This Halloween weekend I’ve been catching up with the first four episodes of a spanky new TV series called American Horror Story, which premiered on October 5th, on a cable channel called FX. I think the show’s title is pretty self-explanatory, but it doesn’t adequately convey just how truly, madly, deeply batshit insane (and therefore totally glorious) this show really is.
For those who don’t know, the series centres on a dysfunctional family who move from Boston to Los Angeles after the wife has a miscarriage and the husband has an affair. Unfortunately for their faltering marriage, and misfit teen daughter, the couple choose to move into the most haunted house in the world, and it isn’t long before creepy zombie babies, melty-faced murderers and gimp-suited rapists start crawling out of the woodwork! And, seriously, that’s just the first episode. It’s like someone took David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive, and then spliced in scenes from a hundred different horror flicks, while soaking the film strip in LSD. It’s a spooky-crazy-gory mash-up of macabre, blood-soaked nonsense and I’m totally hooked! My only criticism would be that the family’s domestic dramas are a bit of a drag, and it’s a little hard to care about the grown-ups when all they seem to do is row and glower at each other. Considering the mythology surrounding the house, and its poisonous effect on the psyches of its inhabits, it might have made more sense to start with a relatively happy family, who slowly start to crack over the course of the first season… imho. Other than that though, the show is straight-up awesome.
As for the cast: I think Taissa Farmiga is doing some solid work as the daughter ‘Violet’… especially considering this is only her second major acting role, and her character has really been dumped in the deep end, with bullies beating on her at school, and spooks dogging her at home. I think there’s something slightly Emily Perkins-esque about her, although I can’t really quantify that… it’s just a hunch. My favourite recurring character would have to be ‘Moira O’Hara’, the housekeeper… who is played by two different actresses, depending on who happens to be looking at her in any given scene! Women see her as an elderly, milky-eyed spinster played by the inestimable Frances Conroy, while men see as a foxy young flirt played by Alexandra Breckenridge… who will surely be topping all those lad-mag “Sexy Lady” polls next year. If the Young Moira were a separate, mortal character, she’d just be a deeply offensive soft-porn cliché, slinking around in her skimpy maid’s uniform and bending over suggestively whenever the husband’s about… but it’s hilarious when they cut back to Conroy, with her dry, deadpan delivery, straddling him instead. And she can really sell the pain and tragedy of the character too, bless her.
As for the supporting cast: Shelby Young had some great scenes in the pilot as ‘Leah’, a bully at Violet’s school with an oddly aggressive anti-smoking policy… and I’d love to see her character return now that the house has left its mark on her. Azura Skye appeared in ep #1.2 as a morbid home invader named ‘Fiona’… and while it’s always great to see her, it does make me a little sad that Zoe, Duncan, Jack and Jane still hasn’t been released on DVD. She used to be a sitcom star, dammit! It happened! I saw it! Adina Porter appeared in ep #1.3, as a deathly boring therapy client of the husband’s, named ‘Sally Freeman’. I’ve always thought she did incredible work as Tara’s mother in True Blood, but I didn’t realise before how cute she was before! That hairstyle she has in TB really doesn’t do her any favours. Oh, and apparently Sarah Paulson is scheduled to appear in a future episode, as a medium of some sort… which seems appropriate since this show clearly owes a hefty debt to the late, lamented American Gothic.