Friday, October 14, 2011

American Horror Story

I just watched the pilot of the new show from the creators of Glee, Brad Falchuk and Ryan Murphy, American Horror Story.

As a horror fanatic, I was excited at the idea of a horror serial on television. The mere thought of being frightened and petrified every week was a horror fan's dream come true. With the new zombie show, The Walking Dead, I'm sure a few brave networks (FX), decided to give the genre a shot. Unfortunately, for this horror fan, American Horror Story did not deliver the goods. Maybe because I pay attention to style and writing, but I saw what sometimes can work with Glee (and not) on this show which made it hard for me to enjoy.

The first ten minutes were entertaining enough. The score alone evokes a sense of foreboding that I was able to appreciate to continue watching the whole episode.
1978. A young girl with Downs Syndrome declares to twin teenage boys, "You're going to die in there," when they enter an abandoned house in Los Angeles. Something occurs (won't ruin it for those actually interested in watching this). Present day. We meet Vivien Harmon (Connie Briton) who is married to Ben Harmon (the delicious Dylan McDermott), the psychiatrist. Unfortunately, her husband is unfaithful to her and we learn his "reasons" for his infidelity almost halfway through the episode. They move to aforementioned house. Then we meet their teenage daughter, Violet (Taissa Farmiga), who is not making new friends, to put it lightly. The ending of the episode is a cliffhanger that is supposed to pique interest to watch the next episode in the series. I'm not interested and here's why.

I've seen stories like this before and I can see where it's going. The same can be said to many other stories on the big and small screen; what sets these stories apart lies in their execution. Where the execution fails in this pilot episode alone is pacing. Slow the frak down, guys! I think this story could have benefited from better pacing where some questions were left unanswered and we were able to delve into Violet's experience at school in the next episode. There's also a subplot involving one of Ben's patients with Violet which I understand his existence to move the story along but this was way too abrupt. Which brings me to the editing - there were instances where scenes moved forward without easier transitions, which would have worked in those Saw movies but were ineffective in this type of story and medium. Come on guys! SLOW DOWN! Build tension, give us a payoff at the end of the story, and stop trying to rush things!

Honestly, again, I understand this is a "pilot" episode to introduce folks into the series which means introductions to characters, subplots, and the like but everything I was introduced to was disappointing. I really really wanted to like this show because it started off with the atmosphere of horror films I do enjoy (creepy, tension filled, dysfunctional family, haunted home) but I did not.

One thing to say about the actors before I end this post, I love Frances Conroy so very much from Six Feet Under and was smiling with glee (ha!) when I saw her name in the credits. Sadly, this creepy housemaid character did not suit her. Perhaps I'm married to the idea of seeing her in a dramatic tale than a scary one, but I thought she was underused here. She plays this creepy housemaid with other aspects about her afoot. I didn't see it and didn't like it. Dylan McDermott - alright, is this a soft core porn folks? I saw this man half-naked so many times (not really complaining, he's very nice on the eyes in all aspects) but it's a horror TV show! This isn't Skinemax. I was distracted by all the skin, I couldn't get into the damn story. Oh and Jessica Lange as the next door neighbor? She's absolutely brilliant on this show - a Southern woman brimming with contempt and secrets - which is the most salient feature about it but not enough to keep me going. Sorry Glee creators, this show ain't it for me. Good luck with it!