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Wednesday, October 17, 2012
[Possible Spoilers] So I'm watching the season premiere earlier tonight of American Horror Story, the F/X series created by Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk, and about 10-15 minutes in, I hear this very familiar Pino Donaggio music. At first I wondered if it was just a little musical homage to Donaggio's "Bucket Of Blood" cue from Brian De Palma's Carrie, but as it went on, it became clear to me that it was that precise recording-- it was indeed "Bucket Of Blood," edited to fit in with what was happening on screen.

And the scene in question was the introduction of the character pictured here, Lana Winters, a journalist played by Sarah Paulson. "Bucket Of Blood" (as the track was titled on the original Carrie soundtrack release) plays as Lana approaches the asylum (in 1964) that provides the main setting of season two-- and the Donaggio track is repeated twice more in the episode, creating a little motif for Lana. Lana is working on a story about the asylum under the false pretense of doing a fluff piece on the bakery run by Sister Jude (Jessica Lange). The "Bucket Of Blood" cue is heard a second time, just moments later in the episode, during the scene pictured here: Lana is watching as the latest "patient" (Kit Walker, played by Evan Peters) is delivered to the asylum, and the music builds suspense as he is led up the stairs, and the Donaggio crescendo peaks as Kit is stripped and thrown into a shower stall.

In between these two "Bucket Of Blood" cues is another Donaggio cue from Carrie: "For The Last Time We'll Pray" plays as Lana makes her way inside the asylum for the first time. Sister Mary (Lily Rabe) leads Lana up the stairs to meet Sister Jude, and they walk in on her just as she is beginning to shave the head of a patient, Shelly (Chloe Sevigny).

Now before I get to the third use of "Bucket Of Blood," which comes later on in the episode (confirming the running motif), it is worth noting that Sevigny portrayed Grace Collier, the journalist, in Douglas Buck's 2006 remake of De Palma's Sisters. This, of course, is the journalist character who was played by Jennifer Salt in De Palma's Sisters. Salt is an executive producer on American Horror Story, and she wrote a couple of episodes from the first season. This current episode, and, it would appear, the season to come, has clear echoes of De Palma's Sisters, in which Grace, investigating a murder, infiltrates a mental health clinic. However, Grace is discovered and captured by Dr. Emil Breton (William Finley), who tricks the others at the clinic into thinking Grace is a stray patient. "You want to know our secrets," Emil says to Grace as he puts her under a hallucinatory sedation. "We will share them with you. Watch." On American Horror Story, Lana is eventually discovered and captured in a similar manner. "She wanted an inside look into our facility," Sister Jude later tells Lana's roomate, "and I will see that she gets it."

But before that happens, "Bucket Of Blood" is heard a third time as Sister Mary appears to be feeding someone or something in the woods, and the music this time crescendos as Lana herself startles Sister Mary-- bringing Lana's appropriated Donaggio motif full circle.

Appropriating themes from horror movies is nothing new for American Horror Story. Last season, Bernard Herrmann's whistling theme from Twisted Nerve was used as a recurring theme for Evan Peters' character. (That same theme had previously been reappropriated by Quentin Tarantino for a memorable De Palma-Dressed-To-Kill-esque split screen sequence in Kill Bill Vol. 1.) For all I know, there were other such music cues that I did not recognize. But I wouldn't be surprised to hear "Bucket Of Blood" again throughout the season, if Lana's story continues.

Posted by Geoff at 11:35 PM CDT
Updated: Saturday, October 20, 2012 3:57 PM CDT
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Thursday, October 18, 2012 - 12:15 AM CDT

Name: "Jjabely"

Jennifer Salt is the main writer on American Horror Story, so it's not surprising that the story has echoes from De Palma films - and music, too. I may be mistaken, but I'm pretty sure last season had snippets from Herrmann's Sisters score as well. 

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