Thursday, November 17, 2011

Give American Horror Story a Chance!


(Writers note: My MacBook is getting all fixed up and pretty this week, so while it is not in my possession, I will have to spare my two loyal readers any terribly (AWESOME) photoshopped takes on the show in question.  Better luck next time.) 



American Horror Story gets a bad rap.  (I mean, the house at the center of the show is called "Murder House") No, it’s not my favorite show on television, but if you read any of the more honest review sites, The A.V. Club in particular, you’d think the producers/writers on the show are absolutely on crack and that the show is the worst thing to be aired on television in a decade.  While the writers of the show may indeed be crazy, (aren’t all great horror writers a little mental?)  American Horror Story seems to be one of the most talked about (picked up an issue of “Entertainment Weekly” lately?) new show on television.  It’s got all sorts of mangled characters, horrifying sight gags and more leather than that weird Suicide Girls special I saw on Showtime a few weeks back.

Again, I can agree with a lot of the issues the review sites have; mostly the lack of character development or chemistry between its lead characters and its reliance on cheap or OVERUSED parlor tricks that have already been seen in almost every horror franchise.  But as I would regard most of those as issues in any other show on TV, I’m not sure they apply here.  Obviously, AHS is no Sopranos, Breaking Bad or even a True Blood, but I think it’s a true ode to every awesome/shitty horror movie ever made.  

I’ve been indulging in a new awful horror movie (that nobody’s ever heard of) every week care of Netflix, and I even attended half a semester’s worth of my college Horror Film class (stayed awake for like 15% of the films).*  And so after giving up on AHS weeks ago, I decided to catch up on all the episodes online this week.  All things considered, I’m feeling pretty qualified to discuss why it’s a pretty sweet show, like only a person who watches an entire series in one day could love. 

*(That’s such an exaggeration, I freaking loved that Horror class and actually stayed awake for like 25% of the films…)

So here we go:

-Terrible stereotypes – Two of the awesomely terrible, stereotype-y, overused jokes I heard on last night’s episode: 

“[Murder House]’s been fixed up by the previous homo – er, sorry – homeowners…” 

“The only things I use women for are sex, money or to make me a sandwich”

I can see why these cringe-worthy lines may turn some people off, but I don’t think the creator/producer Ryan Murphy (who I sorta hate for all of his cocky comments to Dave Grohl and all the other famous rockers who have declined to appear on his other popular creation: Glee) is trying to write Emmy-worthy lines to go down in history.  Rather, he is trying to emulate every great (and not so great) horror movie that often relies on corny humor to break tension-ridden scenes and make teenagers laugh.  How many times have you seen a B horror movie where all the teenagers on the roadtrip are using the worst version of “Hey Baby, you know you have the best dick-sucking lips I’ve ever seen,” before the girl playfully seems offended (“Skyler! You are such a jackass!) but then giggles and complies anyway?  Then of course, they are both promptly gutted open with a fish hook from behind.  It’s just the cheap, easy way to write generic lines and break the tension and provide the awkward “OH MAN, THAT WAS WRONG!” laughs before all the blood and gore takes over.  In any other television show, it’d be two weeks of lines like that before the show was pulled off the air, but because AHS is trying to emulate some of the cheap humor displayed in those campy horror films (that people LOVE by the way, because it’s so corny its hilarious) it totally works in this show!

-Little Character Chemistry/Marriage on the Rocks – I’ve read lots of complaints on the chemistry between Dylan McDermott and Connie Britton.  Their marriage is supposed to be the main contention of the series, but nobody can believe that these are two characters who ever truly cared for each other.  Sure, they’re both hurting: she suffered a terrible miscarriage two years back and then caught him in bed with a young grad student (because this is how he manifested his terrible suffering) but why the hell are these two still trying to stick it out, when he’s walking around on eggshells all the time and she’s so angry with him? TO WHICH I COUNTER: What B horror movie have you ever seen with a believable couple at the center?  In any horror movie, the rocky marriage ploy is just a device used to heighten the sense of suffering and pain among the main characters, before they are drug into an even darker horror.  Any time a couple is having marriage problems in a haunted house movie there is could be a history of abuse, and affair, a child who died before the movie started or a miscarriage.  (See: The Shining, Unfaithful, Fatal Attraction, Don’t Look Now, First Born or any movie involving a creepy house) If the couple already has too much on their plate, they don’t have time to just move the hell out of their haunted home.  THIS PLACE IS THEIR LAST DITCH EFFORT TO SAVE THEIR MARRIAGE! Which brings me to…

- Super Na├»ve/In Denial Homeowners – Come on guys, if the married couple actually admitted to themselves, or each other that dead people are fucking with them on a daily basis, then there wouldn’t be much of a show to follow, now would there?

Here are some other odes to horror movies that I’m enjoying and can’t wait to see play out:

-The Urban Legends they addressed (Candyman, Bloody Mary) with the “Here Piggy..pigggg…ggy…piggy…” episode.  I swear to god I almost pissed my pants in elementary school when somebody turned out all the lights in the girl's bathroom and started calling to Bloody Mary.  Luckily, I was already in a bathroom.

- The giant murdery baby in the basement

 -The awesome/freaky ode to Rosemary’s Baby

-The sort of reverse Sixth Sense deal-io going on between Tate and Dr. Harmon

-And aside from the fact that the whole show is a giant send-off to my favorite horror movie of all time, The Shining, and really, every other haunted house movie ever, I can’t help but feel reminded of Mr. Grady murdering his whole family in The Shining every time they show burned face man.

So seriously guys, if you’re looking for emmy-award winning acting or the best character development since Breaking Bad, this probably isn’t the show for you.  But if you are looking for a good time or don’t mind occupying your time with every B (and C) horror movie Netflix has to offer, then this show is just as fine an alternative.  It seriously is a good time so take it as it is and enjoy yourselves!