dangerous Game, and The Wicker Man provided a story that felt like I had seen it before, but was also unable to predict what would happen next. I’m hesitant to say that it worked for this episode, but American Horror Stories: Facelift also wasn’t bad to watch. I found myself satisfied with what we got, it was enjoyable for what it was. I am also shocked that at no point during the development and filming process did someone stop and say “hey, has this been done before?”

American Horror Stories Facelift
Dr. Enid Perle (Rebecca Dayan). American Horror Stories: Facelift (Hulu).

That being said, the filming and direction were great with some interesting shots that seemed to be a signature of Marcus Stokes. He seemed to have an interesting eye, which lent itself well to a horror story like this. I hope that we see more work from Stokes in the American Horror Story universe.

Something I loved that this episode, and truly this season altogether, is that it has continued to pull from wider mythology for its horror. The cult/group of hunters stated many times that the sacrifice was for Étaín, a goddess that originated in Irish mythology. She is a sun goddess, which matches the energy that the cult is after. They present as a group of beautiful people wishing to achieve happiness and success throughout their lives and many times the sun is a symbol of happiness and beauty. This also feels like it is mildly connected to the AHS: Coven world, without the express use of magic.

Final thoughts of American Horror Stories: Facelift

For every fault that I found in Facelift, I will say that it is still an enjoyable episode for this second season. I wasn’t explicitly blown away by this episode. I had higher hopes for this episode, though that could have been because so many of this season’s episodes were of such high caliber and hopefully the last two episodes match that energy instead.

American Horror Stories: Facelift is currently streaming exclusively on Hulu. Have you watched it yet? What did you think of the story? And if you haven’t already, check out my review on Last week’s American Horror Stories: Bloody Mary.

Review: American Horror Stories: Bloody Mary

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