American Horror Story – Season 1 Recap

As I’ll be covering American Horror Story’s second season in the coming weeks, both Andy and I agreed that a recap of the first season’s events is in order. The first season focuses on the Harmon family, who has their fair share of issues long before any ghosts show up. The most prominent is the fallout from Dr. Harmon’s affair with one of his patients. His relationship with his wife Vivian is strained at best, and their daughter resents them both. They’ve moved to a mansion in Los Angeles as a means to a fresh start, but it isn’t long before their demons and a slew of other malevolent spirits and unwelcome neighbors come on the scene to wreak twisted, over-the-top havoc.

American Horror Story was a show that seemed to come out of nowhere. I only started seeing commercials for it fairly close to the show’s premiere. I remember watching the ads and being taken by classical gothic imagery given a slick makeover. What also intrigued me was that the network didn’t seem to be giving a lot of information about what the show would involve. With horror TV being in short supply, aside from The Walking Dead, I was definitely excited to see what Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk (creators, Nip/Tuck, Glee) had to offer us.

They certainly did their homework. The first episode was filled with more than a few elements that have become staples of the genre: creepy house with murderous past, characters with questionable motives, and a slew of anxieties pulled straight from today’s headlines. There was a strong sexual element to the show, something that is usually underlying in every horror story, but is here fully explored, most prominently as the leading man struggles with sex addiction. Add to all this Murphy and Falchuk’s usual quirkiness, and American Horror Story’s first episode proved to be something unique.

I was hooked and I continued to watch.

The first season wasn’t without its problems. Early on, the story seemed to lack direction. Each episode contained lots of style and one shocking scene after the other, but little else. I liked what I was seeing, but I had my reservations that it wasn’t going to take me anywhere.

By the second half of the season, my suspicions were laid to rest. Making the house the epicenter of every evil that’s ever taken place in our country was a really nice touch. A Columbine-styled school shooting and the Black Dahlia murder are all tied to the house in some fundamental way. References to the current economic climate and sexual intolerance are also abundant, and we get the idea that the show really has something to say about all of this.

All in all, American Horror Story was a ballsy effort. Making one season a self-contained story? Unprecedented. Killing off nearly every major character by the end? Perfectly in line with what the show is trying to get at. These people are trying to have a normal family life, but they can’t because they’re fucked up and the world around them is hostile and corrupt. They can’t continue to exist in their current form. I couldn’t imagine a more perfect ending. I also really liked the not-so-subtle influence of Rosemary’s Baby. The unflinching look at the darker side of Americana. The hopelessly damaged relationships between the characters.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that I can’t wait until Wednesday.

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