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American Horror Story Season 1

American Horror Story Screening Review

 

Written by Ryan Holloway


DVD released by 20th Century Fox

 


Directed by Bradley Buecker, Michael Uppendahl, Alfonso Gomez-Rejon and David Semel
Written by Brad Falchuk, Ryan Murphy, Tim Minear, Jennifer Salt, James Wong and Jessica Sharzer.
2011, 60 minutes per episode, Rated 18 (UK)
DVD and Blu-ray released on 15th October 2012

Starring:
Evan Peters as Tate Langdon
Jessica Lange as Constance Langdon
Lily Rabe as Nora Montgomery
Connie Britton as Vivien Harmon
Dylan McDermott as Ben Harmon
Taissa Farmiga as Violet Harmon

 

 

Review:

 

With the second season just round the corner (it premieres on FX 30th October), Twentieth Century Fox releases American Horror Story season 1 on DVD & Blu-ray on the 15th October and to celebrate I was invited along to a spooky launch at a secret location to watch the first two episodes -  I don’t think I’ll be visited by The Candyman if I tell you that it was at Simon Drake’s House of Magic.

My evening started by walking through Kennington after dark so my fear factor was already pretty high. Approaching the burly bouncer I stuttered my name out and after a nervous 25 seconds I was allowed in.

 

 

All DVD launches should look like this, there was mist and everything. As I walked through the ‘enchanted garden’ I was either about to enter a carefully planned event or be murdered where I stood, luckily it was the former and once in the venue I was met by a pretty girl in a cloak - this is how one should be greeted for every event in my opinion.

The setting was perfect, low-key, not too forced, horror movie scores ringing out, a smoke machine, a free bar, and the best part, a giant screen. I sat down, got comfortable – as comfortable as one can get with the dummy of a dead highwayman staring at you, and soaked up the atmos.

 

Now at this point I have to confess to having never seen American Horror Story when it first aired, but we now live in the age of the box set and the ‘lost weekend.’ I’ve lost many a weekend to TV shows in recent months and have to admit that having watched the first two episodes I’m hooked and will look forward to losing a weekend or two to this sexy, gory, often perverse, black humoured nod to almost every horror film that has come before it.

The story revolves around the Harmons; a family that has moved from Boston to LA to escape a troubled past. Ben Harmon is played by an unfeasibly ripped Dylan McDermott (Steel Magnolias), who surely needs to spend less time in the gym and more time with his family:  wife Vivien (Connie Britton, A Nightmare on Elm Street) and troubled daughter Violet (played by relative newbie Taissa Farmiga). The dysfunctional trio are soon to become victims of the house and its dark secrets.

The show plays like The Amityville Horror the series and isn’t ashamed to admit its influences and in fact not only wears them on its sleeve, but pretty much all over in a horrific gimp-style suit – more about this later. Its obvious influences however are where I fear the show will divide people, either you will be lost in the many dark layers the show has to offer or endlessly tut at the in-your-face genre check list.

 

 

For me, a lot of what American Horror Story gets right surprisingly comes from Glee/Nip Tuck writer Ryan Murphy. Although the news of his involvement in an American horror story was not initially welcome he does know exactly what is expected from such a show and works tirelessly to deliver it, knowing the exact beats to hit and when to hit them.

It almost feels like Murphy is making a deliberate attempt to shed the bright colours and sickly sweet adventures of oh-so-real teen life and give us something equally as sick, but this time in a good way. Here he shows us an edgy side, unlike shows like True Blood which seem to aim for giggles rather than anything else with its relentless displays of naked butt cheeks, American Horror Story goes one step further by being full on kinky. Upon moving into the house they find a gimp suit in the attic that they are told belonged to the gay couple who previously lived there, but instead of being freaked out they welcome it with open arms, and in one uncomfortable scene (no pun intended), Vivien has sex with what she thinks is her husband wearing said suit in a psychosexual fantasy, but oh no, he’s downstairs so who is it? Truly the stuff of nightmares.

 

 

As with any modern TV show, it will live or die on the characters, no matter how much gore or horror you throw at it and luckily I found myself wanting the family to get closer to each other, despite their problems, and rooted for them to overcome the nightmarish goings-on that put them in very real danger.

But the real gem is the scene-swallowing Jessica Lange (Cape Fear) who plays the sinister neighbour Constance. She purrs with such malevolence and is an absolute joy to watch and sadly at times makes the rest of the cast pale in comparison.

If you love horror then you owe it to yourself to check it out and with Season 2 about to start and Halloween on the way what better time to organise a weekend in.

 

Video, Audio and Special Features:


Video, audio and special features will not be graded as this was a screening

 

 

Grades:

 


Movie:

 

 

 

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