If you didn’t catch American Horror Story: Roanoke last night you didn’t just miss the return of fan favorite Taissa Farmiga and the season’s most brutal episode yet, you missed seeing showrunners Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk paying tribute to the entire found-footage subgenre. Savvy and astute horror aficionados probably noticed nods to seminal films The Blair Witch Project (1999) and the notoriously controversial Cannibal Holocaust (1980).
They were paying tribute the roots of found footage, the presentation of the Return to Roanoke: 3 Days in Hell episodes of the season; Episode 9 includes scenes and dialog straight out of films that are the subgenre’s most famous and infamous.
When Sophie Green (Farmiga) and her cohorts (Roanoke fanatics who run a tribute website) are lost in the woods, they find themselves surrounded by arrangements reminiscent of the Blair Witch’s ominous effigies (image, left); the character’s final words are some of the film’s most quoted (and mocked, ironically): “I’m so sorry.”
Her death (along with her most unfortunate cohort) pays tribute to the most infamous scene in Cannibal Holocaust, the scene that sent Ruggero Deodato to court when many considered it a legitimate snuff film: The impaled woman (image, right). The mixed presentation of Roanoke also parallels Cannibal Holocaust, a movie which included a sub-movie called The Green Inferno (no relation to the recent movie from Eli Roth). Many horror historians consider this the first true example of found footage in a feature film.
For the season’s final episode, Murphy and Falchuk are looking to give the multimedia switch one last turn, evolving this time into a Dateline-style interview with the massacre’s sole survivor: Lee Harris (Adina Porter). The interviewer: Lana Winters (Sarah Paulson, who essentially plays three different characters this season—a record!).
Check out a preview for the Season Finale, airing Wednesday at 10 pm on FX.