Episode Reviews (11)
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Look, I think they were trying. I really do.
I think the show is legitimately trying to be creepy and compelling and disturbing and a horror story in serialized form, as opposed to a thriller in serialized form. That is an ambitious goal and I like it.
American Horror Story, though... it just doesn't pull it off. At least not in the pilot.
See, here's how horror works. You get normal and you twist it. You present the notion that something is off, not what it seems. AHS doesn't do that. It just throws everything it has at us hoping that something will be scary or disturbing. It doesn't really seem to matter what it is, from plot points to characters and imagery. If it's ever scared anyone, they'll do it. Some of it has to work at some point, right?
And it's a shame, because any one of the concepts in the show could have carried a horror story. The maid that looks different to different people? Yeah, ok, that's pretty cool. Let's do that. But nope, we have to go do the deformed guy. Ok, so let's do that, then. But wait, no, there's the creepy neighbours. But wait, wait, here's a couple of ghosts, too. Oh, hey, wait, how about some body horror. Psycho teenagers? No? Come on!
Ultimately, this scare-ADD thing the show has going on makes it boring and exhausting but not really scary. At some point the family at the centre of it all stops being a conduit for us to immerse ourselves in the horror and it becomes another puppet in the theatre of the absurd mess the show is running.
Now, normally, this would be fixable. Normally, the show could calm the heck down and let its concepts breathe once it moves past pilot mode. But here... how do you actually do that when you've already introduced a decade's worth of Halloween Simpson specials? Do you phase some stuff out and bring it back again later? Do you pretend it didn't happen? Probably not.
So, at the end of this thing I was left not awaiting another episode, but an aspirin and some soothing music. It's a shame, too. The way to do this right is actually in there, somewhere. It's just buried under a ton of other ways to do this right. Oh, well, maybe next time.moreless
The story is intriguing and does not call to mind anything else on television. However, the series may lose footing if the story tries to go in too many different directions. Plenty of background information is relayed in the pilot: a man with burns obscuring his face killed his family when he lived in the house; Ben cheated on Vivien with a student, so they moved to Los Angeles with Violet; Violet is a cutter, drawing her to an equally disturbed young boy, Tate. Some of the characters are fascinating in their mystery, but if too much is revealed, this element will vanish. The editing is one of the most interesting aspects of the episode - jump cuts that zoom in and out are used especially well to increase edge. There doesn't seem to be a theme that the show means to address. "American Horror Story" would indicate that the show addresses fears that concern the average American, but already so many of them are set up. Perhaps all the resources will be exhausted before the show really has a chance to develop.
-"Do you ever get tired of cleaning up other people's messes?" "We're women. It's what we do."
-The fight between Vivien and Ben is raw and realistic. It is easily the most gripping acting display of this first episode.
-Dylan McDermott. While handsome, he doesn't seem to have the chops to play on the same level with his female costars.moreless
Nothing to like about this soulless mess.
I couldn't have been more disappointed by this show. I'm a fan of horror, through and through. From slasher to psychological to supernatural, I love a good scare. But the best scares come from a gripping story with characters you truly care about.
This show couldn't care less about any of that. Instead, it cares about being edgy, bold, brash, fearless, current, twisted, sexy, blah blah blah. Like other viewers, I too felt assaulted by the constant reminders of all we can get away with on FX.
Further, it was completely uninspired and thoroughly cliche. Creepy twins? Check. Strange neighbors? Check. Crazy Christian? Check. Angry daughter? Check. Telegraphed jump scares? Check. Cryptic warnings? Check
This "paint-by-the-numbers" approach coupled with a determination to push the envelope simply for the sake of doing so, results in a completely uninteresting journey that one endures, hoping for some payoff in the end, only to find out that there is none.
For Pete's sake, people. Go back and watch The Exorcist. Go back and watch Psycho. Go back and watch Halloween. Heck, to some extent, watch Paranormal Activity. Keep it SIMPLE. Be CREATIVE. Give us characters we care about and feel protective of, so our heart breaks and our pulse races at the thought of malevolent forces attacking them.
Meanwhile, aspiring horror writers and directors should view American Horror Story as the perfect model of what NOT to do.
The danger here is that folks may be drawn in by the shock value of this mess, and may continue to watch out of morbid curiosity, resulting in favorable ratings. If that happens, then unfortunately, in an industry more and more driven by "the bottom line", we can expect to see more offerings of this sort.
So here's hoping that folks will be offended that Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk think so little of them, as to shamelessly tap into their basest instincts and expect them to put their better judgment aside, and allow themselves to be drawn into their lifeless, unoriginal, sick world that is American Horror Story.moreless
Haunted house. Broken family. Creepy people and ghosts. Scary events. You know the deal. In Ryan Murphy's new horror-mystery series, American Horror Story, we venture into a world full of disturbed concepts and shattering psychological realities.
A horror venture from the mind and creators of Glee should be full of ridiculous crap, but it wasn't. At least not fully. Were there obvious flaws? Of course, but that doesn't mean it wasn't thoroughly entertaining and very intriguing. You'll find it pretty darkly spectacular as well, especially if you enjoyed the S&M ridden ads. One thing is for sure: This series premiere was creepy!
Beginning with an old, yet extravagant home in California, the Harmon family moves on in with some of their own demons; however, they're nothing compared to whatever mysteries lie ahead for them to discover. After finding her husband cheating on her, Vivien Harmon (Connie Britton) and her family head off to said home with some repairing in mind. After this move from Boston to California, the family seems to think it is simply okay to purchase a home that was the scene of a murder-suicide and God knows what else. Still, that is the least of their problems...for now. The couple can't even remain intimate, and their daughter Violet (Taissa Farmiga) is far from a bottle of sunshine, as a secret cutter neglected teen who quickly bonds with her father's (Ben Harmon, portrayed by Dylan McDermott) first California psycho patient, Tate Langdon (Evan Peters), who is, so far, my favorite character next to Vivien.
