May 7, 2013

Review of American Horror Story: Season 1

I'll be honest, I'm generally not a huge fan of horror. Sure, I write some stories people might classify as horror, but I think it's such a loose term. Most of what falls into the genre is just plain grotesque in almost a voyeuristic way and I don't find that to be interesting in the least.

But I have given plenty of horror books and movies the benefit of a doubt. Sometimes I end up turning off the TV or putting the book down not too long into it, but sometimes I am pleasantly surprised. It was the faint hope of being pleasantly surprised that lead me to try out season one of American Horror Story on Netflix. The series was also recommended to me by some readers, so I thought it was worth at least trying out.
Just to be up front, there are some weird things about the show. The guy in the rubber suit is, um... interesting. He kind of reminds me of those stupid old Quiet Riot masks my brother would hang on his wall. Talk about creepy! But then the show is supposed to be creepy. The first episode hit hard over and over, and by the end I was severely creeped  out, but not in a bad way. The house the family had moved into, it was so intriguing, and so were the family's problems.

By far the best thing about season one is Jessica Lange's performance. Her character, Constance Langdon, is so incredibly annoying, overly dramatic and wonderfully twisted. She has so many, many layers to her. I think they could have easily built a series just around her, but that's another story for another time.

I have to admit that the great thing about season one was that there was so much mystery, so many intertwining plot threads that would dance and connect together in interesting and sometimes unexpected ways. And the show did such a wonderful job of digging deep into the things so many people fear, and then sitting there and borrowing softly into those sensitive areas, making some scenes just plain frightening.

It wasn't until the last few episodes of season one that I felt like the carefully crafted plot of the show started to crumble somewhat. It didn't ruin the show for me, but I was more than a little disappointed at the end of the season.

Just check out the opening credits for the first season: they really set the appropriate tone for the show:

********** Spoiler Warning *************

I didn't want to ruin anything for people who haven't seen the show. The whole happy ending thing just didn't sit well with me because it seemed so forced, so contrived. There was nothing really foreshadowing it anywhere in the series. My opinion is that an exec somewhere had an issue with the original ending and so forced the new one on the writers/director. Welcome to the politics of writing. The fact that at the beginning of the first episode it foreshadowed a big showdown between Ben and Vivien confirms to me that the end of season one was supposed to be quite different.

Not only that, but I had a major issue with what they did with Tate. In the first episode it shows that he could turn into this demonic-style creature. I was convinced he was more powerful and much more evil than just about anything in that house. And then you learn that he performed a Columbine-style mass shooting, further confirming that he was just plain evil. But in the end he fizzles. Where is all of his power? Where is all of that evil spirit he harbored before? Is it just that his broken heart for Violet took all of that away? It was too much to believe, that in the end he was just left to stand and watch and Violet led a happy afterlife with her family and Tate could only put his hands in his pockets and say "ah, shucks!" They could have done so much more with him at the end of the season, but it was a huge lost opportunity.

So those were the two big problems I had with the show, but overall I enjoyed it.


Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I watched an episode or two, but it didn't grab me enough to keep watching. My list of shows is long enough. I will probably go back to it once season one is on NetFlix and I can watch them all at once. (That's how I prefer to watch a series now.)

Steven said...

Alex, season one is on Netflix right now.

Lexie C. said...

Sounds (and looks!) very creepy. I may have my hubby watch a bit and give me an idea if it's for me or not- I'm not a big horror fan either and grotesque is something I avidly avoid. I like your review though and am intrigued enough to at least check it out. :)

Steven said...

Lexie, glad I can make the series intriguing. I was honestly surprised how much I liked it. I will be watching season two soon!

DL Hammons said...

This is one of those shows that my wife vetoed, but I wanted to watch. At least she let me watch Fringe! :)

Steven said...

DL, I haven't caught Fringe yet. From everything I have seen and heard, this show is much darker.