Let’s be clear on one thing. “American Horror Story” is not in any way shape or form “Glee,” even though they do share creators, Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuck. There is neither a joke nor a jazz hand in sight.
What you do see is a haunted house, a creepy little girl, body parts in jars and overdone music. The show is aptly titled because it does truly embrace every classic American horror story fixture.
Each episode begins with a flashback tale about the house and its former residents.
In the pilot, two boys die in the abandoned house after a little girl, Adelaide (Jamie Brewer), warns them of their fate in 1978. Flash forward to 2011 and the Harmons are buying the Victorian house in an effort to start fresh. Vivien Harmon (Connie Britton) had a miscarriage and then found her husband Ben (Dylan McDermott) in bed with one of his students, calling for their family to move from Boston to Los Angeles. The family moves into the house, knowing that the last couple to live there died recently in a murder-suicide.
The Harmons’ new neighbor turns out to be Adelaide, the little girl who warned the boys they would die. She tells the Harmons the same thing after she breaks into their house. Her mother Constance (Jessica Lange) takes her back home but gives Vivien sage to cleanse the house. Vivien actually does burn the sage in a cleansing, but it doesn’t help because Ben starts hearing voices. He has some fixation with fire that he can’t control. It seems as though he’ll eventually light the house on fire.
However the second episode lacks almost any reference to that bit of mind control and fire fixation, which forces viewers familiar with Murphy and Falchuck to wonder if “American Horror Story” will face the same inconsistency problems “Glee” does.
Even though Ben is obviously being controlled sometimes, it’s hard to feel sympathetic for him. He cheated on his wife after she had a miscarriage. He gets a call that his mistress is pregnant and flies across the country to hold her hand while she gets an abortion in secret. He breaks down and cries a lot, but it doesn’t evoke any sympathy from viewers. He makes it even harder to feel sorry for him after he almost hooks up with the maid (who Vivien sees as an old woman and Ben sees as a pretty girl in her 20’s).
When telling his wife why he cheated he says “I don’t know how to say this without sounding like an asshole.” At this point, I’m pretty sure that’s just because he is.
Vivien, on the other hand, you can’t help but feel for. She is staying with her husband, even though her teenage daughter Violet (Taissa Farmiga) thinks Vivien is weak because of it.
While in the first episode her character mostly seems like a victim, Vivien shows her strength in the second episode while being held hostage by intruders who want to recreate a 1968 murder that occurred in the house. The role of the strong woman who stands by her husband no matter what is actually familiar territory for Britton.
Vivien is similar to Tami Taylor, who Britton played in “Friday Night Lights” (and received an Emmy nomination for this past summer). If she just had that extra bit of Tami attitude, Vivien would be perfect.
Then there is Lange as Adelaide’s mother, Constance. She is brilliantly creepy. Constance acts friendly and nice but at the same time gives off the vibe that she would kill you in your sleep if you crossed her.
The show is a mystery. You aren’t given a lot of answers about anything, but by the end of the second episode you know that whatever is going on, Constance is in charge of it.
Overall, the show is creepy. It isn’t a slasher flick, but there is still a fair amount of blood. The effects aren’t CGI or computer generated, which add to the scary factor because they look real.
Also, Murphy and Falchuck show their creatures. When lights start flickering, many other horror movies avoid showing the monster and just display the victim wounded when the lights stop flickering.
Instead Murphy and Falchuck, for the most part, give you a clear view of their evil creatures. Their makeup department has really been doing a fantastic job at making actors look inhuman.
The show is creepy but kind of depressing. It won’t make you smile or feel great. However, if you’re looking for something to send a few shivers down your sides and make you think twice about turning the lights off before going to bed, “American Horror Story” is a great choice.
“American Horror Story” is on Wednesdays at 10:00 pm on FX.
PHOTO COURTESY of poptower.com