More intriguing characters come in the form of a young woman afflicted with Down-Syndrome (Adelaide) portrayed by Jamie Brewer, Frances Conroy playing an older version of housekeeper (Moira), as well as a younger sexier version of said housekeeper portrayed by Alexandra Breckenridge, the great Jessica Lange portraying the nosy, creepy, passive-aggressive neighbor, Constance, and True Blood's very own Denis O'Hare as the creepy burn victim, Larry Harvey whom we meet briefly. All of which play a huge part in the ongoing tensions between the family.
As for how the story plays out in the premiere itself, I was particularly surprised. A great deal of things happen in the premiere alone. It is refreshing to see a horror-mystery series on television that is not afraid to push some boundaries and sometimes makes you think about yourself and certain situations. The series is more of a play on one's psychological state. And no one in this series has any semblance of stability. What emotions and general human activities give us a good look into one's psychological being? Sex, love, anger, rage, self-affliction, masochism, violence, greed, desire and the big one: FEAR. Our three main characters give us a peek into their minds, telling us all of what we need to know for now. Even the viewer, may find him or herself questioning whether or not what they see in the series is real. What is just in their minds? And why would they stay in that house? The question is easily answered if you pay close attention. Each character makes a small statement of being sort of awkwardly comforted to the house in a strange sense. There's a reason Moira insisted the house has a personality. It's sadistically charming, isn't it?
Within the first half of the premiere, everything is exquisitely established. However the second half, things begin to deteriorate a bit becoming a blur, and not particularly for the better. More so built on a few not so subtle horror clichés, but nothing is perfect. Other than that, a pretty abrupt ending (with a little twist), and a few moments of choppy editing, I found the premiere spectacularly entertaining, nearly perfect. Dare I say that I loved it? I would. Even after viewing it twice, it stays with you. Playing on your worst fears. The show is definitely one of the more exciting premieres of the fall season.moreless
Off-the-wall insanity, but completely intriguing...
Ryan Murphy has always been criticized for pushing the envelope so much that his series become contrived and ridiculous. It's what he's become more or less famous for. Finally, Murphy has found the one genre which can survive such outlandish insanity, and unsurprisingly his new FX thriller American Horror Story is entirely batsh*t. This is a pilot that exaggerates the grotesque, filling every corner of an ancient California house with all kinds of ugly depictions of terror and menace. Most of this works in an off-beat, absurdist kind of way; but then there are elements which are so crazy that you can't help but cackle at how silly this show is.
Like always, Murphy has managed to convince legit actors to play characters who are more than a little wackadoo. The most obvious example here is Jessica Lange, arriving in her first series gig as a faded Hollywood wannabe who quit the movies to become the nutty lady next door who makes thinly-veiled threats while simultaneously spouting off charmingly offensive Deep South witticisms. She's crazy, all right; Lange going the full Bette Davis to play one of the campiest creations to come out of the Murphy wheelhouse.
The wonderful Denis O'Hare also intrigues as a former resident of the house who burned his wife alive and now stalks around the premises. I also really liked Alexandra Breckenridge and Frances Conroy (who is clearly the go-to actress for crazy old ladies) as two very distinct variations of the same person. That final scene between Conroy and Lange was fascinating. Are they basically good and evil, both fighting over control of the house?
The one weak link here is Connie Britton, but only because she's almost too good for this show. While everybody else is playing their parts like they're stuck in some community theatre version of Baby Jane, Britton remains tightly straight and naturalistic, trying to find the honesty in a show which ends with her getting impregnated by a ghost in a rubber fetish suit. I respect her for trying, but something tells me this material will only get nuttier. Unless the writers actually show some initiative and pursue the more human infidelity/miscarriage storyline, which should anchor the series if Murphy and co-EP Brad Falchuk have any sense.
Cliches are all over the place throughout the episode, but I guess that's natural for a show about a haunted house. There are the creepy red-haired twins, all the cupboards and drawers opening a la Poltergeist, creepy ghost women in the basement, creatures in the attic, the creepy housekeeper, the Down Syndrome girl warning everybody they're going to die, a disturbed teenage boy. The latter was the only element of the pilot I majorly rolled my eyes at. It cribbed a lot from the Nip/Tuck episode Enigma with the tattoos on his face and the murderous glint in his eye, but yeesh the dialogue was pretty terrible in that particular subplot. And are teenage girls really so shrieky and crazed? That felt a little on-the-nose. High school is hell, but I don't think popular girls immediately assault the new kid like that...
American Horror Story, so far, is a complete mess. But it's a mess that's inherently intriguing, one that manages to pull together everything that is both great and horrible about Ryan Murphy. There's the sassy dialogue of Popular, the psychosexual campiness of Nip/Tuck and the 'throw everything into the pot' annoyance of Glee. I'm in it for the long haul, though. It's wacko but I already think I love it. B
Read more at Unwelcome Commentary.moreless
American Horror Story Pilot
American Horror Story's Pilot episode was pretty great and I enjoyed watching this episode because it had some decent horror scenes along with good actors, and interesting characters. There were some great scenes but also some things that make me question what some of the characters are thinking. The father see's crazy psychopaths in his home where his teenage daughter lives? I mean really? And I couldn't believe the wife just went with the Gimp suit with out knowing for sure if it was her husband. I mean that was pretty crazy and shocking but entertaining for sure! I really look forward to watching the next episode to see how things progress!!!!!