I'm a huge fan of horror movies and I have been for as long as a can remember. When I was younger, it was about the testing of boundaries, of feeling briefly brave for not being the fourth grader at the slumber party having a total freak-out in the bottom of a sleeping bag. (I was the one who refused to go into a dark bathroom to call forth Bloody Mary, though. I was brave, not fucking insane.) Those sleepover nights occurred during the Jason Voorhees, Freddy Krueger, Michael Meyers years, when the sequels climbed high into the double digits and every movie was exactly the same. I came to realize that the couple who'd just had sex during a blackout they were sure had been caused by the wind – on a calm, still night no less – would end up getting sliced in four even before the wet spot crusted over. I knew the not-so-classically-feminine girl with the unisex name like Alex or Sydney would live because she noticed all the danger signs (you know, minor things like the power suddenly cutting out for no reason or rivulets of plasma running down the walls) the others so flagrantly ignored. I began to understand how viewer identification is formed not only through dialogue, but by which character is granted the most reaction shots and I'd congratulate myself for figuring out who the survivor would be even while everyone onscreen was still temporarily breathing.
It was during college that I took an upper-level course in Film Theory as part of my major. The professor chose a screening schedule comprised entirely of horror films and I was plunged into the dripping red world of Dario Argento. Suspiria scarred me and I was petrified of ballerinas from that day forward, but it was Tobe Hooper's The Texas Chainsaw Massacre with characters who were carved into like they were loins of pork that made the biggest impression. The setup – the action before the carnage set in – was what I liked the most. As the film that ushered the slasher genre as we now know it into the nightmares of our collective consciousness, Texas Chainsaw illustrated the stylistic and story conventions that are still employed today.
You know the deal. A group of older teenagers or post-college young adults arrive at some remote location expecting to have the time of their lives. The bland banter they share in the SUV on the way to wherever they’ll end up dying reveals their relationships and explains exactly why we will feel absolutely no sense of loss when a machete slices their spleens right out later on. Those eventual victims have no gaze, no awareness that the obvious signs of danger they're looking straight at will bring about their destruction and the viewer – fully aware of each and every danger sign – disavows a connection with them on the spot because it’s just not all that pleasant to identify with fucking idiots. The one who survives will be the girl who didn't run around naked, the one who never believed the scraping against the car hood was caused by some errant branch. She sees what we see and she says what we'd say and she screams when we'd scream. She's the only fully developed character in the entire movie while the others are so moronic that we just count down the minutes until they become carcasses.
Allow me to be clear here: I do not wish carcassdom on any Vanderpumper. For one, despite these lengthy recaps, I'm not invested in them enough to expend energy wishing that they kick it permanently. For another, who would I make terrible fun of if Jax and James and Kristen ceased to exist? (I know – I could just turn my attention to Southern Charm, a show a bunch of people have told me to recap. I've never seen it and that choice is purely a defense mechanism to protect what's left of my rotting sanity an exposure to reality television has caused.) Still, watching the tragic and terrifying buildup to Katie and Schwartz's wedding day has left me feeling like I'm shuddering my way through the first half of a horror movie where we're encountered with people we know are doomed and the fact that the entire thing will be taking place in the woods only strengthens the analogy.
For the record, if this show followed the traditional iconography of a slasher, Kristen would be offed before the credits, Lala wouldn't make it to the twenty minute mark even though she'd try to stop the killer with her ferocious set of fingernails or by offering to suck his dome, Jax would be killed offscreen because the filmmaker would realize we'd already grown tired of him, and Scheana would bite it in close-up after complaining that shellfish might get served at the wedding. There's a chance Katie and Schwartz could make it since they are the least sexually-active couple I've ever seen and sex in horror is a big no-no, but they'd probably just end up killing each other so that'll up the death count. I'd consider the potential for Sandoval to live because he's shown himself to be relatively wise in everything other than choosing friends. He's also not fully masculine – such a quality really helps in a slasher situation –but I think he'll have to give his hair an overhaul in order to secure his survival. That leaves Ariana and Lisa Vanderpump, and I fully believe they'd effectively battle a masked madman before hopping onto a pair of pricey ponies and galloping their way to both safety and the sequel.
