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How a Family Entertainment Writer Got Hooked on 'American Horror Story'
November 9, 2011  | By Jane Boursaw  | 4 comments
AHS-connie-w-kids-top.jpgI shouldn't like FX's American Horror Story.It's weird and shocking and disturbing. It goes against everything I know is good and true from my Midwest Methodist upbringing. And yet, every time an episode screener arrives here from FX, I drop everything to go watch it, gluing myself to the TV in rapt horror.

I'm not sure how this happened. I'm a family entertainment writer who has shunned scary movies most of her life. I never watched The Exorcist until last weekend, when it aired during a Halloween marathon. But American Horror Story, televised Wednesdays at 10 p.m. ET on FX, is different somehow -- maybe because the Harmons seem like a real family with real problems. People can relate to them.


I've managed to pinpoint five reasons why I can't look away from this freak show from Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk.

1.) Jessica Lange. It was great to see the Oscar-winning actress on HBO's Grey Gardens, and it's even better to see her chewing up the sinister scenery every week as the mysterious neighbor Constance on American Horror Story. You don't know whether she's running the asylum, or merely a pawn in someone else's game. But either way, she makes me want to tune in to see who gets her next batch of brownies.


2.) Those evil opening credits. Babies in jars! Eerie basement! Creepy Clipper Man! Jittery black-and-white lettering! Dear God, it makes my head spin around just thinking about it. If you watch the opening credits in segments, you might pick up a few clues about this show. Or maybe just more questions. Like, doesn't the bride look a teensy bit like a young Constance? What are all the chains for? And is the fire the same one that left Larry Harvey such a mangled mess? Oh, and in case you'd like to set the opening credits as your ring tone, it was written by sound designer Cesar Davila-Irizarry and Charlie Clouser of Nine Inch Nails.


3.) Dylan McDermott, et al. I wonder if Connie Britton will finally get that Emmy that eluded her twice on Friday Night Lights. Her turn as the knocked-up-by-god-knows-what Vivien Harmon is mesmerizing. Then there's Dylan McDermott as her adulterous husband Ben, a psychiatrist who weeps while not mastering his domain; Frances Conroy as Maid Moira who's a seductive tart (played by another actress) to Ben and a hardworking spinster to Vivien. Zachary Quinto and Teddy Sears as the squabbling, undead gay couple who stop by to offer decorating tips to the Harmons. Denis O'Hare as a maniacal burn victim, and Kate Mara as Ben's scorned zombie-ish lover. Taissa Farmiga (Vera's younger sister) and Evan Peters as teenagers caught in a dark and scary world. And let's not forget the star of the show -- the house itself.

4.) The element of surprise. Forget surprise: The whole thing is downright shocking. You never know what you're going to get when you sit down to watch American Horror Story. Angry spirits, demon babies (maybe), grisly teenagers, basement creatures, shocking deaths, and...


5.) The man in the rubber suit. Just who is that guy who keeps popping up in horrifying ways? Could it be the doctor who did unsavory things with baby parts in the basement? An old demon lover of Constance's? Satan himself? Perhaps that's the reason this show is so spellbinding. If eliminating evil is one of the major struggles of our time, then American Horror Story is a metaphor for the very world in which we live.

Are you watching American Horror Story? I'd love to hear your thoughts.


Davey said:

Unlike you, I love good horror and science fiction. I'm still watching AHS but can't say it's as outstanding as some of the reviews would have us believe. It's interesting how it tries to walk the knife edge (so to speak) between parody and scary. But its parody aspect seems to limit the imaginative leaps that are what make good thrillers worth watching.

My biggest problem, though is the Ben character. He's such a control-freak weakling and fool that I can't really care about what happens to him. So it's left to the rest of the excellent cast to carry the load of being sympathetic.

So, worth staying with for a while longer, but not in the same ballpark as more creative shows like Supernatural, Walking Dead, Being Human, or of course the much lamented Buffy.

Comment posted on November 10, 2011 1:55 PM
Avi said:

I'm exactly like you Jane. I'm somebody who absolutely can't stand watching horror movies. I avoid them whenever I can. But American Horror Story is different for some reason to me. I think it's because it's a serial television show instead of a movie. It's definitely the mystery that keeps me coming back. I think as I find out more about each of the characters, the mystery falls a little flatter for me. But that is also a credit to the writers, because usually a horror movie is fixed around some fundamental mystery which you usually find out by the end of the movie. But in American Horror Story you are constantly kept interested by the mysteries that are being revealed. It's at such a satisfying rate that I find myself wondering how long they can keep it up. I simply cannot imagine what they would do in that same house for a second season.

Comment posted on November 12, 2011 10:38 AM
Ian said:

My conservative upbringing might have something to do with why I bypass family fare in favor of shocking, offensive entertainment like American Horror Story. The pilot left me ambivalent, but once I found out that Constance, Moira, and Tate were in cahoots, I was hooked. You're totally right, Jane Boursaw, that the actors in this show are a revelation--I hope the writers can keep up with them. So far, the story has unfurled in a way that defies convention and expectation (the nasty direction Dylan McDermott's character is taking, for example). For all its horror, it's a refreshing show.

Comment posted on November 13, 2011 10:52 PM
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