The following incorporates spoilers for American Horror Stories Season 2, Episode 6, “Facelift,” which aired Aug. 25, on Hulu.
The new season of American Horror Stories has discovered firmer footing than the primary in the way in which it pays homage to earlier horror classics. Every episode proudly wears its influences on its sleeve, and whereas they largely discover their very own path to take and their very own tales to inform, they make very clear connections to the tales that impressed them. Indeed, a part of the enjoyable is seeing the place they diverge from the supply materials. When at their finest, the episodes are capable of flip expectations utterly the other way up.
Season 2, Episode 6, “Facelift” takes inspiration from various sources, together with people horror films like Midsommar and The Wicker Man, for its grotesque finale. But its main focus is cosmetic surgery, which has fashioned a subgenre of horror all its personal. More particularly, it hones in on a traditional episode of The Twilight Zone and finds a terrific solution to flip the script.
“Facelift” considerations itself with Virginia: a rich Beverly Hills widow determined to show again the clock on her growing older options. She visits a mysterious plastic surgeon who guarantees to “reveal her true self,” which entails a sophisticated process to each her face and her fingers. The surgeon invitations her to a personal retreat together with her different shoppers for the elimination of her bandages. The twist is that they seem to be a cult. She’s been groomed as a sacrifice to their god — to be hunted and murdered as a part of a renewal ritual — and as an alternative of constructing her stunning, the surgical procedure has given her the options of a pig. The cult chases her down within the woods shortly thereafter and completes their sacrifice.
The episode’s coda is a bit tough — Victoria’s stepdaughter performs a central position that “Facelift” cannot fairly work out — however the concentrate on surgical procedure is spot-on, as is its horrifying outcomes. Horror films on the topic are unusual, however typically fairly potent: notably 1960’s Eyes Without a Face and 2011’s The Skin I Live In. But its greatest inspiration is likely the unique Twilight Zone Season 2, Episode 6, “Eye of the Beholder.” It depicts a lady described as hideously deformed about to endure the final of a sequence of unsuccessful plastic surgical procedures to restore her face. Everyone’s faces are hidden within the episode, together with the medical personnel treating her, till her bandages are eliminated: revealing her to be an exquisite lady and everybody else sporting overtly monstrous options.
The episode’s ironic lesson is within the title. The society during which she lives — whose origins are intentionally obscure — is overtly fascistic, however the docs and nurses are depicted as sort and sympathetic in direct opposition to their options. A good-looking man arrives — together with her “situation” — and takes her to a village of “their very own sort” distant. Standards of magnificence are enforced by the state, however the episode’s characters are universally compassionate and kind-hearted, and even the despondent heroine begins to just accept the axiom that true magnificence lies inside.
“Facelift” elegantly reverses each the twist and the underlying message. Victoria’s face actively resembles these of the “regular” folks in “Eye of the Beholder” — full with an overtly piggish nostril — whereas her murderers are the assembled stunning folks of Beverly Hills. And in contrast to “Eye of the Beholder,” all of them are monsters beneath. The cult kills folks on this method every year in change for wealth and everlasting magnificence, whereas Virginia herself is depicted as useless, shallow and thoughtlessly merciless to these round her. Her new face aptly displays her soul. The irony is her killers are simply as terrible; they’ve merely deluded themselves into believing in any other case. Their wilderness retreat is the same reversal of the village the place “Eye of the Beholder’s” heroine is taken, with its implied understanding and belonging changed by savagery and homicide.
Feminism has performed a big position on American Horror Story from the start, and American Horror Stories has zeroed in on that this season in its seek for inspiration. “Facelift” finds a potent goal in patriarchal norms of magnificence and growing older, which its villains actually worship and its protagonist finally succumbs to. If magnificence is a matter of the soul, then so is ugliness — giving “Facelift” a depraved twist on The Twilight Zone‘s extra benevolent message.
New episodes of American Horror Stories stream each Thursday on Hulu.