After FX’s “Nip/Tuck” ended in 2010, showrunner Ryan Murphy, developed a musical sitcom called, “Glee” to do something different for a change. As he was constructing Glee’s first season, Ryan wanted to further challenge himself to scare viewers and revisit his dramatic roots since he worked on Nip/Tuck. This time, he picked the horror genre influenced by Dark Shadows. (not the Tim Burton film) Thus, FX’s American Horror Story was conceived.
American Horror Story: Murder House aired in 2011. (same year Mac Miller’s debut studio album Blue Side Park came out) Season 1 earned positive reviews from television critics and viewers alike. Murder House went on to become an eligible nominee at The 69th Golden Globes, The 64th Primetime Emmy Awards & The 18th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards. Jessica Lange ultimately won the most awards under “Best Supporting Actress in a Drama Series.”
The series spawned more seasons with each installment becoming a critical success one by one earning more awards and a dedicated cult following. In response to the eighth season titled, “Apocalypse” is currently airing on television, I’ve decided to revisit Season 1, because all previous seasons are interconnected to the latest installment of the series.
The following review contains no important SPOILERS. Feel free to read this non-spoiler article if you’ve never had a chance to watch every single entry.
The Whole Season
Positive: Evan Peters, Connie Britton, Dylan McDermott, Taissa Farmiga, Lily Rabe, Frances Conroy, Zachary Quinto, Kate Mara, Denis O’Hare, Morris Chestnut, & Jessica Lange all did an outstanding job for their respective performances.
A man named Harvey with half of his face disfigured, is an obvious reference to Batman villain, Harvey Dent/Two-Face. Batman: Arkham City came out around the same time AHS first aired.
Ryan Murphy did a great job developing, co-writing, co-producing & co-directing selected episodes the first season.
According to Ryan, the series is primarily influenced by Dark Shadows, a vampire soap opera he used to watch with his grandmother. Besides Dark Shadows, he stated that the show is also influenced by iconic horror films including The Shining, Beetlejuice, Rosemary’s Baby & The Amityville Horror.
Character Development involving The Harmon Family as they are forced to stay due to an important “announcement” linked to them as they must endure the spirits.
Whenever a male character sees Moria as her younger self, a possible homage to Shallow Hal when the protagonist sees the inner beauty of women.
Each episode reveals a flashback or two centering around former residents of the house who used to own it.
Practical Effects were heavily used to conduct Death Scenes, Prosthetic Makeup among other resources.
Dutch Angles are carefully used to deliver a creepy atmosphere. Thank goodness each shot wasn’t similar to Battlefield Earth.
A whistle tune from “Kill Bill is used occasionally.
A former resident of the house is named, Charles Montgomery, a reference to Homer Simpson’s boss, Mr. Burns’ full name from The Simpsons.
Mena Suvari, (American Pie series, American Beauty) Eric Stonestreet (the fat guy from Modern Family) & Sarah Paulson (my favorite TV actress) make guest appearances in selected episodes. The latter became a full-fledged cast member.
The Title Sequence is heavily inspired by the opening credits to David Fincher’s Seven.
Negative: Cinematography can be jarring at unexpected times.
Without giving anything away, a Plot Hole involving how male ghosts are able to get a living woman pregnant, while a female ghost can’t get pregnant. Have you guys and gals ever heard of “Double Standard?”
Episode 1: Pilot
Positive: Opening Scene indicates that the series is gonna take you on a scary voyage for each season.
The episode ends with an “announcement” which will play an important role throughout the season.
Negative: Shaky Cam is used frequently along with quick zooms something off of “Kung Pow: Enter the Fist.”
Episode 2: Home Invasion
Positive: Episode 2’s title has something to do with the house.
One scene pays tribute to Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho using effective quick cuts to synchronize a stabbing scene. Plus, Bernard Hermann’s score is used.
Negative: Once again, Shaky Cam is frequently used. Did Mr. Murphy hire a caffeine addict as a cameraman?
Episode 3: Murder House
Positive: Episode 3’s title is an obvious reference to the house.
A flashback reveals someone’s past.
We also learn about the house’s former’s residents.
A character meets his/her end.
Negative: More Shaky Cam and quick zooms are present.
Episode 4: Halloween
Positive: Episode 4’s title literally takes place on Halloween.
Another flashback reveals more about Montgomery.
A shocking scene made me jump. I’m giving it an Extra Point for making me gasp.
Negative: There was nothing wrong with Episode 4.
Episode 5: Halloween Part II
Positive: Episode 5’s title is a a continuation of Episode 4, taking place on Halloween.
Tate mentioned one of my favorite filmmakers. I’ll give you a hint, Ryan Murphy went on to work with John Travolta in The People Vs. OJ.
Negative: Quick Zooms keep popping outta nowhere. Did anybody see Kung Pow: Enter the Fist, because there’s a scene making fun of a kung fu movie’s cliche for using a quick zoom?
Episode 6: Piggy Piggy
Positive: Episode 6’s title is a reference to a recurring character repeating “Hear Piggy Piggy.”
My favorite TV actress makes her official debut on the series. Can you guess who she is? I’ll give you a hint, her initials are “S.P.”
A flashback shows Tate’s past.
Eric Stonestreet (the fat guy from Modern Family) makes a guest appearance as a patient.
One scene references Hannibal Lecter eating a body part.
Negative: Episode 6 lacked flaws, which is good.
Episode 7: Open House
Positive: OJ Simpson’s infamous murders of Nicole Brown & Ron Goldman is mentioned. Ryan Murphy and his posse went on to develop American Crime Story: The People Vs. OJ.
The Montgomery Family’s fate and further contents are revealed.
Negative: No sign of any con.
Episode 8: Rubber Man
Positive: Episode 8’s title is named after a mysterious man wearing a rubber black suit.
Speaking of Rubber Man, his true identity is finally revealed.
A flashback shows how the rubber black suit originated.
Negative: No flaw is displayed.
Episode 9: Spooky Little Girl
Positive: Another flashback reveals a former resident of the house.
A plot twist involving The Harmon Family.
A recurring character mentioned “End of The World” foreshadowing Season 8’s post-apocalyptic setting.
Negative: Not a single trace of negativity spotted.
Episode 10: Smoldering Children
Positive: Episode 10’s title has a double meaning. First, it’s named after Harvey’s kids, and a song about massacre.
A flashback reveals how Harvey’s face became disfigured.
A Plot Twist shows us the fate of a main character. I’m giving this an Extra Point for surprising me.
Negative: Couldn’t detect any problems.
Episode 11: Birth
Positive: Episode 11’s title has something to do with a crucial plot element.
A ghost mentioned Roanoke, foreshadowing Season 6’s storyline.
I can’t tell you the ending of Episode 11. You will definitely need to see for yourself.
Negative: Shaky Cam returns yet again. This isn’t Cloverfield y’all!
Episode 12: Afterbirth
Positive: Episode 12’s title is obviously named after a post-birth scene.
Season Finale ties up loose ends, until Season 8 revisits the house.
Without giving too much away The Harmon Family have a bittersweet ending.
The final scene ends with a familiar whistle tune.
Season 1 bookends with new residents. Mirroring The Harmon’s Family entering the house.
Negative: Why is the cameramen always feeling nervous while holding the camera? UGH!
The Final Verdict: B, FOR BEAUTIFUL BEGINNING!
American Horror Story: Murder House is a decent start for the series. If you’re new to the series, I suggest you start with Murder House before you dive deeper into every single installment.