Horror is my absolute favorite genre. I started young: Freddy, Jason, Michael and I were well acquainted but as a kid Poltergeist was the first film to scare me on a truly elemental level. I remember that at night the poster of the solar system I had on my wall would grow faces and appear to undulate if I stared frightfully at it long enough. What scared me were the supernatural unknowns and the innocuous objects and people who seem to reside in both worlds. FX’s American Horror Story manages all this and with a much creepier house.
The show exudes great promise in the first scene as we see the big creepy psychoesque house from the ground. The camera pans down to a set of ginger twins being told by a girl with obvious Down syndrome that they are going to die. This is what creator Ryan Murphy (Glee) first wanted the audience to see. Ten seconds in and I’m hooked, new record.
Thirty-three years later, a new family is moving into this quaint Los Angeles post-Victorian to pick up the pieces from a horrifying miscarriage and a subsequent affair by the husband, psychiatrist Ben Harmon (Dylan McDermott). The premiere episode moves fast, with well-paced character exposition interwoven into the unsettling nuances of the house and its current and former denizens. Adelaide (Jaime Brewer) is both. She is the Down syndrome girl from the beginning and is now grown up and still portending dire events, randomly showing up at the house like Kramer a la David Lynch. In the horror genre, the handicapped are the Shakespearean equivalent of the jester, possessing a bemused knowledge of the supernatural world on the fringes of our own.
Rounding out the family is wife Vivien (Connie Britton) and teenage daughter Violet (Taissa Farmiga), a cutter who forms a relationship with Tate (Evan Peters), her father’s patient. Also popping in and out of the house is Adelaide’s mother Constance (Jessica Lange), who, like the former/currently milk-eyed maid Moira (Frances Conroy) do not seem to have a place of their own.
Things I noticed: Tate comes out of nowhere. The family moves cross-country and Ben finds a patient this quickly? Fishy. Same goes for Constance, Adelaide, and Moira, as if the house is their purgatory, they are called upon when new people move in. They are of the same confection (i.e. the house), with their world seemingly contained solely therein.
The pilot gave the audience much to work with, though they may scare some people off not by fright but by the jumbled confusion and vagueness of events and characters. I for one am packed up and ready to crash on Ben and Vivien’s couch, earning my keep feeding the demon Tate invoked in the basement or polishing their full-body gimp suit. Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk series’ namesake is truly that: American (past residents include a gay couple who were murdered/committed suicide), with a fundamentally terrifying mystery containing multiple storylines. A modern Twin Peaks’ meets Changeling, with Los Angeles giving it a neo gothic vibe. Thus far I’m fearfully happy.