Halloween Town: American Horror Story

When I saw the trailer for FX’s new TV show, American Horror Story, I knew I had to watch it, especially since they chose to premiere it in, duh, October, and I love ghost stories. The trailer was enough to make me uncomfortable; the pilot episode, well … To say “Parents Strongly Cautioned” would be an understatement. Beware: sex, drugs, imagery that would give Stephen King nightmares. There’s nudity, too, which Jake was pumped about until it turned out to be a man’s bare butt. DOH!

So, simple plotline: husband Ben (Dylan McDermott) had an affair after his wife Vivian (Connie Britton) had a miscarriage. Lovely. To escape his indiscretions, Ben decides to move his family from Boston to Los Angeles, including his daughter Violet (newcomer Taissa Farmiga)—who may be the only character in the show with any redeeming quality. They move into a cheap old mansion; it’s cheap because the previous owners suffered from, of course, a murder-suicide. And so begins the madness, including a maid who is apparently dead, a homicidal patient of Ben’s who has a crush on Ben’s daughter, and an apparition that wears a bondage suit.

To me, American Horror Story felt like it was trying to be The Amityville Horror but with a modern, soap opera twist. This feeling increased with the introduction of a mysterious man covered in scars who tells Ben that he burned his family to death because “the house told me to.” Ah-hem: copywrite infringement much?

The creators of this show, Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk, are best known for creating shows like Glee and Nip/Tuck, so I know they are capable of creating new and interesting television—and I’m not saying American Horror Story isn’t interesting. From the perspective of a Halloween hound, the show is horrifying. Within the first five minutes, two kids get brutally murdered by what I assume is an evil spirit in the house’s creepy basement. And Jessica Lange as the weird, aging actress neighbor with the Down syndrome daughter was so Evil (with a capital “E”), she made me cringe.

That said, Jake had a good point last night: he asked, how long can you continue a show like this? Sure, I’m interested to know why the house is haunted. Apparently everyone goes crazy there, but what started it all? I also want to see how many of the characters we met in the pilot are dead already (I suspect almost ALL of them). And yeah, it’s weird that the wife had sex with the bondage ghost—and now, she’s pregnant—so I guess I wanna see what kind of monster she gives birth to.

However, the characters aren’t very likeable, except the daughter. I think Ben is a weenie, and Vivian: do you really think your husband would wear a bondage suit and come to bed? I feel bad saying this, but the Down syndrome girl was just annoying, and I don’t know what’s going on with the maid who looks young sometimes and old other times. Plus, the show was just—so—weird. How many weird images do the creators have up their sleeves, and frankly, how long are audiences going to stick around without characters to root for?

I’ll give it this: American Horror Story is a horror story, and I do love haunted houses. I’ll watch it again, just to see if episode two gives these characters some engaging qualities. Plus, it’s October, and what better time to be haunted than the witching season?

(American Horror Story airs on FX every Wednesday night at 10 PM EST!)

6 thoughts on “Halloween Town: American Horror Story

  1. I haven’t heard too much about this show, though I added it to my DVR because it’s a Ryan Murphy show and I love Connie Britton from FNL. Glad to hear more about it, but it does sound very spooky. You’re right – perfect for October. I’m more eager to watch it now and see where it goes. Thanks for the recap!

  2. horrible review. clearly you have no idea what you’re talking about since this has become such a hit. You call yourself a horror fan, but you’re probably more into the likes of Nightmare on Elm Street and Friday the 13th, vs. subtle horror like The Others and The Shining. Understandable. However that doesn’t explain your prosaic “review.” The dust in Phoenix must be clouding your senses.

    • Just because a show is a hit does not mean it’s a good show. On that note, I’m still watching American Horror Story, so yes, it has its merits. I merely pointed out the weak spots. I love all genres of horror, especially The Shining. As a writer personally, I just think AHS has a shaky writing base. I don’t know how long it can last at the rate it’s going, and I do think in order to have a good program, you gotta have likeable characters–with AHS doesn’t. We’re all allowed our opinions. I’ll keep watching the show for now, and it sounds as though you’ll do the same!

  3. I whole-heartedly disagree with the lack of likeable characters – you just gotta be the kind of person who likes terrible people in shows. Honestly, my faves are the maid (a ghost, obviously – I mean, she’s old to women and young to men – first episode I was like, ‘yeah, ghost, duh’) and Constance, oh, gotta love the neighbor with the southern drawl that has no boundaries, doesn’t seem to HEAR you say ‘don’t come back into my house’ and loves to insult and steal shiny things… HAHA! Anyway, the daughter is what I would call a bland character, since she’s really done nothing, and now I’ve watched about seven or so episodes.
    I love characters that give friction to a story, which is why I like most of the characters in this show. The first episode, the only character I had a problem with was Tate, who seemed to be needlessly graphic about his whore of a mother… but now, knowing his psychotic issues, hey, he’s cool. And how could you NOT love a story where 90% of the cast is dead!
    I don’t see Amityville in this show at all. I liked that movie okay, but I really don’t see how this show merits to be called that. Granted I haven’t seen that movie in a while, but I think AHS is just that – drawing on all the fears we as Americans tend to have, and the urban legends that have formed over the course of our culture’s progression. It’s fun to see it all in one place, and how characters react to NOT just suicide, or JUST rape, or JUST ghosts, or whatever, but ALL of it in ONE show. GO AHS!

    • Haha … “terrible people in shows.” They ARE terrible, but I have learned to embrace them–except the dad. He still just annoys the hell out of me. And you’re right; the fact that there are so many ghosts wandering around, talking to living people, is awesome. As I said, I’ll keep watching. Let’s hope they can keep the fear, terror, and gore going!

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