But before the real crazy can go down much like Lala does so she can secure herself a Range Rover, we have to get through the prelude and tonight's episode plunges us dagger-like straight into the story. It was just last week when Katie and Schwartz decided to ignore the mess that is their relationship and pledge to love each other instead in a leap of optimism so blazing that I needed to put on sunglasses. With this proclamation officially decreed – and with everyone pretending to believe such a decree is actually possible for these two to pull off – the final wedding preparations are in full swing. The thing about the days before a wedding is that it becomes stressful for everyone. While the bride and groom are preoccupied with figuring out how to pay for an open bar and hoping their guests show up on time and trying with all their might not to stare into a mirror during a private moment to whisper aloud that they’re making a huge mistake, the wedding party has shit to take care of also. Jax and Sandoval are working to get Schwartz’s brothers into the woods so they can either celebrate their sibling’s union or do the wave when Lisa Vanderpump politely inquires about whether anyone objects to this marriage. Meanwhile, the girls are very busy smoothing Katie’s hair and telling her that her dress is pretty while swearing their undying loyalty to her via some blood oath Kristen found online when she took a break from cyberstalking an ex-boyfriend because a ritual ceremony involving bodily fluids might be the only thing that makes this particular group of friends believe someone legitimately cares.
The countdown is officially on. The wedding is in only ten days, barely enough time for Sandoval to perfect his trumpet skills or for Jax to get a third boob job. Still, they’ve managed to carve out the seconds to meet up so they can brainstorm how they can get Schwartz’s triplet (!) brothers to his wedding. Being that this activity involves the act of thinking, my suggestion would have been for Sandoval to go at it alone, but at least Jax gets a smoothie made with egg whites and beets out of the deal. As for these triplets, Jax tells us they all live in their parents’ house – in the same room in what I’m imagining are triple bunk beds – and even Jax calls them “special,” a statement that both terrifies and thrills me and I want those triplets to march onto my television screen Right. Fucking. Now. Please, Lord: I ask for so little. Please have them show up in matching striped turtlenecks. Amen.
Eight days out now and the bridesmaids arrive at a shop to try on their dresses while sipping from small bottles of alcohol because this is clearly an activity that nobody could possibly do while fully sober. Katie chose some lilac number that is way nicer than any bridesmaid dress I ever had to zip onto my body. (I still have nightmares about the strapless pink one made out of the heaviest taffeta ever assembled in a sweatshop with the gigantic pleat up the back that was specially designed to make an ass appear huge, but I digress.) I am mildly confused as to why she’s picked the same ballerina heels Lara Flynn Boyle wore to the Golden Globes back when she had her old face, but the moral of this story is the bridesmaids have no reason to buy a shovel and get rid of their friend – for now.
While the girls lace up their shoes, Schwartz is in charge of heading to Dylan’s to pick out some candy. Fuck it – despite all the nasty things I’ve said about these people, I hereby pledge to take it all back because nobody told me there would be candy at this wedding and now I’m hoping beyond hope (and doing my own little ritual ceremony) to secure one of those dishtowel invites or maybe get asked to come as someone’s plus-one. Kristen? Listen, I know I’ve called you “psychotic” and “walking abject misery,” but can you maybe hook a sister up? At the very least, please send me some of the candy from the wedding, but none of the sugar-free nonsense Sandoval is peddling.
Back in dress central, Katie explains to her friends that she and Schwartz reformed their entire relationship overnight – you know, as people do – and Scheana then chimes in to say that she and Shay went to therapy once and it really helped them navigate through their toughest times. Man, these Bravo editors fucking hate Scheana, huh? Anyway, as the girls nod in unison at the crazy sitting before them, Schwartz explains to his guy friends that Tequila Katie has been killed and eulogized. Um, not to bring my horror movie metaphor back, but Schwartz does know that monsters never die just once, right?
The next day at SUR, Scheana announces that since she’s been married for a whole two years, it’s time for her to visit a fertility clinic so she can definitely get herself knocked up sooner rather than later. This news causes Jax to sweat more than he normally does and for once I totally understand his perspiration. A few hours later, Lisa arrives at the restaurant on horseback – because of course she does – and she heads straight to the bar to let Jax know that SUR is not only home to a ceiling of klieg lights; it’s also known for having the largest drinks in town so he’d better fill those glasses to the fucking rim. Once he’s done pouring the sangria, Jax immediately tells her how nuts it is for Scheana to be going to a fertility clinic because: 1) He doesn’t trust Shay and thinks he’s hiding something from Scheana and 2) Jax was a town crier in a former life and cannot help himself from spreading the gossipy gospel.
Five days now until the wedding and that means it’s absolutely the right time for Stassi to do a photoshoot! What these photos are being used for is never actually explained, but boys on OKCupid should look out for the ones where her thighs were contoured. Into this silliness walks Katie because while she’s getting married in less than a week, she can still make the time to support Stassi’s useless photographic endeavor. What I will say about Stassi and her growth is that she used her time away from Katie to recognize what the girl means to her and she appears to be acting far kinder now. What I’ll also say is that a belt over a lace catsuit will forever be a rather questionable look, though I’d laugh my ass off if she wore that down the aisle instead of the lilac number.
