Every week in On The Bandwagon, Marissa Morales talks up all the TV that you really should be watching by now.
“But I don’t like scary stuff…oh wait, isn’t that by the creator of Glee, though?” is probably the number one thing I hear when I tell people to watch American Horror Story. One, if you don’t like “scary stuff,” for the love of everything, DO NOT WATCH IT. Two, yes, it was brought to life by the creator of Glee, Ryan Murphy, but trust me, they are two completely different shows. In fact, if there were a scale and Glee was one end, American Horror Story would be clear on the other side representing the other extreme.
The format of AHS is entirely unique, as each season may have some of the same cast, but they do not play the same characters, continue any sort of plot or even have the same theme (outside of guaranteeing you nightmares). Murphy was clever to do this, as this gives the show the potential to go on forever and bring big names onto the show with little commitment. But what is the show about? So glad you asked.
The first season follows a “possessed house” theme. A family, in the present time, moves into a house in LA, dubbed “Murder House,” quite appropriately it turns out. Ben and Vivien Harmon, along with their daughter,] Violet, notice the people in the neighborhood are odd, but don’t seem to think too much of it. Ben (Dylan McDermott) is a psychiatrist who works from home, and one of his patients Tate (Evan Peters) takes a liking to Violet (Taissa Farmiga) – a “liking” might be an understatement, but you get my drift. It should also be noted that Peters is without question one of the most talented actors on the show, which is really saying something when you peek at a full cast list; his characters in the first two seasons are so different, yet Peters pulls both off flawlessly. The house also comes with a maid, Moira (Alexandra Breckenridge/ Frances Conroy). No, that’s not a typo. Depending on your gender, you see Moira differently. Welcome to Murder House!
More importantly, the Harmons’ neighbors include Constance (Jessica Lange) and Addie (Jamie Brewer). To say Lange’s performance on this show is one of the best you’ll ever see is no exaggeration. The aging Southern belle is without question one of the most captivating characters I’ve seen on television, and her knowledge of Murder House is astounding. Her daughter Addie helps to bring some comic relief to the show and understands the house more than most.
As the season unfolds, the audience learns the history of “Murder House,” bringing in a bevy of new characters, and even using common murder mythology such as The Black Dahlia (Mena Suvari). The first season displays everyday horrors such as cutting, a school shooting, and a psychotic mistress (Kate Mara). Then we have Hollywood horror, spirits, a demon baby and mutilated children. You’ve been warned.
Season two, American Horror Story: Asylum, is less of a favorite than season one, but still an excellent display of scary. Asylum takes place in the 60s on the East coast, with flashes to the present. Season two also allows actors who may have had smaller characters to really shine, and terrify (see: Lily Rabe, Zachary Quinto, and Sarah Paulson). The horror of Asylum is also more varied than season one; think exorcisms, serial killers similar to Leatherface, psychological mind fuckery, and the horrors of medicine.
Jessica Lange returns as Sister Jude, the nun running the facility with her assistant Sister Mary Eunice (Lily Rabe). Rabe’s performance is one for the books, holding her own against Lange and managing to terrify me more than any other character on the show. The first half of the season is spent trying to figure who “Bloody Face” exactly is. Is it Kit Walker (Peters) or is it someone else, like Briarcliff Asylum’s creepy-as-hell doctor, Dr. Arthur Arden (James Cromwell)? I’ll give you this, you probably won’t see it coming until it’s too late.
Lana Winters (Sarah Paulson) is a journalist trying to be taken seriously in a male-dominated field, something that Sister Jude can certainly relate to. This causes the characters to clash initially, and Lana ends up a patient at Briarcliff, where a doctor helping Kit, Dr. Oliver Thredson (Zachary Quinto) takes a liking to Lana. Not quite in the way you think, though.
A notable guest appearance by Ian McShane is worth noting, as his opening scene made me scream loud enough that I had a sore throat the next day. Though, this is a fairly common occurrence if you watch AHS. Prepare for more gore in season two. That’s right, more. Expect some eye stuff – something that seems to terrify people more than a mask made of human skin.
The next season of American Horror Story is called Coven and will take place in New Orleans. The first episode is titled “Bitchcraft” and I for one, cannot wait to be scared out of my mind once again by such an amazing cast.