American Horror Story
Throw enough mud and some of it is bound to stick. The makers of American Horror Story certainly threw a lot of crap last week; unfortunately whatever they were aiming at was either really small or just a little too dark to see. There were so many tropes cribbed from other movies and shows it started to become far more enjoyable to ‘name that reference’ rather than immerse oneself into the episode that was playing. In fact there was very little originality in the entire show, even actor Dylan McDermott seems to have based his face on that of David Schwimmer. Listing everything that’s referenced would take forever but there were definitely ideas directly lifted from The People Under The Stairs, The House By The Cemetery and even Lars Von Trier’s haunted hospital TV show The Kingdom.
The main premise of a family moving into a haunted house is a good, solid idea, their recent problems (loss of a child, infidelity) being echoed by the ghosts residing in the building is standard fair for this sort of thing. The main snag was: it just wasn’t scary. People may attribute a certain Lynchian feel to the show, but that’d be offensive to David Lynch. When he does weird it's part of a cohesive whole - imagery as metaphor, not just for ‘shock’ value. There was nothing in American Horror Story to really dig under your skin, nothing to linger after the lights go out, in fact most of it was laughable. Talking of which, a special mention has to go to the masturbation-while-crying scene. There needs to be more of that on TV, maybe a reality show? America’s Next Top Masturbator?
Performance wise it was a mixed bag, ranging from completely awful to the oddly commendable. Evan Peters was doing an impression of a disturbed teenager with so much ham, you could have slapped two slices of bread either side of him and sold him as a sandwich. Jessica Lange as the creepy neighbour was channelling Blanche from The Golden Girls with a sinister (not actually sinister) edge, while Connie Britton as Vivien Harmon trying to cope with one trauma after another was certainly the best of the lot. Perhaps it was the episodic nature of the pilot that didn’t really give the characters enough room to breath, but they weren’t helped by the direction which was nothing less than irritating. Mini crash zooms are not needed for emphasis, the camera does not have to be twitching and jerking at all times. If anything it’s that kind of nonsense that takes an audience out of the story.
The various sub-plots and characters have to be commended for their scope even if they didn’t quite work but as intriguing as the show was, it ultimately failed to be anything more than a re-hash of old ideas that failed to live up to their previous incarnations legacy. Discussions as to who is or isn’t a ghost are redundant in a show that although not completely dead, could do with a little more life.
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