American Horror Story brings scares, laughs


Caution! May contain spoilers.

For most movie genres, it isn’t too difficult to find television shows addressing the same topics. Comedy, drama, mystery, all are well-represented in the fall television lineup. However, horror is not usually represented on television. Prohibitive factors include costs, audience, and the difficulty of extending a horror premise into a season-long plot. Beginning three seasons ago, American Horror Story broke that wall down in a big way.

AHS, which airs on FX, is a relatively unique show in many ways. Beyond just the fact that scary shows are few and far between, the series also follows a different format in relation to seasons. Each season presents a new plotline, but features many of the same actors in different roles. The first season, called simple American Horror Story, followed a modern-day family’s experiences in a haunted house. After that, most of the top-billed actors returned for American Horror Story: Asylum, in which a religious asylum was the main area, occurred in the past, before mental issues were well understood. This season’s incarnation is American Horror Story: Coven. Starring returners Jessica Lange, Evan Peters, Sarah Paulson, and Taissa Farmiga returning after a brief hiatus during the second season, the show is primed to be even bigger and better than before. Along with the recurring cast, big names such as Emma Roberts (for a few episodes…) and Kathy Bates are bringing the show out from its current cult status to the mainstream.

Though clearly not for the faint of heart, the show has some light moments. Some gore is present, but other than that it resembles a dark sitcom. The show oscillates wildly from displays of witchy power, to intense confrontations, to …romantic scenes that are often enough to get even the most devout watchers to cover their eyes.

On at 9 pm on Wednesdays, the show runs slightly over an hour, although the horror resulting from the viewing is often more than enough to keep one awake for many hours more. Though at times taking things to an extreme, AHS does an impressive job of keeping the plot moving, avoiding the usual cheap scares from unexpected monsters popping out of corners. Instead, they address many real issues (including racism, homosexuality, and a healthy dose of mental illness) with a progressive, if extreme, approach- a Civil War-era racist is resurrected and made to act as a black witch’s slave, for example.

Overall, this show is a hard sell. Even some high schoolers may find the material too sensitive, and the treatment too irreverent, or the scenes to graphic to fully enjoy. However, if one can follow the plot and deal with the occasional (often) unpleasantry, the show is really a must-watch.