This Halloween season, horror fans have more to hope for than scary movies in theaters, as Fox lurks into our Wednesday nights with the new drama, “American Horror Story.”
In the show, the Harmon family move from Boston to a mansion in Los Angeles, hoping to start over far away from their tormented past. They do end up starting over, but not in the way they expect. As it turns out, the mansion is haunted with every murderous memory, demonic spirit and creepy girl one would expect to find in your typical horror movie. Somehow, this mansion has been the home of countless murders throughout the many decades it has been standing. Each episode begins with a scene from one of the past murders.
The Harmon family enters into this den of horrors with troubles of their own. Vivien Harmon (Connie Britton) is recovering from her miscarriage and catches her husband cheating on her with one of his mental patients. The maid of the mansion, Moira (Francis Conroy), appears to Vivien as a devoted elderly woman, making Vivien’s choice to keep her on as housemaid easy. Little does Vivien know, however, that Moira appears to her husband as a slut of a girl in a maid’s costume.
Ben Harmon (Dylan McDermott) tries to keep his yearning hands to himself while the Young Moira (Alexandra Breckenridge) plays the temptress, trying to make him cheat on his wife once more. Ben claims that he is genuinely trying to make up for the damage he caused his family, but will he be able to stick to that promise to bring his family back together when the spirits of the mansion are possessing him at night, compelling him destroy the house and his family along with it?
The previous owner, Larry Harvey (Denis O’Hare), looking like a monster himself because of horrific burns, warns Ben to leave the house before he is possessed to murder his own family, as Larry once was. But, like most typical scary movies, no matter how many chances the main character has to run away, he or she always seems to step further into danger. And like all of those horrors that have come before it, I have a feeling this show will make many a viewer yell at the TV, “No, don’t do it! You will die! Don’t go in there!”
Horror movies like “The Shining,” “The Exorcist” and “Paranormal Activity” show demons, fear and possession tearing families apart, but “American Horror Story” forms a pattern of unconventional themes from the start; we may see horrors of this haunted house bring a detached family back together in fear. If the man in the full body leather suit taking Vivien to bed was not Ben, however, Vivien’s baby is likely to be a demon-child, and with this we are sure to be reminded of “The Omen.” This dramatic horror show does not skimp on sexual scenes and real gore, either; it’s everything we expect from the movies.
In order to build trust again with his wife, Ben decides to bring his psychology practice to his home and introduces a patient, the murderous Tate (Even Peters), into the presence of his daughter Violet (Taissa Farmiga), which we can all assume is bad news.
Every TV drama needs a nosey neighbor, and this horror show falls in line with the pious Virginian, Constance (Jessica Lange). Like her daughter, Adelaide (Jamie Brewer), Constance surprises suspicious Vivien on more than one occasion. Could these prying and seemingly timeless neighbors be ghosts?
The second episode, “Home Invasion,” offers plenty to scare the Harmon family out of the mansion, as it features poisoned cupcakes and strangers attempting to recreate a past murder in the home, resembling scenes from film “The Strangers.” Spirits of past mansion victims protect the Harmon family, killing any threat that enters the home. We learn that Tate, Constance, and Moira work together to clean up after the spirit’s murders, and work to keep the Harmon family in the mansion.
The third episode begins to answer the many questions the first two episodes left us wondering about. It leaves us, however, with a bad taste in our mouths as Ben delves deeper into the insanity of the mansion.
If this show lives up to its name, viewers can expect to finish each episode with the uncomfortable yet thrilling feeling of confusion that movies like “Momento,” “The Blair Witch Project,” “Donnie Darko” and “Fight Club” evoke. If the episodes that follow are anything like the first three, viewers are in for a haunting Wednesday night. Although it had a rough start, “American Horror Story” is sure to draw many viewers. Just be careful not to let the haunting mood distract you from reality.
Rating: 4 out of 5