Reviewers will often play follow the leader when a particular show or film is being chastised. I have seen a flurry of early negative reviews for a film quickly become a lynch mob as reviewers (most of whom have never directed a film themselves, including me) rally behind an effort to bury a movie because hey, its the kid on the playground that everyone else is picking on, so why not? I have seen a slew of bad early buzz for FXs American Horror Story. So much in fact that I was going to watch the pilot for review purposes, but not because I had a genuine interest. Had I not been a reviewer, I might have let this one fly completely under my radar. Although the pilot is far from perfect, it is nowhere near deserving the stoning that it has been receiving from the media. Being an unapologetic horror enthusiast myself, I often see what the subculture of horror fans do that more than often cuts their own noses off to spite their faces. We all want more horror on television. We clamor for it. We beg the powers that be to give more consideration to the darkest of the genres and give us more horror television. However, once we are given a small sample, we critique it relentlessly, stop watching it, and then balk at its demise, citing a nation that doesn’t embrace horror as the culprit behind its untimely cancellation. I know this because I smell my own. I am guilty as charged. THis being said, there are elements of American Horror Story that work, and work well enough to be explored further. The story can be accused of being formulaic, AND, it wouldn’t be that far from the mark. It, typically, follows an adulterous husband (Dylan McDermott) and his scorned wife as they try to make a fresh start in a new home after the loss of their stillborn child. Along with their rebellious teen daughter, the couple soon realize that their home, and the surrounding neighborhood is rife with secrets and its own brand of darkness. As I said, these are not novel ideas, BUT the inclusion of a whole lotta weirdness brings just the right amount of mystery in the familiar to keep you guessing. THIS, if the series continues at its current pace, is what will keep viewers interested, and interestingly it is the subplots that kept the pilot moving. In addition to a house that allegedly has a mind of its own, we have a demonic shapeshifting baby monster, a maid whose age and very existence is questionable, a nosy neighbor (Jessica Lange) with secrets, and a wealth of answers to the questions at the core of the horrific events unfolding and a bevy of deviant sexual behavior, that some I’m sure will find VERY excessive. The series’ handling of its more adult themes will, I feel, be one of its major gripes among its audience. At times, it does feel to go out of its way to let you know that its pushing the boundaries of basic cable, but these themes are relative to the development of the characters and their personal journeys… plus… the occasional redheaded trollop in a french maid outfit is nothing for this reviewer to scoff at. American Horror Story is a nice alternative to the onslaught of reality television and medical dramas that dominate basic cable programming. A note to my fellow horror enthusiasts: supporting a show like An American Horror Story may very well open the door for other horror series, maybe even one that pleases the critical palette as well. Recommended.
Ash Hamilton is not only the owner of Horror-Fix.com, but also one of its major contributors. A long time horror movie enthusiast, Ash has lent his personality to radio and television and continues to support his favorite genre through his writing and art. He also loves beef jerky and puppies... and low-grade street-quality hallucinogens.
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