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American Horror Story Review: The Wrong Kind of Fear

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My biggest fear regarding American Horror Story isn't related to any dire warnings of death, or any half-burned former owners or even any basement-dwelling ghosts.

It's simply this: that the new show from the minds of Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuck will focus a lot more on the horror than the story.

Welcome Home

Based on the series premiere, this drama isn't lacking interesting characters.

There's enough going on with Ben and Vivian Harmon (Dylan McDermott and Connie Britton, respectively, the latter in a role as opposite as humanly possible from Mrs. Coach on Friday Night Lights) to keep me intrigued, and Jessica Lange's Constance likely has a layered backstory, although it would help if the actress dialed down her performance a few hundred notches.

However, the pilot didn't really spend a lot of time with the couple, choosing instead to amp up their shady surroundings. There are weird images here, strange sounds there, a history of residential murders going back decades. Sprinkle in these haunting teases around characters that are struggling in other ways with their everyday lives and you may have something.

But American Horror Story doesn't want to take that path, which is consistent with Murphy and Falchuck's resume. In both shows these two have collaborated on in the past (Nip/Tuck and Glee), the pair seemed to take joy in just seeing what they could get away with. There wasn't a focus on consistent storytelling as much as there was on crossing lines, taking chances, trying to send messages they believed to be profound or important to society.

And there's some merit in that. I have no doubt many viewers will love American Horror Story, if only because it's different than anything else on television. I'd certainly prefer to watch it over yet another CBS procedural.

I just need more for my viewing pleasure than a furrowed brow. The aim of a series can't be solely to leave viewers asking WTF at the end of every episode, or, heck, every scene. Here, for example, there were some tantalizing mysteries, the main one centering around Constance's message to Frances Conroy's maid: Don't make me kill you again. It's also safe to assume that Vivian's baby doesn't belong to her husband (you really do need to leave logic at the door here, considering Vivian and Ben had make up sex - after almost a year without it - one moment, and the next moment she's nonchalant and open about another round... with her partner in a rubber S&M suit.).

Will these mysteries ever get answered, though? Or will the resolution always be the same: the house is haunted. Anything can happen. Again, that's my fear. I don't envision the series going anyplace except to whatever creepy destination Murphy and Falchuk wish to take it on a weekly basis, consistency, logic and character development be damned.

Yes, though, this is presuming a great deal. For now, I'll reserve judgment and wait to see if there's a real story behind American Horror Story. What did everyone else think?

Review

Editor Rating: 3.0 / 5.0
  • 3.0 / 5.0
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User Rating:

Rating: 4.2 / 5.0 (193 Votes)

Matt Richenthal is the Editor in Chief of TV Fanatic. Follow him on Twitter and on Google+.

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    TV has been needing a good show like this. most horrors are not given time for plot to develop since they are in 1.5-2hr movie form... now we have time to adapt to these characters, suspense to dig our own sickest thoughts on whats really going on, and something to look forward to after the show ends... i LOVE it. :)

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    I thought the first episode was boring. I guess that everyone we've seen so far (except the kids at school) is a ghost. Some are connected, some are not. Most probably they all died there. And if thats the story, the baby has to be her husbands.

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    I'm all for weird and creepy, but this just felt like a bunch of other people's ideas thrown into a blender and coming out a mess. So we get Seven style titles, Tarantino-esque music beats, the obligatory dysfunctional kids and and editor who thinks skipping a few frames here and there makes it scary. Jessica Lange did well with what she was given, and I didn't totally hate it but I can't really get into shows when they seem to be trying too hard. Did I mention it just wasn't scary?

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    Dylan McDermott spend to much time whit no clothes and I am the kind of person ho gets scared whit Chuky, It, Freddy, Jason at the first shoot and this didn't get my nothing other than have sex (because that was the plot of the episode) I was really looking for this show and I spec-ted a little more classic and a bigger plot at least on the Pilot and to honest when it was at minute 41 of the show(I watched online) I was just waiting for it to end but it was a 51 minutes episode. I don't know how do i feel on this show. Oh and I even laugh at the part of the housekeeper and Ben.

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    I liked it i think it has potential to develope into something im gonna love

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    I am MORBID. WEIRD. FREAKISH AND CONFUSING. Just like the show. SO. i loved it. It gave me chills and thats not easy. Cant wait 2 c next weeks episode. Bring it on.. the weirder. THE BETTER.

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    Loved it!...what a deliciously weird role for Jessica Lange! OK, she's maybe over-acting a little...but this show has great potential! I'll definitely continue to watch!!

    Christinatran

    I really wanted to love this, but I'm only just liking it so far. Hopefully, it only gets better and creepier.

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    Liked, but didn't love. I want to see more, but it's hard for me to get past the bad story line. I mean, a psychiatrist with a wife and teenage daughter brings his teenage, psychotic patient into his home for therapy sessions? And that's just one part of the story line that I didn't like. Basically, I'm intrigued about the house and Jessica Lange's character, but I could give a shit about the family, they aren't likable at all.

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    I LOVED THE SHOW!!! awesome... will definiely keep watching it.