SPOILER ALERT: Do not read if you have not yet watched “American Horror Stories” Season 1, Episode 4, “The Naughty List,” streaming now on FX on Hulu.
The fourth episode of “American Horror Stories” is called “The Naughty List” and boasted legendary character actor Danny Trejo as “Santa,” so… ho, ho, ho, merry murder time!
The action started at the “Bro House,” which is a group of social media influencers in their 20s who all live together and make obnoxious content for YouTube and other platforms. In case you’re wondering, this is a real thing. There are a lot of wealthy influencers who have started little “content houses” where they live together and get into shenanigans to put on YouTube. Netflix is even making an unscripted series about one.
The influencers here were Zinn (Nico Greetham), Wyatt (Charles Melton), James (Dyllón Burnside), and Barry (Kevin McHale), a bunch of dude-bros who were shown working out, doing coordinated dances, and drinking copious amounts of alcohol in their intro montage. Their motto is “yolo brolo,” so that’s all you need to know about them. Also, it was established early on that Zinn is the leader and he isn’t very nice to Barry, the house “nerd.”
Five days before Christmas, the Bro House dudes were camped out under a bridge that looks suspiciously like the setting for the big race in “Grease.” But there they called it “Suicide Bridge,” and the dude-bros were there waiting for “a jumper,” which is disgusting but not surprising.
A man showed up in a suit and tie and stood at the railing, and Barry wondered if they should call the police because “it’s wrong” not to do something. But Zinn insisted they were going to film it — and they did. They jumped around screaming, “Bro House!” while the camera rolled and the guy jumped. Barry kept insisting they couldn’t post the video, but he got peer pressured into running over to film the body.
Later, at the Bro House Christmas party, they debuted the video live and predictably, everyone was horrified and started leaving the party. Online, their follower count plummeted. Zinn was shocked people didn’t like it, which is both surprising and unsurprising. Should’ve listened to Barry, dude-bros.
It wasn’t too late to listen to Barry, as he insisted they should do something, like film an apology video because the dead man’s family is holding a press conference later in the day. Wyatt ironically called the family “attention whores” as Zinn suggested that instead, they become “homey-sexuals” to keep their fans. Apparently, girls really like it if straight guys do “gay stuff.” Wyatt and James were on board as soon as their sponsorship company showed up to start taking back their stuff.
After putting up some “homey-sexual” videos that were completely unsuccessful (which, duh — that’s not going to help the fallout after something so horrific as filming a suicide), Barry suggested they get back to basics and just be funny.
So, they crashed a Santa display at the mall, harassing the elf workers and declaring to all the children that Santa isn’t real. Santa (Trejo) then knocked Zinn down and growled an ominous, “You’ll get what you deserve.” Yeah, you screwed with the wrong Santa, fellas.
That night, which happened to be Christmas Eve, their new video of them being jerks to the Santa, elves and children was losing them even more followers (shocker), and Barry laid into the rest of them about how terrible their content is. But that became the least of their problems when an LAPD Detective Gibbs (Taneka Johnson) called to ask them for a copy of their Santa video because it turned out the mall Santa was actually Killer Santa. He murdered the man who was supposed to be the mall Santa and was now on the loose.
Then in a marvelous sequence where you might have found yourself rooting for the “bad guy,” Santa showed up at the Bro House and set up cameras to stream their deaths as he murdered them. It was such a good concept that we’ll just suspend our disbelief at how Santa was able to rig all that up.
First up was Wyatt. He went to he garage for a beer and Santa filmed himself twist Wyatt’s head clean around to the back. The other dude-bros then got to watch the carnage after Santa uploaded the video and at first they, and their followers, thought it was a prank — until Zinn went off to find Wyatt and Santa beat him with a club, trussed him up with Christmas lights and threw him in the swimming pool where he was electrocuted, which also caused the power to go out.
Meanwhile, Santa linked the death video to a news story about how the real legend of Santa stems not from any saint, but from a pagan figure called the “Wild Man,” who would go around punishing bad people — turns out Anya from “Buffy” was right after all. Barry and James read up on it and started to think there might actually be a real threat, so they tried to escape, but Santa was on the roof with a crossbow and took out James with one through the neck.
Barry got shot in the leg, but managed to crawl back inside the house. His phone was dead (skewered by the arrow in his leg), so he started posting on their faux-YouTube channel that the guys were dead and he needed help, begging people to call 9-1-1. But guess what? Nobody would believe him. And just as they hit 5 million subscribers and Bing Crosby’s “Silent Night” began playing, Santa lit Barry on fire and he died in the swimming pool.
Before he left, Santa decorated the Christmas tree in the dude-bros’ dismembered body parts. And God bless us, everyone!
The cliffhanger for this episode, which is something the show has been ending on each week so far, showed Santa lying in wait to kill another mall Santa and keep his reign of terror alive.
Episode 4 definitely had a different feel to it than the first three episodes. It was markedly less scary and a lot more fun, in an “American Horror Story” kind of way. It almost felt like an episode of “Black Mirror,” with its commentary on social media and influencers. It will be interesting to see if this series as a whole ends up with more of the scary episodes or more of the dark humor episodes.
“American Horror Stories” drops new episodes Thursdays on FX on Hulu.