Reopening AMERICAN HORROR STORY

After falling behind by more than a month, I just finished catching up on AMERICAN HORROR STORY thanks to my wondrous DVR. Absorbing so much insane wackiness in concentrated doses made me promise never to fall so far behind again. Because I really enjoyed these episodes!

In case you’re not a fan, AHS focuses on the Harmon family — Ben (Dylan McDermott), Vivien (Connie Britton) and Violet (Taissa Farmiga)– who move from Boston to a Los Angeles Victorian nicknamed “the Murder House” because so many previous residents (and guests) had died on the premises over the years. The moving boxes were barely unpacked before bizarre events began occurring, and by now regular viewers know that the house is haunted by the ghosts of its victims, and these restless spirits are able to interact with the living in some… highly unconventional ways.

One of the things I really enjoy is how the show has so effectively and quickly established its own identity by embracing its influences. When I watched the premeiere, I was initially put off by how much of the story was cribbed homage to other horror properties, from The Devil’s Backbone to Dead Ringers. But now the show seems so…gleeful (sorry) about its appropriation of story elements that it has become like a drinking game to spot the allusions in each episode. My favorite recurring gambit is the use of snippets from the score to Bram Stoker’s Dracula in the flashback scenes featuring Dr. Charles Montgomery (Matt Ross)

And AHS is not content to merely borrow from fiction; this week’s episode, “Spooky Little Girl,” demonstrated that co-creators Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk (GLEE) are happy to insert real historical events into their mosaic by stealing borrowing the celebrated true story of the “Black Dahlia,” Elizabeth Short. (American Beauty‘s Mena Suvari played the doomed aspiring actress.)

The show is determined to embrace the advantages of being on cable’s FX network. Not only does the show embrace foul language and naked butts, but the themes and storylines push the envelope of content. Show me another series that would re-enact the Columbine school massacre so brazenly. And the AHS’ infamous “Rubber Man” was content to merely beat a man to death with a fireplace poker — he just had to defile the corpse, too. Somewhat surprisingly, AHS is pretty tame when it comes to gore; there’s not a lot of blood and gore. Although many of the ideas that come up are grotesque in the extreme — such as Dr. Montgomery sewing himself a new child — seeing him holding a tiny leg shrouded in shadow while his wife wailed was far more sinister than showing a bloody stump.

In short, AMERICAN HORROR STORY is twisted in an intelligent and entertaining way. It’s certainly not for everyone, but if you like that sort of thing, here it is. And I’ll not miss an episode again!

Oh, yeah? Sez you!

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