Sunday, October 16, 2011

Shangrila Shock-tober 2011 - American Horror Story

All Hallows' Eve draws near, and, as usual, Shangrila Towers will be running a series of themed posts covering all sorts of scares, spooks, and shocks. Today's post looks at a new horror series on FX Network...

The haunted house is a staple of the horror genre, but it's proven difficult to adapt the concept to a weekly episodic TV series. If you were the resident of such a place, would you stick around for weeks on end while spooky stuff kept happening to you?

"American Horror Story," a series created by Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk (the guys behind "Nip/Tuck" and "Glee"), takes a different tack. Rather than try to keep things logical, it deluges the viewer with bizarre occurrences and psychosexual drama:

In the show, the Harmon family moves to California looking for a fresh start after Vivien Harmon (Connie Britton) suffers a miscarriage and catches her husband Ben (Dylan McDermott) having an affair with a younger woman. Unfortunately, the Harmons decide to move into a house with a history of murders and violent incidents; in short order, they encounter an old housekeeper, a mysterious scarred man, and a strange neighbor, all of whom may or may not be ghosts.

If the first two episodes are any indication, AHS plans to pay homage to (or steal, depending on your point of view) elements from dozens of different horror films, including "The Shining," "The Sixth Sense," and "Psycho." The references are too random at times, since practically everything in the house is a hook for horror, from the strange fetish suit in the attic to the grotesque mural underneath the wallpaper.

Thankfully, the cast is strong enough to make the show watchable despite its scattershot plotting. There's a lot of acting firepower here, especially from veterans Jessica Lange and Frances Conroy (their characters participate in a matronly battle of wills that simmers on the screen). If your interests are more prurient, the series isn't afraid to show lots of skin in the form of sexy mom Vivien, a seductive maid played by Alex Breckenridge, and plenty of Dylan McDer-Butt.


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