American Horror Story

Michael Bryant
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American Horror Story

Warning: Contains Spoilers.

Let me tell you an American Horror Story… There are five major US networks and every year they will take one thousand small pitches for new show ideas. From the small pitches, roughly seventy to eighty will be requested to submit a full script for the show and then they will do another round of pitching. After this about fifteen to twenty will be ordered to make a pilot. Of these pilots only four to eight will make it to air and then only four will get a full season order, that’s twenty-two episodes. That’s American Broadcasting for you. It’s a horrifying thought that people with creative talent get churned up like this by the corporate world. It’s certainly more horrifying that anything in American Horror Story, unless you count the intro sequence.

In recent years there has been an easy way to get around this. If you have already produced and written a hit show or two then why not get in contact with a Cable network and give them your proposal? They work better with creatives and most of the quality TV shows that you see coming over the Atlantic in recent years have come from American Cable television. But before I begin to sound like my praise is boundless, let me remind you that this doesn’t apply to everything. Enter American Horror Story.

Cable shows also make pilots you know. Well it’s easy to see how after only viewing the pilot that this would make compulsive viewing. The first episode is awash with a beautiful style and every character brings an intrigue to the screen. There are a few frights to be had as well, it’s just that the writers forgot something: to write a plot. Family moves into house, meets some quirky neighbours, what’s not to love? Well that’s just the problem, there is nothing not to love. During the process however, I found myself wondering what was to actually love about it.

I had been lent the first season DVD by a friend who has been banging on about it for some time, so I was resolute that I would watch the whole thing. It would be rude not to after it had lived on my shelf for two months gathering dust. And so it continued.

Four episodes in comes the ‘shock’ (I have put it in massive inverted commas as if this actually came as a shock to anyone then you must have recently had a lobotomy) that lots of the characters are ghosts haunting the house. Every episode begins with flashbacks showing how people were murdered in the house and then later in the episode they will be walking around as though they are miraculously still alive. It’s quite the plot twist, unless you’ve seen The Sixth Sense, you know that massive film that almost everyone on earth has seen, no? Then what about House on Haunted Hill? The Haunting? The Grudge? Insidious? Any of the million films on this exact same subject?

That’s the thing with a film. You can build up a central intrigue over a period and have a big pay off, but 9 episodes into AHS and all of the characters seem to be suffering short term memory disorder, including killing a character and then apparently forgetting about it as the character’s ghost walks around the house. I think the writers realised that they were losing the plot as well, because it’s about now that they throw in a bit of Rosemary’s Baby and The Omen for good measure. I have a feeling at this point that they thought “fuck it, we’re out of other people’s ideas to rip off, lets make one of the ghosts an actual psychopath”.

You know what a psychopath is don’t you? My guess is probably not, because they aren’t actually the people that appear in Hollywood films and TV series. The pretty blonde boy in this isn’t either. It made me really cringe watching the supposed therapist character tell him he’s a psychopath when he’s so clearly not. But I digress. With nothing left to lose, the house becomes a blood bath as the ghosts kill off the remaining characters and then they return as ghosts as well. Seriously, at the rate people die in this house it’s amazing that all of the ghosts have somewhere to stay.

The plot’s a mess, the characters are about as two dimensional as the Christmas card that you still have on your mantle piece three weeks after the event. Yet somehow I couldn’t stop myself from watching. I think it was the unintended humour running throughout. Everything felt so camp even when they were clearly going for dramatic, and the scares implied by the title are nowhere to be seen, with the exception of the really creepy intro sequence.

I guess this all boils down to would I recommend that you watch American Horror Story? Well frankly I can’t decide. I’ve thought long and hard about it and I just can’t come down on either side. I thought it was shit but was somehow drawn to it. It’s a very confusing feeling. Fuck it, I’ll commit. No it was a piece of shit, all style over substance, bake a cake instead

… mmmmm, maybe.