Ryan Murphy is aiming to scare us in a whole different way with American Horror Story. The premiere was chock full of homages, but still managed to come across as something new. There are no doubt more chills to come with this week's episode...and with any luck, even more naked Dylan McDermott.
Scares ran amok in Season 2 of Glee, but unfortunately they were the unintentional kind. Now co-creators Ryan Murphy & Brad Falchuk are trying to scare us for real, and the results seem promising. American Horror Story tells the story of the Harmons, a family crumbling under the strain of husband Ben's infidelity and wife Viv's traumatic miscarriage. They uproot their teenage daughter and buy an enormous / suspiciously cheap house in Los Angeles. Everything will be great, right? JKLOL.
There are nods to horror classics everywhere (The Shining, Poltergeist, The Amityville Horror, Rosemary's Baby...the list goes on), but I have to applaud Murphy & Company for - at least from my perspective - being in on it. They never seem to pass off the ideas as their own, instead relying on dropping new characters into familiar situations and letting the scares come organically. Subtle and well-executed, on nearly all counts.
Plucked out of faux-retirement (it's like saying you're celibate when you can't get laid), Dylan McDermott returns to television with a bangin' new body and an attitude that won't quit. For someone pushing 50, this guy is inspiring a substantial amount of lust. I won't post the screencaps of Ben's standing j/o session (there's no full frontal, calm down) - mostly because it's not the most flattering angle. The "character hears a noise and goes to investigate in a towel" scene that inspires it, though? Well, that's a different story entirely:
So hot it's scary.
We learn more about the house's previous owners from a beastly next door neighbor - played to campy, crazy perfection by Jessica Lange. She's the mother of a girl with Down's Syndrome, because that seems to be one of Ryan Murphy's weird fetishes. Speaking of weird fetishes, the gay guys that lived in the house just before the Harmons were super into bondage and died in a murder suicide (not connected...that we know of).
Throw in the kooky housekeeper played by Frances Conroy (Old Hag Edition) and Alexandra Breckenridge (Sexy French Maid Edition), and you'd think that Ben and Viv have enough to worry about. Wrong! There's also Ben's new patient in therapy...who, aside from being the creepiest teenage creep that ever did creep, also seems to have hit it off with the bullied and morose daughter Violet. That will end well.
Overall I loved the groundwork laid by the pilot, and I'm really looking forward to seeing how the story continues. Demon babies? Deformed monster-people in the basement? An unspecified number of characters that might be ghosts? The dark, hyper-sexual American Horror Story is pure Ryan Murphy - and it's nice to say that and mean it as a compliment again.
Dedicated with admiration to E. Souliere