Thursday, November 3, 2016

American Horror Story

One of my October guilty pleasures is American Horror Story.

Every fall, AHS starts off with a new concept or idea in the horror genre, and plays out a season's worth of exploration. The first season, for example, was a haunted house; the second, a mental institution; the third, a coven of witches, and so on. All play off of rather common horror tropes but builds off of them in interesting ways.

Well, mostly.

I call AHS my "guilty pleasure" for a reason--while the first season is some quality viewing, every other season has basically started off pretty awesome and then slowly descends into absurdity, as if the writers were writing it all on the fly. While Coven and Hotel managed to hold it together for long enough to finish out the season admirably--but just barely--the other seasons have more or less turned into a huge disappointment. Freak Show, in particular, seemed like it just gave up about seven episodes in and dispatched with almost all of the plot lines in a ham-fisted way--a shame, since it was really interesting for a long time.

I think the concept of having a recurring repertoire of cast members is interesting, but mildly distracting. It's sometimes put to good use--Denis O'Hare is fantastic in just about all of his roles--and most of the main cast manages to take the roles on and make them distinctive. And yet I can't shake the feeling sometimes that I'm just watching the same characters I did last season, even though they aren't really connected at all.

The current season, My Roanoke Nightmare, is more of the same--it's sort of dispensed with the "theme" of the previous seasons and just went with a standard haunted house/cursed land motif, wrapped in a clumsy reality TV show format. Having actors play actors muddies the waters, and then making the whole thing meta by having the actors and the people they were playing all stay in the house just seems like bad writing. Add into this that they don't have a well-defined antagonist--it's supposed to be the Butcher, I suppose, but they've spent an awful lot of time making the nurses and Sidney and the Polks the bad guys as well. Maybe they're resolve it all in a neat little package by the end of the season, but the track record is pretty sketchy on this point.

I'll continue to watch, of course; even if it's not always great television and even lazier writing, it's still interesting enough to catch weekly for about two months a year.

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