How appropriate that in midst of “Shocktober” a show like this premieres on television? The latest from Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk the creators of Nip/Tuck and ugh Glee have returned to FX with their latest off the wall series American Horror Story. Did I say off the wall? What I meant to say is that when it comes to shows like this there are no walls. I have mixed feelings about this A.D.D Amityville Horror-like series but if there’s one thing I know for sure I’ve never seen a show like this.
The premise is your average haunted house scenario; a family already with some tension brewing under the surface looking for a fresh start blah blah, haunted house. Connie Brtton of Friday Night Lights fame stars as Vivien Harmon a former concert cellist still trying to get over a tragic miscarriage and her husband’s unfaithfulness. AS Vivien’s cheating husband Ben you have The Practice’s Dylan McDermott, a psychiatrist who also sleepwalks. Along with their daughter Violet (Taissa Farmiga) the three purchase a moody house in Los Angeles with a dark past. By dark past I mean murder, murder, and some more murder which they are all told about by a series of unusual locals, the most notable being Jessica Lange as Constance an intrusive and almost sinister-like neighbor of the family.
What follows is typical fright fest fare with mysterious sounds, sights, and hallucinations but there’s nothing typical about the way this show is presented. AHS for one has some of the most erratic quick paced editing I’ve ever seen. I assume the effect here is to give the viewer a an unnerving and disjointed experience, a gimmick I like and don’t like it. Frenetic editing in scenes that are intended to be all out crazy are a thrill. You’ll most likely just be sitting there scratching your head and asking yourself “What the hell did I just see?” That’s fun, but in moderation in normal conversation scenes it’s just simply annoying. In a way you could say this show is trying too hard not just visually but also with pacing. I get the feeling that they don’t want anyone to ever be bored so they keep loading us up with crazy images and crazy sounds. What the crew behind AHS don’t seem to realize is that sometimes viewers need more of the slower moments to create a balance, that way it will strengthen the intensity of the more intense moments.
Story wise everything is simple enough though I can definitely see this as a show that has the potential to get needlessly complicated. The fact that Dylan McDermott sleepwalks and sees things could get a little out of hand but for now it’s fine. For the most part I enjoyed the story and the characters who are all ably performed by a talented cast. Connie Britton is perhaps the standout but one can’t deny that Jessica Lange is successful when it comes to dealing out the heebie jeebies. I liked the large assortment of oddballs and nutjobs that the family encountered and look forward to what other weirdos will show up.
If the folks behind AHS really want ensure the success of this show I’d recommend they slow things down a little, though I doubt that will happen. It’s hard to see how a haunted house show will continually stay fresh or plausible. Already I’m wondering “Why don’t they just live somewhere else this place is insane!” But if they keep things under control it could work. I don’t know how much longer I’ll keep with this show considering how annoyed I am by the overuse of flashy visuals, that’s either one of those I’m going to get used to or not get used to. American Horror Story is a somewhat fun addition to FX’ already diverse lineup and though I didn’t love it I liked that it was different and I’ll probably check it out at least a few more times.