The Naughty List
Episode 5 of American Horror Stories starts off with an introduction to group of influencers inside a big house aptly titled “Bro House.” Buckle up because this quartet are absolutely awful.
We start out with a heavy dose of exposition where we learn that 26 year old Zinn has been joined by three of his best friends at his crib. They’ve made a living from doing whatever they feel like. There’s no limits so they’re going wild and crazy. They’re not going to do what everyone else is doing and that includes…the ice bucket challenge? Really?
Wyatt, Barry and James are the others here and all of them are pushing 30. They need to keep riding the edge and with 5 days to go until Christmas, they watch jumpers at suicide bridge as a way of drumming up more edgy subscribers and content. They decide to record a jumper and take advantage of the situation. Completely heartless, they claim this guy “went out like a boss” and cheer on camera. Barry is the only one concerned.
These concerns spill over to the Bro House too, as the kids are worried that they’re pushing past their limits and won’t be able to keep doing this. (Insert clever Jackass reference here.) Anyway, they soon upload the video, intending to hit 5 million subscribers. Instead, they drop by 50,000 subscribers and wake up to 400,000 signatures to have them removed from Twitter.
The gang contemplate what to do and instead decide to pretend they’re gay to deflect attention. Well, this completely backfires as they lose more subs and have some of their belongings removed from the house. As a final move, they choose to act like themselves again.
Zinn and the gang decide to show up and see Santa at the mall. They try to be funny but it’s typical cringey frat-boy behaviour. Santa is not having any of it though and promises the quartet that they’ll get what they deserve for Christmas.
Well, that evening Detective Deena Gibbs calls through and mentions the Santa at the mall. It turns out he wasn’t the real Santa and after killing the one scheduled to work that night, the kids may well be next. The kids are told to head down to the station and fill out a statement but they don’t make it that far.
In the basement, Wyatt is killed with his neck twisted. A video of this is then uploaded onto their channel too, garnering lots of likes. Zinn doesn’t feel comfortable with this, despite the ping for increased subscribers. Next up is Zinn, who’s wrapped in Christmas lights and thrown in the pool.
James is then impaled, courtesy of a candy cane crossbow, while Barry inches over to his computer, blood trailing across the floor. He calls out for help as gasoline is poured down the chimney. He checks the laptop and notices that they’ve reached 5 million subscribers. Well, Santa drops a match and ignites Barry. Despite throwing himself into the pool, he’s too far gone and dies.
The episode then closes out with all four boys cut up and placed as sick ornaments on a Christmas tree. Our murderous Santa gets away scot-free, intent on choosing more victims in the future.
The Episode Review
This episode could not have come out at a worse time. For those unaware, Activision Blizzard are currently under investigation for frat-boy behaviour, leading to a female colleague committing suicide. That’s before mentioning the Cosby-suite these men had going on and numerous allegations surrounding abuse. Yeah, it’s not a good look. You can actually read more about it HERE if you want.
American Horror Stories essentially revolves around that same frat-boy behaviour, creating four protagonists that could not be more unlikable. I guess that’s kinda the point, with Barry the only moral compass, but the sudden character changes betray what this episode is trying to do.
At 37 minutes long, Zinn was originally portrayed as the guy pushing boundaries and trying to get more likes. So why is he suddenly torn up about his friend “pranking” everyone by having his neck twisted? If anything he should be happy about it until he finds out the truth. It’s a small moment but something that ultimately ripples out across the entire episode.
In theory, this chapter is a surefire winner and tackles the concept of fame and the fickle nature of influencers. However, it absolutely pales by comparison to both Black Mirror and Girl From Nowhere, which both explore this idea with so much more pizzazz and depth than this.
Four episodes in, this series has not been one to remember. It’s been a tepid, lackluster anthology series that’s failed to bring anything new to the table and bungled its execution in every story so far. Surely there’s got to be a few bright sparks ahead, right?