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.

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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?


Editor Rating: 3.0 / 5.0
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User Rating:

Rating: 4.2 / 5.0 (196 Votes)

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


I was hoping for something more from this series.
I too agree that it was all over the place and may lack direction in the future. I don't want it to become another "Heroes" type series where the viewer gets lost in the chaos. I will soon become bored with the shock value tactics. Let's get a real story that the viewer can sink their teeth into!


I have to admit the show was not as great as I had hope. Being a fan of the horror genre, I was hoping to get what I got from AMC's The Walking Dead. I just felt nothing. The show had it's moments of horror and trickery but once it was over, I forgot all about it. I'm going to give it about 3-4 more episodes. I do realize the show has just started and it takes time to build character's and story lines. I'm sure all of the answers about why the maid was kill, who was the man in the S&M suit will be answered in upcoming episodes. My rating for the pilot was a C+.


I loved the show. It was a modern wicked twist to the old-school horror that I love. I liked that the story was a bit all over; it created numerous questions. I loved the weirdness of not knowing exactly what's going on. A Rubberman? A basement creature? A creepy dead maid with dual personas? A former homeowner stalker? A disturbed young man? However the most creepy characters were the neighbors. Or are they? Who literally walks into other peoples homes like that? Maybe they "live" there too. Plus the fact Rosemary's baby may be on the horizon...count me in! It makes me wonder what the pregnancy will be, considering all the dead babies in jars the basement offered up when the peppermint twins met their demise. I'm on board for all the crazy this series brings.


I have to tell you, I was quite disappointed and thhought it was the worse show I ever watched. It was all over the place. Mr. Murphy can do way better than this kind of crap.


Definitely one of the wildest shows in terms of constantly (every scene) pushing the envelope for basic cable. Shock and awe only gets you so far. To me, it would be much better for the show in the long term to cut down on shocks and instead put some type of story together. Everything in the first episode is so scatter shot, aggressive, and over the top to an almost comical level rather than shocking or horror based. I give it 1/2 to one full season. Then it's gone.


It was a pretty good kept me entertained but right now I'm still in that WTF state of mind. Connie Britton (my favorite MILF) was pretty good in the show too. But I just don't see a story it's very confusing and just looks like random scenes put together from a good movie



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