Dark Shadows for the A.D.D. Generation : AMERICAN HORROR STORY

From the fine folks who brought us Nip/Tuck and Glee, comes American Horror Story a sort of Dark Shadows for the A.D.D. generation.

After a miscarriage and an extramarital affair shakes the foundation of their once stable marriage, Dr. and Mrs. Harmon (and their angst riddled teen daughter)  flee Boston for L.A.  and take possession of a gorgeous Victorian home on the outskirts of the city.  

Of course everyone knows that gorgeous Victorian homes that sell at rock bottom prices (even in today's shattered economy) often come complete with supernatural shenanigans;  the Harmon home is no exception to this rule.   Almost before the realtor hangs up the sold sign, it's obvious that mayhem is afoot in the roomy dream home - in fact before the opening credits we discover that two little boys broke into the house in 1978 and were killed by someone (or something...more than likely, something) in the basement.  And when the realtor explains  that the former occupants (a gay couple) died in the house due to a murder / suicide ... well that's the point when you say to yourself, "shit I'd never purchase a property where something like that went down!"; of course you wouldn't , but this isn't about you, sunshine, is it?

Once the family is settled in things start going goofy...in fact so much happens, it's dizzying:
  • A young lady with Down Syndrome shows up in the kitchen with all kinds of dire warnings.
  • The young lady's mother, a failed movie actress (played with aplomb by Jessica Lange) also shows up and steals some silverware.
  • A satanic mural is discovered under the wallpaper in the living room.
  • A leather fetishist cat suit is found hanging in the attic.
  • Mr. Harmon (Dylan McDermott) walks around naked a lot in the middle of the night.
  • A middle-aged woman shows up claiming to be the housekeeper (Frances Conroy).  Oddly enough when Dr. Harmon sees her, she appears as a young hot-to-trot ( Alex Breckenridge) who seems hell bent on doing the nasty with the good doctor.
  • A ghostly daemon with a nasty set of choppers and some seriously long fingernails apparently attacks someone in the basement. 
  • Someone or something (again, more than likely something) dons the aforementioned catsuit and has sex with Dr. Harmon's wife.
  • A disfigured man chases Dr. Harmon down and tells him how he once lived in the same house, and how he set his wife and kids on fire because "the voices" told him to do so. 
Clearly the creative team on this one understand that today's audience does not want subtlety, nor do they want a single shot held for longer than a millisecond - hence, American Horror Story is filled with jump cuts, herky jerky camera movements, and is edited like an episode of ...well, Nip/Tuck or Glee.

And yet, in spite of all of this foolishness, American Horror Story's pilot episode kept me riveted.  The whole thing was done with such whiplash intensity, I felt like I was on some kind of fun house ride after dropping a hit of acid.  However, I can't help but wonder, will it be able to keep up the pace?  It seems odd that they'd throw so much at the viewer in the first hour...what can they possibly do to top this next week?  I think we are going to see something that's akin to Dark Shadows; a trashy soap opera that not only features a big spooky house, but eventually we'll see vampires, monsters, ghosts, and time travel! 

Another thing I noticed, and maybe it's just me, but most of the characters in L.A. seem like they might have walked in from different eras of horror/thriller films: The Maid (in her elder state) is something out of The Cat and the Canary, The loopy/sexy neighbor (Lange) seems to have walked out of one of those "Grande Dame Guignol" flicks from the early 60's, the deformed man brought echos of both The Shining and Burnt Offerings, the beastie in the basement conjured up thoughts of a half a dozen other films.  Also, the homages to other movies throughout this first episode are already legendary.  Scenes conjure up memories of Halloween, The Exorcist and even, Rosemary's Baby.  That said, could the makers of this program be setting us up for some kind of mind fuckery where every Hollywood Horror Theme is included?  It's not that far fetched.  Why set it in Los Angeles then? why call it American Horror Story then?

Whatever the case, whatever is up the sleeves of those involved, I'll be back next week to see what kind of deviltry is going on...and hoping that Jessica Lange is given even more scenery to chew up.


wavingpalms said...

JMS here...

*How perceptive, to tie Lange in with the Grande Dame Guignol wave- I hadn't thought of that. And one of her lines is nagging at me: when she's giving us her back story, and says that the kid ended her attempt at stardom? She says, 'So I took that little butterfly of a dream and put it in a jar on the shelf.'

ORLY? Like the jars in the shelf in the basement that you're sitting above, right this very minute, in the house that you know more about than anyone else? CANNOT be a throwaway.

* I approve of the DARK SHADOWS kitchen-sinkism.

* I'm also glad that this is a SHINING sort of haunted house, which I buy a lot more than the standard ghost-ridden PARANORMAL ACTIVITY house. A slow psychological affect has always felt more plausible (and more interesting) to me than drama queen ghosties flinging candelabras and slamming doors- because in the first case, you could more easily convince yourself that you're imagining things, while in the second, why don't you just LEAVE?

Prospero said...

I read an interview with Connie Britton, who said she only signed for one season (and has, in fact, signed for another FX series). I'm hoping each season will tell a different story in a different location, which may be the only way to sustain the show as an on-going series.

Dis Guy said...

Thank the good Lord and the man Jeebus for in demand or i would miss half the options on tv.

jennypower said...

"Of course everyone knows that gorgeous Victorian homes that sell at rock bottom prices (even in today's shattered economy) often come complete with supernatural shenanigans..." As I was reading this line, I mentally added "or toxic black mold", which makes me think I should work on a screenplay in which the fearsome beastie is a mold spore. Fun times!

Spooky Sean said...

I like that the wife just blindly assumed it was her hubby in the cat suit, and was all "Yeah, fuck me, and don't say one word to me. This is hot, and in no way creepy or strange at all!"

Anonymous said...

You and I had pretty much the exact same reaction. I have nothing to add! Except, to add on to the movie references thingy, they keep using scores from other movies. Last night it was packed full of Psycho. In episode one, it was kinda distracting and veering toward rip-off rather than homage. But at this stage I don't care anymore.

highwayknees said...

The catsuit scene was truly creepy. And implausible! haha...And YES PLEASE MORE JESSICA LANGE PLEASE! The woman can out act anybody in a scene with her!

Sean said...

I agree about Lange. She steals every scene she is in. Could they use enought Alfred Hitchcock music? Cue the cliche.