Okay, you know what? I’d rather watch a Sexy Stassi photoshoot for a hundred fucking years during a drought after eating a barrel of extra-salty pretzels than go where Bravo takes us next. James is back, everyone, and he’s at Raquel’s mother’s house. The family somehow likes him even though they had to have at the very least taken a gander at this show over the last few years and heard the misogynistic dogshit that comes spewing from his mouth like the green stuff that shot out of Reagan in The Exorcist. (Need an example? The guy’s onscreen for fifteen seconds before he equates Kristen to a whore you fuck on the hood of a car in a car park. Just for clarification, does James realize that Kristen didn’t bang herself on that car hood, that he in fact was the weenie doing the banging, and perhaps that makes him a scuzzy whore, too?) Anyway, his hair is combed to one side like he’s about to take his sixth-grade class picture and he tells Raquel’s family that he was too much of a prick to keep a job at a restaurant but now he’s completely reformed and Raquel is his queen and these people make “aww” sounds after hearing all of it and I pray this family isn’t real and they are just a collection of actors who can’t find work on a soap and need something to stick on their IMDB pages.
While James lies to a table of women and Katie and Schwartz pack up the car so they can head to the wedding venue, a ghost makes an appearance at SUR. Lala is back. I imagine some private jet landed near the SUR alleyway and Lala climbed up to a standing position and wandered over to the door where she finds Ariana. Ariana just stares – she hasn’t seen the girl in two months – and she listens as Lala says that she’s just been spending all that time away hanging out with her mom. Also, Lala wants Ariana to know that she feels sort of badly about that time she didn’t show up to her birthday and she gets a little emotional and explains she went into a shutdown mode and Ariana didn’t deserve any of it. It’s a lovely apology. But you know what? It might have been an even lovelier apology had she made it off-camera.
Lala is also back so she can inform Lisa that she’s quitting, a declaration so ridiculously redundant after the chick hasn’t shown up for work for two months. It’s impossible not to question Lala’s real motives here. Can amends seriously not be made without wearing a microphone? As Lisa explains that “owning” her hellacious behavior doesn’t excuse that behavior, Lala poses and pouts and then says that nobody at SUR is worthy enough to hear the real stories of her life. Oh, and she also suffers massively from anxiety. I believe her about that and I recommend that she stay away from reality television and ever-present cameras and perhaps some of her anxiety will be abated. Under no circumstances am I saying it’ll all go away or that her ailment isn’t real, but sweetheart, if anxiety controls your life, maybe make different choices and don’t expose your life to the entire universe.
Also: the secret about Schwartz’s brothers coming to the wedding might be spoiled because Jax told Brittany and Brittany told Kristen and this is the start of the very worst game of telephone ever. It could only get worse if Lucifer – or James – answers next.
Once they arrive at the wedding venue, Katie and Schwartz are immediately presented with a bill for $51,000. Schwartz needs to be revived. Their friends show up next, but Stassi’s story about how she was almost murdered during the drive in the countryside is not nearly enough to quell the nausea he still feels about spending over ten thousand dollars on flowers for one day. As Schwartz sticks his head between his legs to take cleansing breaths, Katie announces that she loves her friends so much – the very same people she said were responsible for 90% of the battles she has with her fiancé – and I suppose I could look at this scene and laugh, but I’m choosing instead to believe in optimism and not pay attention to the sound I swear I can hear of a chainsaw revving in the distance.
Someone who’s not pretending to be even a little bit optimistic about anything having to do with this wedding is Shay. He and Scheana pack up for the trip and he looks sullen. His tone is gruff. There are bags under his eyes and suddenly Jax’s recommendation that Scheana not rush to a fertility clinic makes a lot of sense. Meanwhile, listening to Schwartz talk about all the members of his family who will not be showing up for his big day makes me kind of sad, so I’m excited for him that his brothers are coming as a surprise. Unfortunately, like Sandoval, the triplets missed their flight and it’s up to Jax – Jax! – to try to make things right.
And then Lisa, Ken, their dogs, and the rest of the family arrive by private plane to check in at the most rustic place she has laid her eyes on in over thirty years. She looks around in a slight state of horror – so do the dogs – and she fans herself with a flimsy brochure that was certainly printed on recycled paper as Ken jokes that there’s a whole twenty-four hours until the ceremony and Schwartz could still make a run for it.
Ten bucks says he trips and falls just like every slasher character does during an attempted escape…
Nell Kalter teaches Film and Media at a school in New York. She is the author of the books THAT YEAR and STUDENT, both available on amazon.com in paperback and for your Kindle. Also be sure to check out her website at nellkalter.com Her Twitter is @nell_kalter