There are several elements that make a good horror story. Mystery is certainly one of them. Rather than revealing all the cards at once, a story that holds something back, luring the audience in, sets up its reveal to scare and shock. American Horror Stories‘ latest episode, entitled “Facelift,” reaches this point early on. Like all great episodes in the franchise, it builds off of typical American fears and anxieties. In this case, it deals heavily with beauty and social status. But by the end, those concepts get twisted on their heads. It’s not the greatest the franchise has to offer, but in terms of this season, it is certainly one of the better entries.
The story revolves around an aging woman (Judith Light) who visits an unorthodox plastic surgeon (Rebecca Dayan). The nature of what the surgery actually entails is the mystery at the heart of the episode. The surgeon talks a lot about inner beauty and aligning oneself with their true form granted by the universe. It’s a lot of pseudo-scientific and philosophical babble that doesn’t actually amount to a lot, but it’s enough to lure the viewer in with mystery. The sense of foreboding is especially heightened when the woman is completely bandaged following the surgery for a large portion of the episode.
Although the sci-fi and horror nature of the story is compelling, it is the payoff of the mystery that ultimately makes everything worthwhile or not. And it’s largely subjective whether or not the episode’s reveal and twist hits its mark. It certainly has a profound statement from a thematic perspective, but it also feels contrived and unnecessary. Viewers themselves will have to check the episode out and make up their own minds, but fans of the AHS franchise as a whole will find something to enjoy about it.
American Horror Stories streams new episodes on Thursdays on Hulu.