‘American Horror Story’: A haunting TV series
Show brings scares to living rooms
Over the years, Hollywood has brought some of the most chilling haunted houses to the big screen. But the most interesting and eccentric story of the past few years, and possibly few decades, isn’t playing in theaters. In fact, it’s invading houses across the country in the form of FX’s infectious and downright spooky new TV show, “American Horror Story.”
Since its premiere on Oct. 5, “AHS” has captivated audiences with its impressive narrative that blends the scary moments of a horror movie with the expertly developed story of a family caught in the worst kind of nightmare.
“AHS” chronicles the saga of the Harmon family, led by Ben (Dylan McDermott), a psychiatrist who was caught in an affair by his wife Vivian (Connie Britton), who, herself, is still struggling with the stillbirth she recently had to go through. To cope with these issues, and hopefully start anew, the two move themselves and their troubled teenage daughter, Violet (Taissa Farmiga), out to Los Angeles, where they buy a cheap Victorian-style mansion that they are told comes with a rather checkered history. Little do they know, this history is more complex than they could have ever imagined.
This show truly has so much going for it. Its creators, Ryan Murphy and Brad Fulchuk, are two-thirds of the brains behind “Glee,” while Murphy also has “Nip/Tuck,” one of FX’s most successful shows ever, under his belt as well. Its stars, including Britton, McDermott, two-time Academy Award winner Jessica Lange (in her first TV role) and Denis O’Hare (of “True Blood” fame), are at the top of the game in roles none have ever tackled before. And not to mention, it has one heck of a twisted story to boot.
As a fan of horror, I was immediately drawn to this show for a multitude of reasons. One reason being that I have adored Connie Britton since her “Spin City” days and, most recently, in the critically-underappreciated, yet absolutely fantastic “Friday Night Lights.” In this role, Britton really shows how much of an expert she truly is, crafting a complex and relatable wife and mother, who is very much in a vulnerable state of mind, but also in a place in her life where she is taking charge and making sure she isn’t blindsided by anyone ever again, including her unfaithful husband. Needless to say, her new house throws some curveballs into this plan.
McDermott is also good in the ironic role of a husband who is internally battling his desires for sex and the pressure he feels to control them, while also working as a professional who gives others advice on how to live their lives. And Lange harnesses a beyond-creepy persona as the neighbor who is very invested the Harmons’ new home.
But ultimately, the most fascinating aspect of this show may just be its quickly-expanding mythology. Not since “LOST” has a show set the foundation for such a vast and detailed story, with each episode answering one question by adding more. This setup, in addition to the show’s graphic nature, may turn some people off, but there is no reason to look away. This show is truly a shining star of creative development and artistic imagination. Plus, being set in L.A. gives it a whole platter of infamous horror stories to feed off of.
Each episode begins with a traumatic event in the house’s disturbing past (usually a murder), only to return the viewer back to the present day, where the Harmons are dealing with all of the house’s “quirks” (if you will).
So far, some of those quirks have been downright deadly. For instance, in the show’s second episode, Vivian and Violet are held hostage by the disturbed fans of one of the house’s most infamous murderers, who seeks to recreate his brutal killings.
But all the while, “AHS” is establishing this overall arc that positions the house as an entity that controls all who come in contact with it. Everyone has a part to play, it seems, with Lange’s character Constance always around to make sure that the Harmons never stray far from the yet-to-be-revealed plan that she, and others, have set in motion.
And while I haven’t even touched on Vivian’s possible impregnation by an unknown man in a full-body rubber suit, Ben’s young (and possible ghost) patient who has taken an unhealthy liking to Violet, and how everyone but the Harmons may be sinisterly working together, it’s safe to say that “AHS” covers just about every base imaginable.
I’m not going to pretend to know where this show is going and how it plans on sorting out its many mysteries, but that’s the fun part. I do know one thing, though; I have never, in all my years as a TV fanatic, encountered any show quite like “AHS.” It has an amazing cast who are willing to push the boundaries of the expected and position this enthralling and legitimately scary story as one of the most compelling narratives on TV in some time, and I can’t wait to see what they cook up next.
This writer can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.