Review – American Horror Story – Murder House

So far every episode of American Horror Story has opened with a flashback to a double murder. If this pattern continues through the season, the house will have taken the lives of 26 people before the Harmons even moved in.  No wonder it’s on the Los Angeles Murder Bus tour.

You’d think this would have shown up on a Google search. But if I’ve learned one thing from Destination Truth, it’s that ghosts are particularly adroit at avoiding discovery, even by teams of investigators equipped with the latest technology[1] . And if movies are any judge, unlike their Japanese counterparts, American spirits are extremely behind on the latest in social networking technology. Like the island on Lost, the house may not show up on any satellite, but it has ways of attracting people and keeping them there until it’s finished with them.

In the case of the Harmons, they’re stuck in a murder house thanks to the dismal housing market. After last weeks’ home invasion, Vivien makes a sensible decision– they have to move. In an excellent fake-out, it appears she’s found out that Ben visited his ex-lover in Boston last week. But in reality, she’s just pissed that he lied to her about the state of their finances. Phew! Good thing Ben’s ex-lover isn’t crazy, totally got that abortion he took her in for, and doesn’t know where he lives.

Other critics have complained that American Horror Story rushes through its plot points. But I like that only three episodes in they not only wrapped up the story of Ben’s affair, we also learned both the origin and the fate of the Harmons’ spectral housemaid. There’s nothing really new in American Horror Story. Even the soundtrack this episode borrows directly from Francis Ford Coppola’s “Bram Stoker’s Dracula”. So it’s refreshing that rather than drawing these storylines out, we’re already moving on to the next chapter in the house’s legacy– the tale of a laudanum-addicted doctor forced to run an abortion clinic in the basement, when all he really wanted to do was create grotesque chimera out of animal corpses.

As surprising as it is that yet another cable channel is airing a straight-up horror series, what really strikes me is how the creators sneaked an old-fashioned horror anthology show on the air. Using the Harmons’ present day encounters as a framing device, American Horror Story has the potential to tell a different ghost story every week. And as the last terrifying, funny, and heart-breaking scene of this week’s episode proves, there’s no reason to doubt that the show’s diverse tonal approach can come together to deliver a solid story.

[1] Infrared cameras, tape recorders, and running away.


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