With Halloween just around the corner, FX picked the perfect time to premiere its new series, “American Horror Story.”
The show, co-created by Brad Falchak and Ryan Murphy — both of whom have also worked on “Glee,” brought out all of the stops for its first episode.
The show opens with a scene from 1978. A young, mentally ill girl stands in front of an abandoned Victorian-style house. Two boys of about the same age ride into the scene on bicycles, wielding bats. After teasing the little girl, they tear into the house, destroying whatever is left inside of it. In the midst of all of their self-created chaos, the boys stumble into the basement. The basement is a classic horror movie basement — dark, dusty and body parts in jars lining the shelves. When they are done exploring, the boys turn to leave and are attacked by a being not seen by the audience. Needless to say, the boys never make it out of the basement.
The show then cuts to present day. Ben Harmon and his wife Vivian have purchased the restored house and moved across country with their teenage daughter Violet to start a new life together after a traumatic miscarriage and an extramarital affair. The family is in the house for less than 24 hours when things start to get spooky.
For starters, Ben (played by Dylan McDermott) is a psychiatrist and has decided that the size and grandeur of his new home is perfect for treating patients. His first — and the only one we meet in the episode — is a teenage boy who claims to have visions of killing his classmates. We have all seen that on television before, but what was chilling about this scene in particular is the conversation the boy had with Violet Harmon as he was leaving his session.
Violet, who is having trouble adjusting to her new school and is already being bullied, is in the bathroom cutting herself. The boy appears out of nowhere and advises her to slice vertically as opposed to horizontally so the doctors cannot stitch her up.
Then there’s the cast of characters that parade through the house as if it belongs to them. The neighbor, who happens to be the mother of Adelaide, the mentally ill girl from the first scene, is played by Jessica Lange. She invites herself into the house multiple times, once to threaten the old maid, and another time to steal Vivian Harmon’s jewelry.
The old maid is a different matter altogether. She tells Vivian that she has been working in that house for decades and was the one who cleaned up the mess when the previous owners slaughtered each other. This woman is also apparently a shape shifter, because while the rest of the world sees a decrepit old woman, Ben Harmon sees a young, attractive French maid. This leads to a pretty perverted scene that may have been more appropriate for HBO than FX.
While there is no other show like “American Horror Story” on television right now, the scarier images are certainly not new. Some of the creepiest moments seem to have been lifted right out of the most well known scary movies. From the music — which was used in “Kill Bill” — right down to the wind chime made of bones hanging outside of the house, much like the ones seen in “Texas Chainsaw Massacre.”
What this show does offer in the way of originality is the way it delivers its thrills. The cliché scare tactics, deformed killers and gruesome murders will not be relied on so heavily for this series.
“American Horror Story” will blow your mind. I cannot even begin to piece together the madness that played out on my screen on Wednesday night, but I do know that I will be watching the show next week — if only to get a few answers to the questions now nesting in my brain.
Reach the reporter at firstname.lastname@example.org