DVD Review: American Horror Story Season 1

Horror on television is generally hit or miss. 

For every successful Twilight Zone, Tales from the Dark Side, The Outer Limits, Supernatural, Friday The 13th: The Series, True Blood or The Walking Dead there’s a dreadful Harper’s Island, American Gothic, Happy Town, Brimstone, Fear Itself and The River to go along with it.

American Horror Story falls into the former category. 

The series is smart, stylish, kinky, strange as hell, a wrinkle of retro and most importantly scary. Plus, having been shown late at night on FX, it pulls no punches with the sex, kink and harsh language. All of these traits make up what is one of the most unique shows going in all of television. 

Maybe the most surprising thing about this crazy and whacked out show is that it was created by the dude’s behind GLEE (granted they also created NIP/TUCK – an equally crazy and sexy show). 

American Horror Story follows a family struggling to stay together after the death of their unborn son and a subsequent affair that nearly tore them apart. Trying to get a new lease on life and save their marriage, they move into a new house in Los Angeles. What they don’t know is that they have just moved into what the locals call “murder house” – a place of evil where countless number of people have been murdered for decades. 

Worse still is that whoever dies in or around the house becomes one of the countless number of murdered people that then as ghosts come back to haunt (and kill) the living. With so many people getting killed in one location, that’s a sh**load of ghosts. This becomes very apparent in the two-part “Halloween” episode where literally every actor in both episodes are ghosts outside of the family that continues to be haunted. Naturally, this is why the two-parter is one of the best episodes of the 12-episode season. 

The cool thing about AHS is that while each episode is seemingly connected, building to the overall plight of this poor family that picked the absolute worst house to ever move into, but each episode is also, for the most part, self-contained – meaning you can watch it without missing out too much on the overall mythology aspect (granted it helps, however). 

While not every episode is a winner, the first five episodes are solid, and while some of the middle episodes drag a bit in terms of scares and plot, and some of the payoffs are predictable, luckily, the last few episodes (with the exception of the finale) pick up the pace and deliver some pretty good scares, twists and origins about the ghosts living in the house. 

Speaking of the finale, I didn’t it like one bit. It seemed rushed with an unnecessary death and nearly a “happily ever after” feeling about the situation – given what we had seen for 11 episodes, this just didn’t fit with the atmosphere of the show at all. The finale does do one good thing: Set the stage for a second season that will focus on a completely new haunted location with Jessica Lange – that was a pretty amazing nemesis in the first season – reprising her role as a younger version in the 1960s.

Having not watched the original airing of AHS on FX I’m not sure how it appeared with the commercials or even if things were removed or censored, but on Blu-ray the show comes across great with a high definition picture, high quality sets, some really good props and blood/gore make up adding to the overall viewing experience that should find a welcome place among horror fans. 

Among the extras is a pretty cool “The Murder House: Presented by Eternal Darkness Tours of Hollywood” which plays off the tour of the same name that plays a small but important role in season one of explaining some of the history of the house. Here, the same host from AHS takes a group of tourists inside the house and gives even more background to the brutal deaths that took place. While much of it has already been covered, a few tidbits are new and the gimp terrorizes/stalks them in secret so it is a throwaway but fun. 

“Out of the Shadows: Meet the House Ghosts” is an interview featurette with the cast who play ghosts giving their own impressions about playing ghosts and their own fears and beliefs. “Behind the Fright: The Making of American Horror Story” is the obligatory promo piece that actually contains some decent interview segments with the creators and the main cast as well as some actual making of some of the bigger scenes from season one. If you are into that sort of thing, this will be a fun look at behind the curtain.

Other special features include an audio commentary on the “Pilot” episode and a making-of featurette looking at the creation of the opening title sequence. 

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