American Horror Story: Season 1 – Spoiler Free Review
American Horror Story: Season 1 – Spoiler Free Review
• DVD/Blu-Ray Release Date: September 25, 2012
• For fans of The Walking Dead, True Blood, Twin Peaks, and The Shining
Wildly provocative and stylishly macabre, American Horror Story fills a void in television’s psychological horror genre. By embodying classic horror tropes, the series evokes haunting moments that play on our worst conceivable fears in love, marriage, and progeny, bearing the weight of its ambitious narrative without succumbing to it. Not for the faint of heart, Season One is an entertaining and frightening deconstruction of the contemporary American family.
Continue reading for a spoiler free overview of FX Network’s American Horror Story – Season 1.
Story & Characters
Each season of American Horror Story (AHS) features a self-contained story, distinct setting and a different cast of characters. Described as a “psycho-sexual thriller” by series creators Ryan Murphy (Nip/Tuck, Popular) and Brad Falchuk (Glee), the first season contains 12 serialized episodes revolving around an American family who has moved into a Victorian house in modern-day Los Angeles.
To save their troubled marriage, psychiatrist Ben Harmon (Dylan McDermott) and his wife Vivien (Connie Britton) move across the country to Los Angeles with their brainy teenage daughter Violet (Taissa Farmiga) for a fresh new start. One of the underlying themes of AHS is fear. We learn that Ben’s greatest fear is the dissolution of his family and marriage. Vivien, who miscarried several months prior, says she fears everything while Violet, in a false show of bravado, claims she’s afraid of nothing.
In her Golden Globe, Screen Actor’s Guild and Emmy Award winning performance, Jessica Lange is brilliant in her portrayal of next-door neighbor Constance Langdon; a cunning, overbearing matriarch who once dreamt of becoming a famous actress. In a single sentence, Lange can imbue her character with equal parts insolence, menace and pathos.
Rounding out the main cast is an anti-social teenager named Tate (Evan Peters), a new patient of Dr. Harmon’s. The role of elderly house maid Moira O’Hara is played by accomplished actress Frances Conroy (Six Feet Under) while the young Moira is played by the seductive Alexandra Breckenridge. Lastly, Larry Harvey, the disfigured former resident of the Victorian, is played by Denis O’Hare (Russell Edgington on True Blood).
If you enjoy crime procedurals because there is a logical explanation by the end of each episode, American Horror Story might not be to your liking. AHS is frenetic, crazy, and mind-bending. You will constantly be asking yourself “what the heck is going on?” especially in the beginning as you try to make sense of the craziness. In some ways this show is reminiscent of TV’s Lost because it uses flashbacks to reveal the stories of previous residents of the house. Also, many clues and answers to mysteries are steadily revealed although some questions will remain open-ended for viewers to ponder. As you watch the first episode, you might wonder how the story can be sustained for another 11 episodes but the writers have done a solid job of mapping out the entire season in advance. You never get the feeling that the story is being made up as it goes along.
AHS integrates numerous horror tropes from classic scary movies and stories. Although it has a significant amount of gore, it’s more of a psychological thriller mixed with some dark humor. For horror enthusiasts there aren’t many terrifying moments that will make you cover your eyes in disgust. But if you are easily engrossed by horror stories, after watching an episode you might panic over a shadow cast upon the foot of your bed as you try to fall asleep at night. One horror trope in movies is why the residents don’t leave the house right away despite the strange events occurring. In AHS, there is usually a plausible reason for a family member’s actions; however there are instances where the logic becomes askew, especially towards the last few episodes.
Without giving too much away, AHS touches upon many fears of the American psyche from abortion to homophobia; fears that are both true to life yet can manifest as the metaphysical on the show. The voyeuristic appeal in watching the Harmon’s endure trauma is sort of like a car accident that you just can’t turn away from. Or from another perspective, this may be in part due to transference of repressed emotions from the abandonment of one’s own aspirations for the all-American family or American dream which makes the ending to Season One terrifically perverse.
American Horror Story is so richly layered that there could be many more stories told about the Harmon family and the Victorian house after the season one finale. The tether that keeps the mind-boggling story from falling apart are the outstanding performances by the main cast as well as other reoccurring actors not mentioned above. Though some character’s actions aren’t always logical there is usually a reasonable explanation or it can simply be attributed to living in the house. AHS is addictively entertaining. I would recommend it especially if you are a fan of horror and mystery thrillers like The Walking Dead, True Blood, Twin Peaks or The Shining.
The second season, titled American Horror Story: Asylum premiered on Oct 17, 2012. The third season has already been ordered and is scheduled to air in fall 2013.
Posted on December 23, 2012, in American Horror Story, Television and tagged American Horror Story, American Horror Story Season 1 Review, Brad Falchuk, Connie Britton, Dylan McDermott, Frances Conroy, FX, Jessica Lange, Ryan Murphy, True Blood. Bookmark the permalink. 10 Comments.