Last week’s two-part premiere of the anthology series American Horror Stories proved somewhat underwhelming in its recurrence to the Murder House and its innumerable, inexplicably physical ghosts. Tonight’s third episode, though, represents a marked improvement. “Drive In” concerns a banned horror film, Rabbit, Rabbit, that is reputedly cursed: watching it is said to turn viewers into homicidal maniacs.
The episode definitely has a “meta” quality, exploring the nature and purpose of fright films. The film’s deranged director claims to have created “a horror movie where the horror isn’t on screen, it’s in the audience.” Rabbit, Rabbit‘s bloody history naturally turns out to be much more than an an urban legend, as a night at the drive-in erupts into Dawn of the Dead.
The characters in “Drive In” obviously know their horror. Not only are Dread Central and Fangoria magazine invoked; dialogue references are made to William Castle’s The Tingler, Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange, and (most integrally to the plot) William Friedkin’s The Exorcist. The episode evinces a strong pedigree: it’s directed by Eduardo Sanchez of Blair Witch Project fame, and features a cast of horror veterans (Adrienne Barbeau) and American Horror Story alums (Naomi Grossman and John Carroll Lynch).
In an episode in which all hell breaks loose at a drive in, the scenes of carnage are not unexpected. Yet it is a quick flashback (to a film cutter who gets overzealous in her work) that provides the most memorably grisly moment here. “Drive In” never lets all the gory bury the story, and concludes with a wickedly clever plot twist.
Satisfyingly seasonal, this third installment of Americans Horror Stories offers a refreshing slice of summer fear fare.