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American Horror Story (2011) (TV)

2011 October 13

I am more of a movie person, but I have one or two shows I watch avidly. I love Mad Men and I am going to fidget until the season 5 opener of Breaking Bad, and when I saw promos for this little number on FX, I thought I’d give it a shot. It’s weird, almost too weird for the sake of being weird. It’s from the creators of Glee and Nip/Tuck, and the premiere reminded me of what David Lynch and Tennessee Williams might have written together, had they unwittingly consumed some ergot. This could actually prove to be a fun ride for us viewers, but I don’t quite know what to make of it yet.

We start in the year of polyester, 1978, outside a house that looks like it started out as a gorgeous piece of property but even the ghouls themselves should be afraid of it now. Two snotty neighborhood boys ignore the warnings of a spooky prescient girl (is there any other kind in these things?) to stay out, retorting they have bats. Of course this isn’t a smart move, but that won’t stop them from investigating the house…alone…all the way into the dank, dark, basement.

After this little party the viewer is jolted to present day, and a couple needing a fresh start. Vivian Harmon (Connie Britton) and her husband Ben (Dylan McDermott) are recovering from a traumatic event in their marriage, and neither are coping particularly well, though I’d say Connie is behaving a little better than Ben. Their daughter Violet (Taissa Farmiga) seems a little more receptive to the new house than either of her parents, even taking its dubious history in stride when they see how much house they’re getting for the buck in L.A. None of that will do you any good if you have to share it with uninvited, unwelcome guests.

It’s interesting, I’ll give it that. I’ll watch the second episode to get a better handle of where they’re going with this thing. So far the basement is yer standard issue ACME™ creepy basement, and even though this one apparently has a shady medical past, complete with jarred body parts on cobwebby shelves, it’s not the show’s most frightening bit. (I bet the dive bars where they got all those jars of pickled ring bologna are scarier.) The creepy stuff is made up of the rapid effect this place has on the psyche of the Harmons, plus crazy neighbors, with Jessica Lange standing out as a loco antebellum reject. Ghosts float in and out, warnings are given and ignored, and there’s not just a gimp, but a supernatural gimp.

I’m going to check out the second episode. This thing is too loopy to ignore.

Update, 2011 November 5

I watched the second episode and it was scarier than the premier or the rest, which increasingly had more tongue-in-cheek writing.

This really is kind of like a wacky Dark Shadows, blended with more dark humor and better acting than I remember from the old DS series. People die and come back as ghosts or worse, the dialogue is more biting, and some of the creepy effects truly are. The Rubber Man in particular is a frightening (and disgusting) enigma, and the clues are doled out slowly and skillfully. So far, I like it.


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