SPOILER ALERT: Do not read if you have not yet watched “American Horror Stories” Season 1, Episode 6, “Feral,” streaming now on FX on Hulu.
The penultimate episode of “American Horror Stories” took a look at the classic horror trope of “something terrifying is lurking in the woods.” It followed a family on a weekend camping trip led by a father, Jay, played by Aaron Tveit. Yes, he was back in a different role than Adam in the “Rubber(wo)man” two-part premiere.
Jay said the trip was about “experiencing nature,” but the show definitely took that to the extreme. The first scene of his family in the car driving out to the national park already implied something was off about his 3-year-old son, Jacob (Colin Tandberg), which in hindsight was obviously done on purpose.
But anyway, at the campground, the family’s site was in the very back of the area, right by the forest. They pitched their tent, hung some lantern lights, and lit a fire. A picturesque nature setting — right up until there was some kind of creature watching them from behind a tree.
The next morning, Jay gave Jacob his old boy scout compass and they went off to fish, while the mom, Addie (Tiffany Dupont), noticed blood on the ground at their campsite. She followed the trail and it led her to a mangled deer in a tree. Meanwhile, as the dad and Jacob played a game of hiding behind trees and popping out to “scare” each other, Jacob disappeared.
The episode then jumped forward 10 years, and Jacob was still missing. Jay was living alone and obviously obsessed with finding his son (based on the newspaper clippings papering his wall). A hunter, Birch (Blake Shields), came to tell Dad what he knew about Jacob’s disappearance. The hunter had a photo of a young man taken a week ago from a trail cam. Near the trail camera, the hunter found the boy scout compass.
The hunter’s theory was that someone from one of the “illegal pot farms” kidnapped Jacob in some kind of human-trafficking situation.
Jay took the tip to Addie and she initially wanted nothing to do with him because she couldn’t keep getting her hopes up and her heart broken. But she eventually gave him the $10,000 the hunter needed to make contact with one of the growers, and the three of them set off into the woods. Addie and Jay obviously had a lot of unresolved issues surrounding Jacob’s disappearance and their marriage falling apart because they couldn’t stop sniping at each other. And as they walked through the forest, two creatures watched them walk by.
At the ranger’s station, Jay and Addie met Ranger Stan Vogel (Cody Fern), who recognized them from the news. He was working the day Jacob went missing and he saw huge footprints around the ranger’s station. He was hit over the head and when he came to, he saw some Bigfoot-like thing carrying Jacob off. Birch pooh-poohed the story, but Addie remembered the other weird stuff that happened that night and thought there was some merit to Vogel’s story.
When they got to the illegal pot farm, they found a dozen dead, bloody bodies in the trees and lying on the ground. Birch was just sure it was “the cartel,” but as Jay and Addie laid into Birch about what was going on, he caved and confessed that he staged the photo by buying an old compass and photographing his nephew; he and the growers were going to rob the couple and “lose” them in the woods. As Birch prepared to shoot Jay and Addie, one of the bodies sprung to life and started eating Birch.
Birch did get one round off when the body bit him, which hit Jay in the side. Addie and Jay limped back to the ranger’s station to take shelter for the night. They told Vogel what happened and demanded that he tell them what he knew. He told them they were better off not knowing, but he wasn’t “allowed” to tell them even if he wanted to because “those are the rules.”
Jay threatened to shoot Vogel if he didn’t give Addie his shotgun and told him to spill it. And since this is a singular, hour-long episode, that was enough for him, and Vogel spilled. It turned out the creatures were a closely guarded piece of American history and the national park system was created to keep these creatures away from people. Vogel called them “Feral Nation,” and his theory was that they’re descendants from the old “mountain men” who never came down out of the mountains and the government knew all about it.
Vogel asked the couple if they noticed anything weird about the search teams when Jacob went missing. They remembered national guard soldiers, and while it appeared they were there to look for the boy, their true mission was to find and kill as many ferals as possible.
Back in the present, Vogel called for reinforcements because, clearly, the ferals were out of control. Before anyone could come to his aid, a bunch of the ferals attacked the station and Vogel was disgustingly eaten alive, which gave Addie and Jay time to run for it.
It doesn’t take long before they, too, became surrounded by ferals. They stopped a decent amount of distance from the couple, forming a circle around them at wide berth. That was because the king of these cannibals was present — their son, now a teenager, sitting on a throne of bones. One elder asked Jacob who the couple was in their language and although he recognized them, he simply said, “Dinner,” leaving the cannibals to rush in.
So, that was another fun parent-child adventure for “American Horror Stories” and definitely the most disturbing episode yet — certainly the most graphic. This was also the first episode to re-use an actor. The first season of “American Horror Stories” wraps up next week with an episode titled “Game Over,” and it will be interesting to see if there is any way the six preceding episodes will tie into one another. Based on the title, maybe they are all part of some new, terrifying video game system.
“American Horror Stories” drops new episodes Thursdays on FX on Hulu.