After ten seasons of American Horror Story and almost two complete seasons of its spin-off, not much shocks me from these Ryan Murphy-developed shows. From this season alone, fans have been given many exceptional stories of ghosts, witches, urban legends, serial killers, and crazy plastic surgeons. However American Horror Stories: Necro did something I didn’t think possible; it shocked and surprised me in ways I never saw coming.
Not from grotesque horror or scenes that made me uncomfortable (however there were a few of those), but from giving audiences the craziest love story in the AHS universe. You read that right, I said love story. Now before you get too excited or confused, American Horror Stories: Necro is still a horror story at its core. The story is probably one of the weirdest ones to date, serving up some real-world horror. However, the story is also reminiscent of Romeo and Juliet with a demented twist in true “Horror Story” fashion.
Necro was written by Crystal Liu, who was a script supervisor on AHS: Coven, a staff writer on AHS: Freakshow, and a story editor on AHS: Hotel. Her work in the AHS universe is quite extensive, helping to bring to life one of the best season of AHS, although Freak Show and Hotel were among my least favorite. Paired with Logan Kibens as director, a newcomer to this universe, was the duo able to pull off this twisted tale of love and death?
[Warning: Spoilers from American Horror Stories: Necro are below]
A bloody beginning in American Horror Stories: Necro
The episode opens in 1998 in a dark house, with just the light of the lamp illuminating the scene. There is a trail of blood and cereal as the camera pans to a body laid strewn across the floor and a hammer not far from it. A young child approaches the body, snuggling into the body before the scene cuts away.
In 2022, Sam (Madison Iseman), the little girl from the opening, is working as a mortician at a funeral home. She seems to love her job quite a bit and is good at it, something audiences learn from Henderson (Jeff Doucette), the funeral director, who commends her on her tremendous work. Offering her a raise, Sam is elated and heads home to share the good news with her boyfriend, Jesse (Spencer Neville).
On a surface level, Jesse and Sam seem like the perfect match. They are both incredibly beautiful in the over-the-top conventional way. Like Jesse has more abs than I thought humanly possible. However, Jesse, a district attorney, is disgusted by Sam’s career, suggesting she showers to wash away the death and chemicals. A moment that bothers her so much she discusses it with her friends.
A new contender enters the ring
During this period of doubt about her relationship and if Jesse loves her, a new man shows up at her workplace. Charlie (Cameron Cowperthwaite) body removal technician, a fancy term for a grave digger, and right away audiences are keyed in that he is both weird and absolutely intriguing to Sam. She’s caught off guard by his presence in her sacred space, as well as by him whispering to the body before he leaves.
Over the next couple of days, Charlie and Sam become weirdly attached to each other through a shared fascination with death and personal trauma. As Charlie opens up about losing his entire family, Sam begins a journey of reliving the loss of her mother at the hands of a murderer. This builds to a crescendo that ends with Sam in a puddle of tears on the night her boyfriend proposes to her.
At this point in the episode, the story took a turn for the weird, something I wasn’t quite ready for even though I could guess from the title where it was headed. A few days later Charlie shows up as a John Doe, which causes Sam to become emotional. Speaking to his body, she tells him that he is the only one who understood the darkness inside of her. Which somehow results in her having sex with Charlie’s body. Yikes.
However, Charlie isn’t actually dead, just pretending to be so to prove a point to Sam about her darkness. Which is pretty messed up on both accounts. This decision by Sam to sleep with what she believed was Charlie’s dead body comes back continuously to haunt her, leading to some drastic decisions to feel alive once more.
The good and the bad of American Horror Stories: Necro
So let’s start with the good. The acting in this episode was fantastic with Madison Iseman and Cameron Cowperthwaite as standouts. Cowperthwaite did an excellent job playing an unbalanced man, who because of love goes to extreme lengths to get the girl. Iseman does a great juggling act of someone who is dancing with the dark side. At times she was incredibly excited by death while also showing the fear that comes with that. The confusing, extremely weird, and yet somehow works chemistry that these two had with each other was intoxicating. Watching these star-crossed lovers slowly deteriorate in their spiral with death and darkness was something that made me uncomfortable and I still couldn’t look away.
That being said, there was a lot of this episode that didn’t sit right with me. The scene of her having sex with a “dead body” made me grimace, which I can appreciate was its purpose. The uncomfortableness of the episode only grew when it’s revealed that Charlie is alive and then when he uses the surveillance video to break up her wedding and ruin her life later on. It didn’t make sense to me how Charlie thought releasing that video was going to cause Sam to fall in love with him. This part of the story felt like it was only there to make people uncomfortable rather than to propel the story forward.
The final scene of American Horror Stories: Necro also left me torn. The scene itself felt like a natural conclusion for the forced narrative of this episode, however, it didn’t stop me from watching in horror. Similar in fashion to AHS: Milkmaids, I ended the episode uncomfortable in my own skin and thought to myself that I would probably never watch this episode again.
Final Thoughts on American Horror Stories: Necro
I struggle to say that this wasn’t a good episode from an objective standpoint, however, I can say that personally, this episode didn’t work for me. There were some aspects of the story that I did like, but overall I was left feeling like I wanted to crawl out of my skin rather than just horror. As well, there wasn’t a moment in this episode that I felt truly scared, as this story was about the icky factor more so than actual horror. Though as in all shows and movies, I say watch it for yourself and see if perhaps you feel different about it.
American Horror Stories: Necro is now streaming on Hulu. Have you watched it yet? Let us know your thoughts on social media! And if you haven’t already, check out my review of last week’s episode, American Horror Stories: Facelift!