31/31 – Day 7: American Horror Story 1.1

Posted: October 7, 2011 by StayFrosty in Reviews, Television

We just finished the first episode of the new show on FX, “American Horror Story”.  It’s been a long time since there’s been any kind of horror series on TV, and we were excited to see if it lived up to its creepy, weird previews.  Here are our thoughts after the first episode:

Crowbait: The long form horror story is a challenge on television. Horror is a niche audience and few TV series have successfully gained and kept the momentum to carry a true horror story through. In this time when “The Walking Dead” has drawn a good crowd and a second season, now is the chance for a new property to strike. The creators of the show are pulling no punches. Free swearing children, male nudity(from behind,) fetishistic sex and bloody violence are already common in the show. The tropes of traditional gothic stories are also prominent. Deformities by injury or birth defect, corruption of innocence or faith, sexual deviancy and the constant intrusion of the supernatural on the mundane world. These have been the hallmarks of gothic horror since Horace Wallpole’s or John Polidori’s novels.

Jenny Dreadful: Going at least a decade without cable TV now, I love it and use the television for films and video games happily.  With DVD sets, streaming and downloads of the very few shows I do adore (Doctor Who, Being Human, Dexter), I don’t miss television programming one bit.  Oh dear.  Maybe that will change?

Horror shows are not common these days.  Attempts to recreate the horror anthology series have come and gone.  Shows with horror themes like monsters and murder are usually sexy dramas or procedurals rather than straight up scares.  It’s no sure thing so early, but American Horror Story may be the show I’m waiting for.

We enjoyed the first episode quite a bit.  I could do without the magical psychic girl with Downs and occasional B-movie jump-cuts, but I was sad to see the credits roll.  I want more.  The imagery is beautiful and the mood is creepy. (Look at the design of that poster.  Wow!)  The Lynch-style plot threads they’re setting up are intriguing, eerie and sexy in equal measure and seeing Jessica Lange in the cast is a pleasant surprise. (She still has the teeth I remember.  Damn, lady.)  What else?  Oh.  And a latex gimp suit is haunted.  You heard me.

I’m in. At least until next week.

StayFrosty:   My partners in FGSG have covered much of what I would say, so I’ll keep it short here.  A weekly horror show is a tough sell, and even tougher to maintain.  How do you keep the story, mood and atmosphere moving throughout a whole season?  How do you keep it from being just a jump scare-fest?  So far, American Horror Story seems to have to right idea, leaning more toward David Lynch’s vibe of heavy mood and twisting (and twisted) storylines.  Not everything makes sense right away, but that’s part of the fun, and part of what makes you want to come back from week to week.  I enjoy that many of the story threads aren’t pushed or overstated (a few lines hint at much  more history between characters but aren’t overplayed).  The cast seems like a good mix, and everyone so far is pulling their weight.  It’s not surprising that  Jessica Lange steals every scene she’s in.  I’m enjoying the mix of styles and looking forward to next week.  You have my attention, AHS.  Let’s see where you go next week.

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