Our first non-Murder House episode of American Horror Stories revolves around drive-in movie theaters, which made a brief comeback during the height of the pandemic. American Horror Stories Episode 3, “Drive In,” starts with a young couple getting hot and heavy while Bob Ross paints happy little trees in the background.
Chad (Rhenzy Feliz) heard from the internet that Bob Ross is supposed to be like female viagra…sure. But Kelley (Madison Bailey) isn’t ready to have sex yet despite Chad trying to pressure her into it. He eventually takes things too far, implying that Kelley didn’t make her former boyfriend “wait” as long. It turns out that’s just an ugly rumor, and Kelley is pissed Chad would bring it up, so she leaves.
The following day at the skate park, Chad meets up with Milo and Quinn (Kyle Red Silverstein). Between the awful cringey dialogue, Quinn insists Chad has it all wrong. Bob Ross doesn’t get anyone’s libido going. It’s activating the fear center that does that. Luckily for him, Milo scored three tickets to a special screening of Rabbit Rabbit, the most infamous cursed film in history.
American Horror Stories Episode 3 recap: What is Rabbit Rabbit?
Rabbit Rabbit only ever had one screening in 1986 because six people died in a massacre that same night. Survivors say the audience members just started attacking each other and going crazy. The result was a persistent urban myth about the movie that supposedly causes people to lose their minds.
At home, Chad looks into Rabbit Rabbit and finds a CSPAN video where Mrs. Tipper Gore (Amy Grabow) conducts director Larry Bitterman’s (John Carroll Lynch) hearing. She accuses him of inciting violence in the audience and reads a letter from the studio acknowledging they will pull the film from its release schedule and destroy every copy in existence. Larry is pissed and attacks Tipper, landing himself in prison for 15 years on an assault charge. As he’s escorted out, he yells, “I won’t stop until the whole world sees my movie.”
Despite the studio assuring Mrs. Gore, they would eliminate the copies, that didn’t happen since the local Starlite Drive-In managed to get one for a screening. Based on the conversation we see play out between two employees, one of whom is an old-timer named Verna (played by the incredible Adrienne Barbeau), it sounds like they need this screening to go well to put them back in black.
American Horror Stories Episode 3 recap: The Starlite screening begins
Kelley and Chad make up at school the next day and decide to attend the screening with Quinn, Milo, and Kelley’s friend Dee (Ben J. Pierce), who has a thing for Milo.
When the teens arrive at the Starlite, they notice a lone protestor with an eyepatch warning everyone to leave now and save themselves. Ruth (Naomi Grossman) tells Chad that she was there at the ’86 screening. It’s how she lost her eye, and her boyfriend ate it. Kelley seems to think Ruth is just part of the show.
Before settling down in their respective vehicles, Milo tells the group that this showing isn’t actually the only one in town. According to 4chan (of course, these dudes are on 4chan), a second secret showing is planned for the following night.
Once in their cars, Milo and Dee in one, Quinn alone in the middle, and Kelley and CHad on the opposite side, the pre-movie package starts to play. It doesn’t take long for the couples to lose interest and make out. Kelley tells Chad that tonight is actually their real sixth-month anniversary, and she wants to make it special, while Dee wastes no time giving Milo a blowjob. Poor Quinn watches each car start bumping and grinding on either side of him. “Story of my life.”
When Rabbit Rabbit actually starts playing, Kelley can’t help but catch a few glimpses of the film while making out with Chad, and Dee watches it every time their head comes up for air.
American Horror Stories Episode 3 recap: Let the carnage begin
Meanwhile, Ruth breaks into the screening room. It’s too late now. Verna has been watching Rabbit Rabbit and is 100% possessed. The second she sees Ruth, she goes feral and stabs out Ruth’s other eye with a pair of scissors! Back down in the lot, Dee totally bites Milo’s dick off. I guess Dee is holding to their promise of “eating that boy alive”?!
Chad and Kelley don’t watch as much of the film as the others, at least not enough that they’re noticeably affected yet. But it doesn’t take long for them to realize things are going south and fast. A random guy breaks through the window, and people are screaming outside their car doors. Kelley slips into the driver’s seat and takes off. Unable to see because of all the people running around, she doesn’t get far before crashing.
The couple follows Ruth’s footsteps into the projector room, where Kelley almost becomes Verna’s latest victim. Wielding a movie reel, Chad intervenes just in time and bashes Verna’s head into a bloody pulp. He passes out not long after.
Given Chad’s burst of violence and Kelley’s sudden stoic expression/desire to track down and kill Larry Bitterman, it seems a good time to guess that they’ve been affected by the little they saw of Rabbit Rabbit. Chad wakes up a few hours later, and Kelley tells him her plan. They need to find Larry and get that second print before there is another show, which they heard was happening from 4chan.
Chad is more hesitant about all of this than Kelley, but when he’s forced to kill his friend Quinn on their way out, he realizes that there is no other choice.
When they track Larry down to his trailer in the desert, the first thing they notice is that he owns a Rolls Royce. Why? We’ll come back to that.
Kelley and Chad storm into Larry’s trailer, where he’s giggling with delight over the news reporting the carnage at Starlite. Even when Kelley threatens him with the shotgun, Larry remains adamant there is no second print, but he can’t help bragging about all that he has accomplished.
American Horror Stories Episode 3 recap: Kelley & Chad confront Larry
We learn that Larry became obsessed with creating the ultimate combination to trigger the fear center in viewers after William Friedkin put just two stills of a demon into the original cut of The Exorcist.
People had a visceral reaction because they thought they were possessed. From there, Larry focused on subliminal messaging, studying everything from MK Ultra to the type of flashes that can trigger seizures, even in people without epilepsy. One day he achieved the perfect combo, and he knew it because he found his editor possessed and cutting her fingers off while watching the movie.
Larry considers himself a total genius and blames society for imprisoning him, “a society who jails its artists deserves to burn,” (that sentence is surely aiming at all those awful Hollywood predators who think their “genius” should protect them from prison).
However, his lies aren’t convincing enough because Chad watched a few seconds of the movie and noticed there were no splices, meaning it was a copy and not the original print. When Larry is still against telling them the truth, Kelly shoots out his kneecaps (they did see just enough to be violent!). Larry relents and points to a nearby box. Kelley and Chad take out the reel and burn it on the stove, letting Larry lie there as his entire trailer burns down around him.
American Horror Stories Episode 3 recap: How did Larry afford a Rolls Royce?
But as the couple leaves, Larry yells at them to consider why he had the money to buy a Rolls Royce.
That night, Kelley and Chad finally have sex as the camera pans to Chad’s laptop, open to the Netflix screen where a new arrival has just popped up. Yes, Netflix shelled out the $$$ for distribution—thus, why Larry could buy the fancy car—and now Rabbit Rabbit is available to anyone at the click of a finger. Outside the window, screams, car crashes, and more can be heard echoing across the city.
What did you think about American Horror Stories Episode 3? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!
New episodes of American Horror Stories air Thursdays through FX on Hulu.