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Jul 16

American Horror Story – Season One

ahsGenre: Horror
Year: 2011
Country: USA

Directors: Ryan Murphy, Alfonso Gomez-Rejon, Bradley Buecker, David Semel, Michael Uppendahl, Tim Hunter, Miguel Arteta, John Scott, Michael Lehmann
Starring: Evan Peters, Jessica Lange, Connie Britton, Dylan McDermott, Taissa Farmiga

 

You’re going to die in there!

 

The Harmon family moves from Boston to a mansion in Los Angeles to try to start a new chapter in their life after having a lot of marriage problems, mostly due to Ben cheating on Vivien and her having a stillborn baby. In the middle of their problems is their teenage daughter Violet who is struggling with self-harming and also against the moving to another city.

After moving into their new house, strange characters start to show up including their neighbor Constance, her daughter Addie, who has downs syndrome and also a strange fella with burn marks on half his face named Larry. A housekeeper named Moira also offers her services as a maid, something she has worked as in the house since she was… alive.

Vivien gets pregnant shortly after. Ben’s previous mistress Hayden calls him and tells him that she is also pregnant. Three fanatics of the horrific stories of the house breaks in and wants to kill Vivien and Violet as a tribute to the murders that has occurred there before. They get stopped by Tate, a young ghost who is locked in the house.

During the pregnancy, Vivien and Bens relationship gets worse and they decide to take a break from each other. Violets frustrations gets so badly that she attempts suicide, but is saves by Tate who by then has developed romantic feelings for Violet.

Vivien finds out that she is with twins and one of them seems to be growing faster than the other. The ghosts in their house is split on what they think should happen with the babies, some even want to take them for themselves. The stress gets so bad that Vivien even gets committed to a mental hospital for a short time before Ben gets her out and takes her back to their home where the birth of her children starts.

This is a very short and easy explanation of what happens in the twelve episodes of American Horror Story. The show is very fast paced and each episode has some new developments, character backstories and plot twists.

The show is actually quite creepy at times, something which is not easily done on a TV show for some reason. The house that this is set in gives off a big mansion vibe and works well, which is also a necessity since 95% of the filming takes place there. There is a lot of eroticism and sexual overtones in the show, but very little nudity. There are a few scares, mostly in the first part of the show.

The show is so character driven that it’s better to just review the main characters in this show. I’ll start with Connie Britton (The Next Big Thing, Special Ed) as Vivien. Vivien is the cornerstone of the family and tries her best to keep things together. She is very much a sensitive housewife who can be tough when needed. She has a lot of love for Violet, but does not seem to show it a lot and should work more on their relationship instead of her relationship with her husband. Britton is a decent actress and does her part ok. Vivien isn’t the most exciting character in this show though.

Next we got Dylan McDermott (Hamburger Hill, Hardware) as the husband Ben. I do not care much for Dylan McDermott as an actor. He would be more at home in a soap opera where old housewifes can drool over him and overlook his acting talents. Ben is an asshole of a character. He is the type of guy that will do stuff that hurts his loved ones and instead of taking the blame, he will apologize and try to fix things instead and yet continue to do the same thing further down the road. I think they should have redone this character altogether with another actor. Ben just doesn’t work and is the worst character on this show.

The young and inexperienced actress Taissa Farmiga plays Violet. Taissa had only done a small part in the movie Higher Ground before being cast in this show. She is the younger sister of actress Vera Farmiga and that’s it’s through her that she entered Hollywood. I liked Violet, she might seem like the regular teen who struggles with depression, but she seemed very kind-hearted and innocent. The Violet character was the most interesting one to follow through this story and I think Farmiga did a good job, although her lack of experience did show in some scenes.

The most important character outside of this family is Constance Langdon, played by Jessica Lange (King Kong, Prozac Nation). Lange gives the best performance on this show and whatever scene she is in, the co-actors just becomes so much better when they play off her. Constance brings a lot of mystery and madness to the show and is an important piece in the history of the house.

Evan Peters (Never Back Down, Kick-Ass) plays Tate Langdon, a sick little teenager who turns into Violet’s love interest. Tate is a broken spirit filled with pain who falls in love with the purity and innocence nature of Violet. Peters gets to play a wide range of emotions throughout the show and does a good job. His character does become a vehicle for developing Violet after a while though and I think they could have done more with Tate during the show.

While these mentioned are the cornerstone characters, there are also a lot of minor characters that are important to the show. The actor that stands out the most of those are Denis O’Hare (True Blood, Milk) who is just great to watch in whatever scene he is in as Larry Harvey.

Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk has been credited as the creators of this show. They are mostly known for creating Nip/Tuck and Glee before entering the world of horror with this show. They are definitively big guys in the world of TV these days, so it’s cool to see that they wanted to bring a horror show to life without having any experience in the genre in their past. I think they could have done better if they had cut out some minor subplots and also either cut down the amount of episodes or done more work on the main characters. The last episode of the season is just unnecessary, which feels strange after seeing so much going on with all the previous ones. They also “forgot” to keep it scary and in the last episodes it almost feels more like a drama show with ghosts in it.

American Horror Story is an above average TV show. It starts out kind of scary and creepy, but becomes a show more about the characters instead. There is too much going on at once, which might make it feel cluttered for some, but it never gets dull. It’s well worth watching and from what I have read so far, the second season will take place in a different house with new characters. I hope they bring more horror with them to that house.

 

 ★★★☆☆ 

 

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