TV Review: American Horror Story

Connie Britton in American Horror Story (MCT Campus)
Connie Britton in American Horror Story (MCT Campus)

Think back to the last time you were walking through your typical Spook Trail, a Halloween classic for many high school gangs. Remember how the thought that around any corner, someone might pop out was scarier than the kid with the plastic mask that actually did jump out? Sure, the smoke and the sound effects give you the chills, but then you realize that “monster” is the kid that sits next to you in English class.

The new horror show on FX, American Horror Story, has proven to have the same kind of pseudo-scare factor as the infamous Spook Trail, with gruesome effects and cliché scare tactics, but no real scream factor.

The co-creators of Glee and Nip-Tuck, Ryan Murphy and Brad Fulchuk, have brought a new genre of television to the horror show. The combination of their outrageous need for excess, and logic-defying story lines, which follows in line with their other shows, has resulted in American Horror Story.

The show, starring Dylan McDermott and Connie Britton, follows Ben and Vivien Harmon and their new life in the infamous “Murder House” in Los Angeles after moving from the East Coast because of a difficult miscarriage and Ben’s (Dylan McDermott) indiscretion with one of his students. The house that the couple and their daughter Violet (Taissa Farmiga) find soulful is really the location of multiple murders and current hot-spot for haunting.

The show is injected with super creepy flashbacks of what went down in the “Murder House” before the Harmons arrived and freakishly weird characters: the next-door neighbor Constance (Jessica Lange) who has some unexplained, dark connection with the house, her daughter with Down Syndrome (Jamie Brewer) who seems to sense the house is haunted, the maid, Moira (Frances Conroy), who appears old to Vivien and young and outrageously flirtatious to Ben, and Violet’s new friend, Tate (Evan Peters), who is also a client of Ben’s psychiatry home office, and is particularly dangerous and creepy with a habit of lingering in hallways and basements.

Don’t forget about Larry (Denis O’hare), the guy who burned himself into disfigurement while killing his family in the “Murder House” and chases down Ben every so often. The way these characters fit into the story of the house is hinted at each episode, but never fully disclosed, although it is obvious there is some history. Murphy and Fulchuk create story lines that infuse these characters into the Harmons’ lives in ways that are confusing to follow and understand.

Although, part of the thrill of the show is watching just how messed up these character seem to be, and the way Murphy and Fulchuk never fail to place them at the end of the episode, presumably plotting the demise of the Harmon family.

While Murphy and Fulchuk provide us with creepy characters, they, unfortunately, seem to have found an affection for pumping as much extravagant, cliché horror tactics into one episode as possible. While the disfigured face and scary basement leave you waiting to be scared out of your pants, the actual terrifying moment never really builds up.

The Harmons make every wrong move possible; what family living in a haunted house doesn’t? There have been unexplained glances at the creature lurking in the basement, the infantada. But, when will I be screaming or scared to sleep at night because of what happened in an episode? It doesn’t seem like it will be any time soon.

While I appreciate the feeling of being scared because I might be terrified in the near future, I would love some straight-up horror to hit me at some point. Enough with the buildup, let it happen already, Ryan Murphy!

Until then, I will keep watching with the hope that this deep story of the haunted mansion will finally start to tie connections together and that I might eventually have a scream or two.