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American Horror Story season premiere recap: Horror Freaks In Bedlam

‘Welcome to Briarcliff,’ where nutbags and nunsense, monsters and mad men abound. Also: Aliens. Seriously!  

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American Horror Story
Michael Yarish/FX

American Horror Story

TV Show
run date:
Sarah Paulson, Evan Peters
Current Status:
In Season

The time is now, and the asylum is lifeless. Or so it seems. And certainly not for long.

Meet Leo and Teresa, videogenic twentysomethings about to pay the horror movie price for being hot, horny, and way too geeky-interested in the dark shadows of history. She’s a “horror freak.” He just wants to make her happy. They are newlyweds on a “Haunted Honeymoon” sex romp. The 12 spookiest spots in America. At each stop: Kinky consummation of the marital compact. We can imagine their previous visitations. Maybe some Bang-bang-bang at The Winchester Mystery House? Maybe some Rubber Man randyness at Murder House? Leo and Teresa – children of the Rocky Horror liberation, ironic and uninhibited and raised on the bonanza of hardcore-creepy picture shows that followed the collapse of The Hayes Code and the waning influence of prudish watchdogs like The National Legion of Decency. They are everything that Brad & Janet weren’t when those newly engaged buttoned-up squares stumbled upon Dr. Frank-N-Furter’s castle, and they are everything that Brad & Janet became after their Time Warp/Medusa Transducer rehabilitation/reconditioning, plus a little bit more. Maybe too much more. In the words of another American horror story: “Perhaps they need a good talking to.” Perhaps now they needed to be “corrrected.”

If so, they’ve come to the right place for it

Welcome to Briarcliff Manor Sanitarium. Once a Catholic mad house, now the final destination on the Haunted Honeymoon tour, located in rural Massachusetts. (The titular connection to the Briarcliff Manor in the state of New York — where one can find a certain road of American horror legend called Sleepy Hollow — must be just complete and total coincidence.) The overgrown grounds are littered with the debris and detritus of this marooned monument. A twiggy crucifix dangling from a branch like a soul catcher. A baby doll orphaned in the brambles. A figurine of a nun languishing in the mud. The Asylum itself is condemned and dilapidated, boarded-up and graffiti-splashed. There is a NO TRESPASSING sign, visible and legible. But The Asylum beckons. So do hormones. Into the dead space, The Lovers enter.

Leo is a photographer. He has a Hermes edition Leica M-7 camera. It is retro cool and rare and retails for $14,000. Clearly, Leo must be making crazy pop star/reality TV money. He snaps photos of his bride as she reads data off her phone:

Built in 1908, Briarcliff Manor was the largest tuberculosis ward on the East Coast. 46,000 people died here. They shuttled the bodies out through an underground tunnel called the death chute.

“We should totally do it in the death chute,” Theresa teases.

Leo clicks and clicks and clicks his Leica: “Ohmygod, you are so demented.” He wants her. Now. On the stairwell. She wants more exploring, more fearsome foreplay. More Wiki-Wiki:

The Catholic Church bought this place in ‘62 and turned it into a sanitarium for the criminally insane. Legend has it once you were committed, you never got out.

They trudge through the women’s ward. They ogle the tagging: A pentagram in spray paint; a crimson homage to The Asylum’s most infamous inmate, a serial killer named Bloody Face; blocky letters in lipstick red that spell FUN!

They find the shock therapy room. Teresa’s eyes go buggy. She lies on the board, asks to be restrained. Leo applies the electrodes. Teresa pretends to seize, play-acting a scene she’s seen who knows how many times in who knows how many cuckoo-creepy flicks. It’s all so stimulating. She needs to be treated for her “morbiderotomania,” and he has just the right “injection” for her. Translation: Daphne finally wants to get freaky with her Fred. Clothes are doffed. The photographer pushes in. They start to –


Did you hear that?

Teresa did. Leo didn’t. She’s bothered. He’s bothered by her bother. Can’t we just freakin’ do it already?!? No, she says, not until after they Scooby the sitch.

Clothes are donned. They scurry down a hallway, tracking the creak to a locked door with a food hatch in the center. Leo sticks his hand through the portal – and pretends someone or something on the other side has grabbed him. Teresa loses it. Leo laughs. Teresa punches him – then dares him to do it again, this time rolling video using her smart phone. Leo balks. She insults his manhood, then rouses him to action by offering to make it worth his while. She drops to her knees, unzips his zipper…

Leo takes her phone.

He pushes his hand into the darkness of the cell…

And the screen lights up with something terrible. Something that grabs Leo’s hand. For real. Something that pulls on Leo’s hand. For real. Something that yanks and rips Leo’s arm out of its socket. For real.


The horror freak screams.

The Asylum has awakened.

The rocky horror mystery machine has been activated.


Welcome to Briarcliff.

NEXT: Close Encounters of the Crazy Kind