American Horror Story: Season 1 (Bluray)

Without shame, I admit that I love things that go bump in the night, as long as they don’t go bump in the night in MY house. When I was a kid I used to dream of owning a haunted house, thinking that most ghosts were like the captain in “The Ghost and Mrs. Muir.” I figured if we were lucky enough to have a spirit in the house, he or she would be very friendly and we’d play games.

Of course, as I grew up I learned that not all ghosts are like the captain…. or even like Casper. This I learned from movies, and believe it or not… the experiences I had living in not one, but two houses that seemed to have a stowaway spirits in them. Long stories… no time here.

This brings me to the series “American Horror Story”, which recently aired on FX. Not having cable, I was rather put out that I wasn’t able to watch it when it aired, and listening to all my friends talk about it frustrated the heck out of me. It sounded like something that was right up my alley. I avoided all details about the show, holding out for the inevitable Blu-ray release.  When said Blu-ray release was dropped on my doorstep… I actually hesitated. Were my hopes too high? Was it too scary?

I turned to some of my trusted friends and asked them for their spoiler-free opinions. Immediately answers shot back, “Loved it” and “Hated it.” Both answers equally divided with no apparent middle ground. So, without any thing to really make me lean one way or another… I dove in.

“Loved it” doesn’t even begin to describe my feelings for “American Horror Story.” Every one of the 12 episodes in this first season were wonderfully written, extremely creepy and meant to be watched at night with the lights out.  Even the opening credit sequence was fear inducing, one of the best I’ve seen for a horror type series. Definitely sets the mood.

As it turns out, “American Horror Story” is going to be an anthology series of sorts. Each season will deal with a whole new house and story, with both new and returning actors (playing new roles). This first season introduces us to the Harmons (Dylan McDermott & Connie Britton), who have purchased a lovely old home in the suburbs of L.A. They moved from Boston with their teenaged daughter (Taissa Farmiga) to escape a bad family situation and start fresh. Unfortunately, you can’t really run away from most family issues… they just follow you.

To make matter worse, the Harmons are not only haunted by their family’s indiscretions, it turns out the house they purchased has a history of its own. A rather murderous history. They move in aware of the previous owner’s untimely demise… but what they don’t know is that the house has been the scene of many…. many… MANY deaths. And most of its past inhabitants are still hanging around.

To tell you any more would be a disservice to the brilliance of the series. Shocks and surprises lurk in every corner of the house and the margins of the script. To give anything away would be to ruin them. Suffice to say the story that threads itself through this first season is original, powerful and one hell of a scary ride.

What I will say is that the material would be nothing without an excellent cast, and the creators of the series have gathered a terrific one. Both Dylan McDermott and Connie Britton are brilliant and believable in their roles as the damaged couple faced with an unbelievable situation. But the scene stealer for the series is undoubtedly Jessica Lange as the ‘next door neighbor’ Constance. A one-time wannabe actress, she insinuates herself into the Harmon’s lives, at first because you think she is just a nosy neighbor. But we quickly learn she is more entrenched in the house’s history than she lets on. Her performance is dead on amazing and she chews the scenery with every line of dialogue.

“American Horror Story” also boasts to be as sexy as it is scary, perverse as it is gruesome and that’s not too far off the mark. However, due to the network it haunts, it is a tame compared to shows like “Game of Thrones” or “True Blood.” The sexual nature of the story is evident but I saw nothing that I couldn’t comfortably watch with any of my family (save for the kids).  What they show adds to the plot without going overboard. The scares on the other hand… well there are no holding back in that area.

The Blu-ray release offers up a terrific picture, though some grittiness is evident. This is in no way a detriment as the show is shot on film (a refreshing holdout to the old days) and it gives a nice cinematic feel to the picture and makes the darker and scarier scenes all the creepier. As far as audio, it is a perfect blend of front dialogue and ambient surround sounds. The aforementioned things that go bump in the night do so here with clarity that is startling. You never know when something might ‘bump’ just behind you.

Special features include a really well done audio commentary by co-creator Ryan Murphy on the pilot episode. He gives a lot of insight into the making of the series and is very entertaining as he does so. There is also a featurettes focusing on “The Murder House” as it is alluded to in the fictional tour in the series. This is a faux documentary as it would be presented with all the cheesiness these type of tours promote. Additionally, you’ll find a lengthy “Making of…” featurettes and a look at the creation of the opening title sequence. Finally, there are a series of interviews with the spirits of the Murder House.

“American Horror Story” delivered on all levels and I enjoyed it immensely. I can see however, how there might be such a divisive opinion. The series is just odd enough to be a love it or hate it venture. I loved it and cannot wait to see the new story in season 2.  

Episodes:

Pilot

Home Invasion

Murder House

Halloween Part 1

Halloween Part 2

Piggy Piggy

Open House

Rubber Man

Spooky Little Girl

Smoldering Children

Birth

Afterbirth

 

Starring: Dylan McDermott, Connie Britton, Jessica Lange, Taissa Farmiga, Evan Peters

Extras: Audio Commentary; The Murder House; Overture to Horror – Creating the Title Sequence; Out of the Shadows – Meet the Ghosts

Studio: 20th Century Fox

Release Date: 9/25/2012

MPAA Rating:  NR

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