American Horror Story: Review: Season 1 Ep 1

5 October 2011, FX US

The troubled Harmon family move into a new home, only to be cursed by weird happenings and even weirder neighbours.

The family set-up here is familiar to any number of dramas or soap operas: psychiatrist husband Ben (Dylan McDermott) has been unfaithful following his wife Vivien’s (Connie Briton) miscarriage, while daughter Violet (Taissa Farmiga) is self-harming…

Unfortunately, they’ve chosen to move into an under priced haunted house straight out of Stephen King as a way of getting things back on the straight and narrow. Big mistake.

American Horror Story trots out a whole host of fright movie clichés and Twin Peaks‘ style weirdness with hilarious results. That’s not to say it is bad. It’s well-made and rather intriguing, but there is something about the mix of story elements, visual style, and the presentation of events that makes it weirdly funny when it’s surely not meant to be…

There are a bunch of Addams Family characters, from the dual-natured housekeeper (Frances Conroy/Alexandra Breckenridge), who is either an old crone or a sexy temptress, depending on who’s looking; Jessica Lange as the bonkers next-door-neighbour with the Downs Syndrome daughter; and True Blood’s Denis O’Hare as a Freddy Krueger-style burn-scarred previous occupant of the house.

The first episode relentlessly piles on the horror clichés in rapid succession, so much so that the viewer becomes giddy—and that leads to laughter. The best bit is when wife Vivien mistakes a mysterious guy in a gimp suit for her husband and instantly becomes pregnant! As you do. At the very least it’ll be interesting to see where things go from here…

Verdict: Hysterical, but maybe not in the way the makers intended.

Episode 1 ‘Pilot’: 6/10 

Brian J. Robb

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