Friday, 21 October 2011

AMERICAN HORROR STORY, 1.3 – "Murder House"

Friday, 21 October 2011
This is where I stop reviewing American Horror Story every week. Not because it's a terrible chore to sit through, or that it's without  entertainment-value, but because it's clearly the kind of show there's no point setting aside time to review. You watch it because it's a hit-and-miss collection of ghoulish pleasures that delight (use of the Bram Stoker's Dracula score) and confuse, while relishing its "trashy '80s American soap" feel (the piano-based soundtrack, especially). A lot happens, often without rhyme or reason, but there's always something strange occurring every four minutes to keep you watching... but to sit down and review this mess fairly? To put effort into trying to find meaning and structure to what's basically a mélange of half-baked ideas, mostly stolen from better sources? I can't be bothered to trudge through the mire, especially considering how many other shows are on-air right now and more deserving of attention.

I'll keep watching AHS, of course. I'm not saying it's not without a peculiar charm (we saw a man sewing bat wings onto a dead pig), or that a few of the mysteries haven't snared my interest, but it's so overwrought it gives me a headache thinking about it. Maybe it'll settle by mid-season and focus on storylines without embroidering them with flashbacks to the house's chilling past. I'm intrigued by the idea pregnant Vivian (Connie Britton) started to bleed when she was out of the house, as if a successful birth relies on her staying indoors (and the house itself was originally owned by a doctor who terminated pregnancies), so there's at least some hope AHS will come together and isn't totally without a shape or plan. There's hope yet that AHS may not be a good show episodically, but we'll look back on the entire first season and realize it knew what it was doing... but it's equally likely it'll be totally exposed as a nonsensical smorgasbord of random horror-themed ideas.

Ben's (Dylan McDermott) blackouts were quite interesting (until the show gave us a reasonable explanation for them involving laudanum poisoning), because I was beginning to think he's a shrink who murders his clients and then blocks the memories. And it was fun to see the back-story between next-door neighbour Constance (Jessica Lange) and housemaid Moira (Alexa Breckenridge), with the former shooting the latter through the eye for sleeping with her husband in 1983 when she lives in the so-called "Murder House". Moira's now trapped in the house as a spirit, getting older as if she's still alive, yet retaining her sex-kitten look in the eyes of Ben. So is Constance responsible for Moira being unable to crossover to the afterlife Why is Moira hitting on Ben all the time? Is it part of her penance, or part of some bigger plan she has to ascend? Do creators Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk have any clear answers themselves, or are they just adding to the pile until a workable explanation presents itself?

I just don't have faith in the people behind this show, really, and that's the bigger problem for me. To those viewers ignorant of who the men in charge of the ghost train are, they're probably still enjoying the crazy ride.

written by Jennifer Salt / directed by Bradley Buecker / 19 October 2011 / FX