The New AMERICAN HORROR STORY Gives Me Hope for Ryan Murphy
Ryan Murphy and I have beef. He doesn’t know it yet (don’t worry, he will), but there is no mountain high enough nor river wide enough for me to silence the opinions he didn’t ask for. A long, long time ago (or like 7 years), Mr. Murphy released this little-show-that-could entitled GLEE. You see, I was a theater nerd in high school (I generally introduce myself as Lead Dish from Be Our Guest in EHS’s 2010 production of Beauty and the Beast), so GLEE really spoke to me at that time. I gave that show so much. I watched it religiously for the first two seasons. My friends and I organized a GLEE viewing party to raise money for the Thespians Club. But in return Ryan Fucking Murphy gave me so little. What started out as fun and relatable became the most pandering, overblown, frankly ridiculous show I’ve ever had the displeasure of watching. In retrospect, GLEE could be considered the James Cameron’s AVATAR of television — originally touted as exciting and original but actually exceptionally terrible upon reflection.
“WHAT DO YOU MEAN KURT AND BLAINE BROKE UP”
Fast forward a few years: After that trauma, it took a lot of convincing but eventually I decided to give Ryan another chance, if only because I love witchy shit and New Orleans ambiance. AMERICAN HORROR STORY: COVEN was truly a gift. I went back and watched MURDER HOUSE and ASYLUM — flawed of course, but definitely worth the time it took to watch them. But then with FREAK SHOW, Ryan “Ass Clown” Murphy did what he does best: fucking ruin everything good that he had going. I won’t get into the 100+ reasons FREAK SHOW was the Absolute Worst. It’s no use beating a dead, clown makeup-covered horse-man hybrid, and I’m sure you have places to be.
Put that thing back where it came from OR SO HELP ME
But this new season is different. If only because it doesn’t rely on great actors and shock value to keep it compelling (see AMERICAN HORROR STORY: HOTEL). You see, this season of AMERICAN HORROR STORY has the potential to be truly fucking scary. Usually, I’m a bit too much of a nervous person to enjoy the horror genre. I literally cried during DISTURBIA with Shia Labeouf, but the first five seasons of AMERICAN HORROR STORY weren’t like that. It was just crazy characters, weird sexual shit, and plot points written by a maniac. I managed to watch seasons one through three at 2 AM in an empty house, but I would absolutely not pull that with season six. That premiere episode is some honest-to-Jessica-Lange SPOOKY SHIT.
At least for this first episode, the story is told as a classic ghost story “reality” show called “My Roanoke Nightmare.” Lily Rabe (AKA my one true love, COVEN’s Misty Day) and new addition André Holland are the talking heads, Shelby and Matt, retelling their experience. But the reenactments are where it gets really fun. Ryan Murphy favorites Sarah Paulson (who never disappoints) and Cuba Gooding, Jr. (this time a sweet nerd husband, not a football-star-turned-murderer) play Shelby and Matt in the reenactments. Usually in these shows, they have significantly younger actors playing the roles of the actual people, but here it’s the other way around. Weird, but it works. Probably because Paulson and Gooding Jr. are just so damn good. Say what you will about Ryan Murphy’s faults; he knows how to cast a show.
“Ryan, OJ was not good for my image. Give me some hipster glasses.”
Now let’s talk about the actual theme: ROANOKE. While it was bullshit they didn’t actually own up to that officially during the episode (really, what was that stunt meant to accomplish), it doesn’t matter. Because this theme is brilliant. In a perfect world where Ryan Murphy doesn’t ruin good things, it’s got everything you want in a scary story: a haunted house, spooky woods, historical elements, religious overtones, etc. And, at least in this first episode, they do the theme justice. The mansion is perhaps the best designed major set piece in AMERICAN HORROR STORY history, and I love the continuation of the “Why the fuck would you buy that clearly haunted house???” trope from MURDER HOUSE. The entire episode is well-paced with jump scares, creepy moments, and a climactic scene that doesn’t quit until the episode ends. We can only hope this doesn’t go the classic AMERICAN HORROR STORY route: great theme, compelling first episode, dramatic decline in quality, becomes a literal shit show. Instead, maybe Ryan “Don’t Trust Him as Far as You Can Throw Him” Murphy will get inspiration from the critical success of AMERICAN CRIME STORY: THE PEOPLE VS. OJ SIMPSON, a show that managed to keep up the quality throughout the entire season — truly a first for Mr. Murphy.
“You know what they say: ‘If the glove doesn’t fit, you must… throw in some weird sexual shit to keep the audience interested?’” -Ryan Murphy, probably
As great as the first episode of AMERICAN HORROR STORY: ROANOKE was, I’m not letting myself be excited. I can’t allow that potential for disappointment into my life. Online dating gives me enough of that. But I will say that I’m decently optimistic… in an cracked-IKEA-glass-half-full kind of way.