Ghosts, Murder, Sex, and Frankenbaby. What more could you want?
In this entry, I’d like to talk about the first season of one of the most original shows I’ve ever seen: American Horror Story. Now, normally I will talk about TV shows as a whole, but, as some of you may know, AHS is an anthology series, meaning that each season is a completely separate story with its own unique characters and setting. As such, it makes sense that each season of this show warrants its own review. With that said, let’s start the review.
American Horror Story‘s first season follows the Harmon family as they move from Boston to a new home in Los Angeles. The home, known as “Murder House” by some, was the site of a murder-suicide, in addition to a number of other sick events. Without going into too many details, I can say that the house is haunted by many of its former inhabitants, which forces the Harmons to fight for their family – and for their lives.
So, first off, this show interested me because it was created by Ryan Murphy who many of you will recognize from his creation of the hit show Glee. However, I knew of him due to his involvement with Nip/Tuck, a show I watched for years. Due to this and a very cool viral ad campaign that built excitement for the show by providing brief (usually 25 seconds or less) and disturbing images, this show was a must-watch for me.
The central characters in this show are the Harmons: psychiatrist Ben (Dylan McDermott), his wife Vivien (Connie Britton), and their daughter, Violet (Taissa Farmiga). The most important supporting characters are the Harmon family’s neighbor, Constance (Jessica Lange), Tate (Evan Peters), a disturbed young man that Ben is helping, and their maid, Moira (played by both Frances Conroy and Alexandra Breckinridge). All of the characters in this show serve their purpose well and entertain consistently. McDermott is perfect as the adulterous husband who tries to find redemption, Farmiga does well as the daughter of a failing marriage, and even Conroy/Breckinridge play their part well, but I found Britton, Lange, and Peters’ performances most compelling. Britton, known for Friday Night Lights, is incredibly believable in the role and I hope to see her in more roles like it. Peters also shows off his acting prowess, especially as you learn more about his character; he is one REALLY messed-up guy, and his performance really reflects that. Lange has received universal praise for her role as Constance, and rightfully so. She is funny when she needs to be, often mean, and even has some touching moments with some of the other characters. Lange deserved the Emmy she won for this performance and, without her, the show might not have been as good.
One aspect of this show that I like is the way it creates tension. So many horror movies have tried to do this by using things like ‘jump scares,’ but with AHS, tension is built with genuinely chilling and creepy moments. I also felt like this show was unpredictable, and therefore more frightening than 99% of the horror movies I have seen. Another way this show really shines is in its mysteriousness. The first episode poses so many questions that you just can’t wait to come back for answers. This gives the show an addictive quality that I rarely feel when watching television. Big reveals in the show were also done well and at times when it wasn’t expected. The beginning of each episode flashes back to a previous owner of the home, a technique that I thought was used very well to provide backstory. I actually looked forward to these segments more than any others in the show because these moments were always rich in substance and were generally very entertaining.
With only 12 episodes, the story moves along rather quickly, which might lose some viewers, but engaged me even more. I never felt that there was an extraneous scene or moment; everything seemed to have some kind of purpose for moving the plot along. Every episode felt relevant, so I enjoyed it more. The main storyline is mostly resolved by the end of episode 11, a difficult feat when so much has been introduced. With that being said, the 12 episodes might not be quite enough to wrap up all of the subplots, as some things are introduced in an earlier episode and then dropped. The last episode also leaves a few unresolved cliffhangers, although I imagine this was doen intentionally to mimic the style of many horror movies.
This show has some really great writing, awesome acting, an amazing premise and good execution. All of these aspects work well together and make for a really great show that I feel everyone should give a chance.
THE VERDICT: The CLASSIC Award
American Horror Story‘s first season had just about everything going right for it. If Murphy and his team stick with this project, I could see this being a well-received show with a long life span. When I think of this show, I imagine that every season could be like one really fleshed-out episode of The Twilight Zone, which really excites me. So, do yourself a favor and check this one out.
What did you think about this review? Have you seen American Horror Story? Comment or send me an email to let me know. Thanks for reading and check out the rest of my blog now and in the future for more reviews about movies, television shows, and video games.