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The New American Horror

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Hot on the heels of AMC's worldwide hit, The Walking Dead, is another horror series: FX channel's American Horror Story. With FX just launching in Canada on Halloween this year, it was the perfect show to premiere. Ryan Murphy, who brought us Nip/Tuck and one of the co-creators of Glee, presents a refreshingly odd take on the horror genre... and is definitely nothing like Glee. It may seem like a typical haunted house story, but keep watching and you'll discover how complex, twisted and sometimes disturbing the show really is. I mean, the opening credits alone were enough to creep me out and pique my curiosity. The theme sounds like a possessed Nine Inch nails track.

Yes, on the surface, the story is about the Harmon family coming from Boston to Los Angeles, moving into a newly restored haunted house. Dylan McDermott—who looks amazing at 50 and is not afraid to show his body off—is Ben Harmon. He moves in with wife Vivien (Connie Britton) and their daughter, Violet (the lovely Taissa Farmiga) as a last ditch attempt to keep their family together. Vivien recently suffered a miscarriage, and discovered Ben having an affair with one of his students. What else is there to do, but drop everything and move to the other side of the country? That always solves everything.

Infidelity is the underlying theme, and we see this not only within the Harmon family, but also through the other characters. There are some good scares, but the show's strength lies in its story and character development. It follows The Walking Dead in that sense, but the similarities end there. Certain scenes are creepier, as opposed to Walking Dead's tension and suspense-based horror. And certain aspects of the show really are just plain weird. You won't see zombies roaming around the Harmon residence, but they do have a deformed baby monster, a ghoul clad in a fetish latex suit, and a colourful cast of ghosts that were former residents of the house. Jessica Lange plays one of the more interesting characters, Constance, the unsettling mysterious next door neighbour. Plus Frances Conroy (of Six Feet Under fame) as the housekeeper who appears as a sexy young redhead to Ben, is one of my favourite characters by far.

The characters are what make this show really shine. Even the guest stars are wonderful, like Zachary Quinto as a gay ghost with an unfaithful partner! After falling in love with the pilot episode, I wondered how a haunted house show can really extend its lifespan once the initial scares wear off. But now, halfway through the season, we see that there are complicated histories and secrets held by each character and the house itself. I love how each episode starts with a death scene that happened in the house, not unlike how every episode of Six Feet Under begins. With this set up, I'm a little more confident that AHS has a real shot at longevity. In fact, FX has already picked it up for a second season.

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