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American Horror Story

American Horror Story: Season 1

What He said:

He

Ben and Vivian Harmon (Dylan McDermott and Connie Britton) have got some problems. Vivian has recently caught her husband cheating. I mean that quite literally. She walked in on him and one of his students while in the midst of one of their secret rendezvous. In addition to the whole affair thing, Vivian also begins to lose faith in her husband because of his profession. You see, Ben is a psychologist…or is it psychiatrist? I forget, but that’s beside the point. Anyway, Vivian thinks he’s manipulating her. She believes that he uses his “professional opinion” as a way to excuse his behavior and earn back her trust; which only makes her more suspicious of him.

So in an attempt to speed up the healing process, Ben decides its best that he, Vivian, and their daughter Violet (Taissa Farmiga) pack up their bags and move across the country to start over. Luck just so happens to be on their side (Or is it? Queue the evil laugh!) and they come across one heck of a deal. They find this super swanky old home in LA. Unbeknownst to them though is the house’s history of not so lucky occupants. This house has been at the center of all kinds of morbid behavior, violence, and other general horribleness for years. As a result, it has this little problem with ghosts/spirits.

Another couple of things about the house are that it comes with a maid (played by Frances Conroy and Alexandra Breckinridge) and a very nosey neighbor (played by a very entertaining Jessica Lange). Moira (the maid) and Constance (the neighbor) appear to already know one another. The details of the relationship are initially unclear, but you’ll eventually find out.  The dynamic between the two of them is extremely entertaining. They do not like each other very much at all, but have this kind of semi-functional relationship anyway. Part of that relationship it would seem is keeping a very close eye on the Harmon family.

As the Harmons settle in, Ben begins to see some patients; one of which is Tate (played by Evan Peters). He is a very troubled young man, so naturally the Ben’s own moody little teenager Violet takes a liking to him. This accounts for all kinds drama between Violet and her parents. Her father doesn’t want her seeing Tate, but she doesn’t care. He’s the one who cheated on her mother, so she has no respect for his opinino. Violet also harbors some ill feelings towards her mother Vivian; who she thinks has no spine.  So when the mysterious, dark, and equally moody Tate offers her a shoulder to cry on, she’s happy to oblige.

American Horror Story

Oh and then there is Ben’s former mistress Hayden (Kate Mara). She manages to work her way back into the picture and as Chris Tucker would put it in Rush Hour 2, she isn’t the most stable individual.  Drama, drama, drama! And I haven’t even touched on the haunted house aspect of the show yet!

I don’t really want to delve too much into that aspect of the show, because there are all kinds of twists, turns, and other backstories that I don’t want to spoil for you. I’ll just say that this house has been the hub for a lot of messed up shit for years and if you think people have problems, wait until you see ghosts who suffer from some major psychological problems.

This is a very dark and dirty show. It looks at just about the worst aspects of human behavior that you can imagine and makes no apologies in doing so, but hey it is a horror show after all. Creator Ryan Murphy seems to love this kind of stuff, so it comes as no surprise that it’s a bit warped. Some of his other works like Nip/Tuck, Glee, and Running with Scissors, all have some very dark aspects to their respective plots.  I do have to say though, that Murphy can get carried away with this stuff sometimes. He’s so caught up on shock value, that sometimes he ignores some of the finer details of the storytelling. There are moments where you’ll find yourself saying “Wait, who wants what again?” Overall though, I found the show to be quite entertaining.  

Rating: Thumbs up.

This movie review was given the He said, She said seal of approval on January 27, 2012.

What She said:

She

Thank goodness American Horror Story is on FX, because boy does that show push the envelope.  Yes, it lives up to its title as a rather spooky contribution to today’s television lineup.  But the show is about much, much more than simply scaring its viewers.  It’s one of the sexiest, most twisted programs I’ve seen on basic cable. 

Let me back up and give you the basic premise of season 1.  It follows the Harmon family, whose got a lot of problems.  Ben, the father, is a philandering psychiatrist, his wife, Vivian, is just trying to rebuild her life, and their daughter, Violet, is a typical moody teenager.  After Ben is busted cheating with Hayden, the family moves from the Boston area to LA for a new start.  They buy this amazingly huge and architecturally spectacular home a way below market value, hearing that the previous owners had died in the home.  But really, who cares.  The place is breathtaking, and who believes in ghosts or bad karma anyway.  Except the house is haunted, way, way haunted.  And it wasn’t just the last owners that died there.  People have been croaking in the house for decades.  Of course, the Harmons don’t know that, and it’s a long time before they realize just how evil the house is.

American Horror Story

Add on top of this that there is a nosey, and quite shady, neighbor, Constance, who keeps poking in the family’s business.  Boy, is she a handful.  You learn she has quite a history, much of it involving the house, and she’s sort of obsessed with it and the spirits that live within. 

The ghosts each have different levels of involvement with the Harmons, and you’ll learn much of their backstory as the season progresses.  Some are more important to the overarching storyline, like Tate, a troubled teenager.  The viewer gets to watch as these spirits tear the Harmons apart, ruining their already collapsing lives.  There’s lots of edgy stuff, and the show consistently pushes the boundaries on what can be aired without a subscription service.  For this reason, I know a lot of people might not like it.  I had to cover my eyes a few times, but overall wasn’t too bothered.

My main gripe, if any, with American Horror Story is that I felt the show got so caught up in being “sexy” that the writing started to fall apart a bit toward mid-season.  It started off strong, ended pretty well, but in the middle not everything made sense.  And I don’t think it was just a case of the creators trying to be mysteries.  They seemed to get obsessed with aesthetics of the program, and moved away from actual logical storytelling.

Overall, though, I was quite pleased with the show, and look forward to seeing it come back next season.

Thumbs up.