I’ve never been one for horror films. I’m the easiest person to scare and until last year, the creepiest movie I’d watched was The Others. But scrolling through Netflix one evening, I decided to watch Carrie. After all, I’ve read the book. Yes, I still may not be a seasoned horror fan, but my enjoyment of this film definitely sparked an interest. Then someone suggested American Horror Story, a show I’d heard of and thought “yeah, like I’ll ever watch that”. Oh, how wrong I was.
So, American Horror Story was definitely a step up for me in terms of horror on screen and I must admit initially I wasn’t keen on watching it at night. But as the mystery built and the family unravelled, I just couldn’t stop clicking “next episode” on the Netflix cue. Set in Los Angeles, the first season follows a family struggling to stay together by making a cross-country move to a seemingly charming (but actually creepy af Victorian mansion). Over the course of the series, the chilling history of the house and its former occupants is revealed as past and present meld into a terrifying new reality.
I love the way American Horror Story has created a standalone mini-series out of each season. As I binge the entire Game of Thrones series (as I write this I’m mid-season four), the idea of being able to just watch a self-contained season is pretty appealing. I loved the way creators Brad Falchuk and Ryan Murphy wove the stories of past occupants and the Harmon family together through flashbacks. I was looking forward to a new piece of the puzzle being revealed with every single episode. And when everything started to come together? I was in awe. Seeing all the unconnected elements come together, whether it be on screen or in a book, is my favourite type of storytelling (probably because it’s something I just don’t think I could ever pull off as a writer).
Given the fact this season is called Murder House, I think it’s pretty clear shit went down in this mansion. I’ve been on a bit of a true crime kick since I started listening to My Favourite Murder and was ridiculously excited that this series even touched on some real cases, including the fascinating, terrifying unsolved mystery of The Black Dahlia. I think I’d just listened to the MFM girls discuss this case when it came up on American Horror Story and I loved the interpretation of what might have happened to poor Elizabeth Short.
But perhaps the thing which scared me most about American Horror Story was the ease with which Vivien’s (Connie Britton) concerns about the house and the hauntings were dismissed, to the point where she was institutionalised. It’s flat-out terrifying to think those closest to you could disbelieve your very real fears, but this too is based in reality. While the idea of malevolent paranormal forces are pretty scary, knowing this kind of gaslighting has happened to thousands of women for far too long is worse.
American Horror Story definitely awakened a love for horror stories I never imagined I could have. Of course, I believe brilliant storytelling transcends genre and it’s clear Falchuk and Murphy are talented writers. I’ll definitely be watching more seasons (even if I have to peek out from behind my hands every now and then).