Friday, 14 October 2011

AMERICAN HORROR STORY, 1.2 - "Home Invasion"

Friday, 14 October 2011
I think it's going to take a few more weeks before I decide if American Horror Story's a good or bad show. "Home Invasion" opened with another teaser set during the house's notorious past (1968, where an intruder called Franklin forced a virginal woman to dress as a nurse before he knifed her repeatedly in the back), and the present-day story eventually revolved around three young intruders, led by a girl called Fiona (Azura Skye), wanting to reenact antihero Franklin's murder with the captive Harmon family. This all sounds compelling on the surface, but it's hard to care about any of the people in jeopardy, and the show is ultimately too superficial to get under your skin. It doesn't build a mood for very long, because it's just too keen to get to next jump-scare or freaky occurrence.

I still can't see where AHS is heading, as it will surely get boring and ridiculous if the Harmon's refuse to leave a house that's so clearly haunted by a multitude of violent spirits, and a magnet for local weirdo's in general. At least this episode ended with Vivien (Connie Britten) demanding to husband Ben (Dylan McDermott) that they move out, which is the most plausible thing AHS has done so far, but I hope the show has a plausible reason to prevent them leaving—as must surely happen to keep the story going. But even if the Harmon's stay for a realistic reason, what's the long-term plan for AHS? Is it a weekly excuse to just play around with scary movie tropes (they even stole the legendary music stings from Psycho!), provide in-jokes for horror aficionados (a nod to The Changeling was cool this week), and gross-outs for the Final Destination crowd (a dream sequence where a woman's body is ripped asunder when trapped between the doors of an elevator)? If so, that may work for awhile, but there needs to be some sense that the Harmon's aren't just puppets for the writers to manipulate into frightening situations every single week, for no good reason. But even if this show's building to a moment when the Harmon's perhaps exorcise the house of its evil spirits, then what do creators Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk plan to do for season 2 and beyond?

Leaving aside the issues of turning AHS into a serialized television drama that justifies the form, "Home Invasion" didn't really work for me. There were moments that were impossible to ignore (a kick to the gonads has the same effect), but there's such a lack of emotional connection to anything, or anyone, that my eyes glazed over during the climactic chase sequences that were intended to have you rooted to your seat. At best, AHS is enough of a wanton confection that something will pique your interest along the way—like crazy Tate's (Evan Peters) apparent kinship with the house's spooks; the reveal that pregnant Vivien's not getting morning sickness, but her husband's ex-mistress Hayden (Kate Mara) is now expectant; the brilliantly Lynchian neighbour Constance (Jessica Lange) and her unnerving daughter Adelaide (Jamie Brewer); or maybe just a particular grisly moment, like how a girl with a recurring nightmare of being cut in half ended up chopped in two by an axe.

I just wish there was something better binding it all together, because it feels like FX have simply given Glee co-creators Murphy and Falchuk free reign to indulge their sick and twisted supernatural fantasies. It's a shame they don't have anything original to add to the genre, as their imaginations aren't up to the task. Then again, seeing as 99% of Glee's musical output is covers, why am I surprised? This duo have made a fortune repackaging other people's hard work in sexier modern attire.

written by Ryan Murphy & Brad Falchuk · directed by Alfonso Gomez-Rejon · 12 October 2011 · FX