The first season of American Horror Story, Brad Falchak and Ryan Murphy’s horror series, was crazy cuckoo wild; it was one of the most insane 12 hours of television I’ve seen in a very long time. Fornicating ghosts, demon babies, abortionists and a dude dressed up in full latex all with a touch of Tennessee Williams southern nuttiness, thanks mostly to Emmy winner Jessica Lange’s performance. It was funny, scary as hell, tragic and one of the most addictive shows on TV last year. FX really tested the boundaries of what they could show on basic cable, and those of you who missed it can now watch the whole season on Blu-ray.
Dylan McDermott and Connie Britton star as Ben and Vivien Harmon, a couple whose marriage is on the rocks. After Ben, a psychiatrist, has an affair with a younger woman (Kate Mara, playing all kinds of crazt), and Vivien gives birth to a stillborn baby, they decide to try and save the relationship and move to Los Angeles with their depressed teenage daughter Violet (Taissa Farmiga). They find the perfect house for the right price and move in immediately. Unfortunately, their new home has a long, evil past and is haunted by the ghosts of the dead who were murdered there.
Next door to the Harmon’s lives Constance (Lange), a chain smoking, bigoted woman who prowls around and seems to know every nook and cranny of the Harmon home (you find out soon enough). Constance has two children she’s raised on her own: Tate (Evan Peters), her troubled teenage boy who seeks out Ben’s medical help and quickly falls for Violet, and Adelaide (Jamie Brewer), who has Down syndrome. Brewer is excellent and her performance in Pt. 2 of “Halloween” is heartbreaking. Adding to the creepiness of the house is Larry (Denis O’Hare), the former owner who was horribly disfigured in a house fire, and the Harmon’s maid, Moira. This maid is portrayed by two actresses. To everyone but Ben, she’s seen as Frances Conroy. To Ben, she’s considerably younger and sluttier, as played by Alexandra Breckenridge. Needless to say, there’s something off about Moira.
The rest of American Horror Story is filled up with the mystery behind the house and the ghosts who inhabit it. Each episode begins with a flashback to an earlier era of the Harmon house, from the first residents (a deranged physician who performed abortions to support his drug habit and sick experiments with body parts) to the gay couple (one half of which is Zachary Quinto) who suffer a terrible Halloween. Perhaps because the first season was only meant to be 13 episodes, or perhaps this was Falchak and Murphy’s dream project, the writing on American Horror Story was more focused than any of their other shows, including his mega hit, Glee.
The timing is perfect for this Blu-ray release. With October, the spookiest month of the year, upon us, I can’t think of a better way to get excited for Halloween. The second installment of American Horror Story begins in a few weeks, so watching the episodes are great for building up the excitement of the fans. However, because this is a standalone 13 episodes, you can just sit back and watch season 1 and have a ghoulish good time.
The Blu-ray comes with several great features. Audio commentary by the always interesting Ryan Murphy is a must. There are three decent featurettes that take you behind the scenes of the production. An overview of the house ghosts is a good way to keep track of all the characters and how they came to be stuck in the murder house. My favorite may be “Overture to Horror,” which shows the creation of the title sequence. As created by the same people who did Se7en and The Walking Dead, it’s always nice to see the artistry of that short sequence and how it establishes the mood of the show.