Must See T.V.: “American Horror Story”
Douglas K. Barclay, Tower Staff
October 21, 2011
Filed under A&E
The opening credits of American Horror Story set the tone for what is becoming the strangest and most thrilling fifty minutes of television each week. As an ear piercing low industrial bass scratches along in the background, the viewer is treated to a quickly cut montage of photos of dead babies, body parts in jars and bloodshed. As the main titles roll, and the final wail of the bass resonates in ones ears, they cannot help but be taken to a place that brings them great uncertainty and discomfort.
Very rarely have I ever encountered a show that left me feeling entertained, uncomfortable and craving for the next episode. The first two seasons of Dexter came close, however in recent years, the fear the show originally brought, has subsided in an effort to make the lead character seem more human.
American Horror Story could very well take the humanistic turn for the worse, just as creator Ryan Murphy’s previous series Nip/Tuck suffered from. For now at least, I believe that American Horror Story is that special show that takes the experience of seeing a film like Paranormal Activity from theaters into the home.
The show tells the story of the Harmon family, led by Benjamin (Dylan McDermott: The Practice) and Vivien (Connie Britton: Friday Night Lights) as they struggle to overcome a deep family issue while moving across country into an old California mansion. Beyond the performances of any leads or supporting characters, the true star of the show is the home itself.
The house, like many in scary movies or television has seen more bloodshed and tragedy than any other home in the area. Think the Amityville Horror house on steroids.
Along the way an impressive round of supporting actors comes into the picture, perhaps most notably the Harmon’s new next-door neighbor. Constance is played gloriously by two time Academy Award winner Jessica Lange. She is a throwback to the type of demented spinsters and rich widows that have inhabited the home for years. As the series continues more is revealed concerning her actual role in the many tragedies the home has seen.
Joining Constance is Alexandra Breckenridge as the young, over-sexed materialization of the Harmon’s maid. To truly understand that sentence, check out the first episode.
Though the show is only three episodes old, in that two and a half hours of television, it has accomplished more than most series see in several seasons. It is difficult to write a review of this, as some things literally have to be seen to believe, and after three episodes I am not entirely sure I know what’s going on. That, however, is not a bad thing.
American Horror Story is a terrific show, though it certainly is not for everyone. As most cable dramas entail of late, it absolutely tests the limits of the type of violence, sexuality and language that is acceptable on post prime-time television. If one can find the ability to stomach such things, by all means, download it, check it out on-demand or tune in every Wednesday night at 10:00pm on FX.