Well, I didn’t hate it as much as some did. It was every bit as bizarre as I thought it’d be. Mostly (not entirely) in a good way. This show comes from the Ritalin-addled mind of Ryan Murphy, that guy who also brought us Nip/Tuck way back when. Which started out much the same as AHS: in an overwhelmingly busy series opener loaded with characters and major plot points. The thing about the Nip/Tuck premiere, though, was that it hooked me. Completely. Immediately. The AHS premiere…not so much. I will keep watching, but I’m not hooked. I’ll watch, hoping it fully develops the many story lines it introduced in this first episode and keeps the weird, tormented feel it has established. I liked all the weird camera angles and distorted-reality feel they created. But (it’s so strange to say this), I hope it slows down a bit.
Dylan McDermott, who is naked for much of this extended first episode, plays Ben Harmon, a psychiatrist whose wife, Vivien (Connie Britton), recently gave birth to their stillborn son, driving him into the arms of his 21 year-old student. Their marriage is shaky, their teenage daughter is troubled, so they move across the country into a Victorian home with a history of violence. The previous owners met their demise by way of a murder-suicide. Before that, a man burned his wife and two daughters alive inside the house. (Said man survived, spent years in prison only to get out, return to the house and spy on McDermott while he masturbates in the buff in front of an open window. Seriously.) The neighbor, a chilling Jessica Lange as the southern belle who never quite made it as an actress, has a murderous history with the house as well, though we’re not sure just yet what that entails. At one point, she warned the housekeeper -whom everyone sees as a withered old lady with a bum eye except McDermott, who sees a hot, young nymphomaniac redhead- “Don’t make me kill you again.” Interesting.
All of this, and much, much more, is set up in this one episode. Yep…it’s a busy hour. Crammed, really.
The scene in which Violet (Ben and Vivien’s daughter) and her dad’s sociopathic patient, Tate, tricked the school bully was awesome – intense, creepy, wicked as hell. The sex scene between Vivien and whoever occupied that black leather bodysuit disturbed me on several levels. Didn’t she and her husband have sex for the first time in nearly a year just hours before? Right after she admitted to having difficulty forgiving him, saying she saw him “pile-driving” his mistress every time she looked at him. Then, one whole scene later, she tells the leather-clad man she assumes is her husband that she’s ready for another round and she can even get into the kinky stuff. Really?? Not rushed at all. Totally normal for couples struggling to hold their marriage together. Right -the ghost shit is more believable than that.
McDermott’s performance left nothing lacking but his counterpart, the usually lovely Connie Britton, gave a spotty performance. Taissa Farmiga, who plays the couple’s daughter, portrayed the sarcastic, angst-filled teenager convincingly. The shining star, though, came in the more than capable hands of Jessica Lange, whose role in this remains unclear. She’s the thieving neighbor whose icy manners and overbearing familiarity with the house sends a chill down my spine. She referred to her grown daughter, who happened to be born with Down’s Syndrome, as a mongoloid. A mongoloid. WTF? Said daughter is equally chilling, appearing inside the house randomly, telling people they’re going to die soon, lingering to the point of awkwardness. There’s a lot of potential there.
Is it realistic? Of course not. Horror stories never are. A realistic horror story is Deliverance, which isn’t a horror movie, it’s a drama that happened to scare the shit out of me. Horror stories aren’t supposed to be realistic, they usually involve the paranormal, the supernatural, you know…things that aren’t real. I don’t want it to mirror life. I just want it to entertain me. I’m familiar enough with Ryan Murphy’s work (the 1st season of Nip/Tuck was KILLER good, followed by a damn good 2nd season, so-so 3rd season, then, 4th season and beyond = absolute shit) to expect a great first season and probably little else. It just seems to be the way this dude operates. Which is fine by me; some stories simply don’t have multiple seasons in them. I just hope this one is as good as I want it to be for one season, at least.