American Horror Story: Murder House unleashes a fresh new take on old horror tropes to scare and amaze.
American Horror Story: Murder House is the first season of a fresh and original anthology horror series that takes on every horror trope. We start out the anthology series with one of the most well-known horror tropes: The Haunted House.
But this first season incorporates other horror tropes as well, turning into a compelling and well-crafted series that knows horror. Add to that great cinematography that is visually appealing, a well put together storyline with great storytelling, an ominous and mysterious vibe, strong music and a wonderful cast and real scary and brutal horror, it’s a horror series that will truly appeal to horror fans.
This first season consists of 12 episodes with each a duration of 39-63 minutes. It has a big story arc with a continuous storyline but with little storylines from the past that haunt the present to create the big overall story arc about the house.
Vivian and Ben Harmon move to a new house in LA with their teenage daughter Violet, to make a fresh start. Vivian just had a miscarriage and Ben just finished his affair with a student. Violet herself deals with depression, but her problems are overlooked by her parents.
The house is beautiful and they are welcomed by their pushy neighbor Constance Langdon and her daughter Adelaide who has down syndrome and the new housekeeper Moira O’Hara who comes with the house which comes as a surprise for Vivian.
While Ben starts his own practice as a psychologist from home, soon strange things start to happen and the house conjures up ghosts and violence and reveals a very dark and sinister past.
Why you should watch it
Murder House isn’t your usual haunted house story. It’s much more than that. It combines the familiar horror tropes that come with a haunted house, but turns them into something new and fresh. By means of the storyline, but also the effects, the atmosphere and by combining other horror tropes that add more mystery. Shot with a lush style, brilliant performances and stunning visuals this is just an amazing series that is scary to boot.
Every episode starts with a flashback of previous residents of the house and their violent and shocking demise. It soon becomes clear that it’s the house that’s doing all of this. And we also find out why, after we go back to when the house was built and what happened to the first owners who build it. Each episode therefore deals with a different kind of horror trope and reveals something of the mystery of the house, shown throughout different time periods. These flashbacks and former residents are in a great way intertwined with the Harmons and we are shown their slow demise.
The horror lies especially within the sinister and creepy atmosphere, but also jump scares, violence and brutal horror are common. It mixes different types of scares to let the horror come to life, and it’s a whole new fresh approach to showing and creating horror. The visuals and the cinematography are wonderful and top notch, it’s very pleasing to the eye, even the brutal horror scenes.
The horror is kept in balance with common themes, like love and fear, primal fears that set off horror. Horror itself is an important underlying theme as well, which is all the more fun and really connects to the story itself. This is being increased by Ben’s patients who each tell them their personal fears. It therefore becomes a meta-story about horror itself and how horror is brought to life.
The horror tropes are of course cliches within the genre, but always work in a great way. But AHS managed to give this cliches a new and fresh spin and weaves them into the storyline. While the Harmons are the story arc, the episodes are little stories themselves addressing a horror trope, like Halloween, ghosts, murders, an evil baby, a serial killer, supernatural powers, a mad doctor, a home invasion and much more. This first season is so full and rich with horror without ever becoming incoherent, but connects with the overall story of the house, maybe the main and most important character of them all.
Most important in bringing the horror to life, are the characters themselves. While it’s all about horror and the evil side of humanity that is brought forth by the house, the story and plot is nothing without its characters. All characters have secrets, are mysterious and develop over time. Each of them is very fleshed out and gets as much time as needed to fully understand them and their relationships to each other, which is sometimes very complicated. Although it’s full on horror, it’s also a sincere drama that explores human nature and especially the bad side, and within the house, no one stands a chance. It makes the story very interesting and intriguing and captivating. And scary.
The characters, the plot, the mystery and the horror are written in an outstanding way, bringing a fresh breath of air to the horror genre, while it’s an absolute joy to watch for every horror fan.
My favorite part
The unraveling of the mystery of the house, the hauntings and how it all comes together in the end, and what an ending at that, is so wonderfully done. It’s just amazing. There were a lot of crazy scares and an overall ominous vibe, but the developing of the characters was especially a great feat. The twists and turns were really a surprise and how everyone fitted in this horror puzzle was excellent.
And of course Adelaide was a joy to watch. The storyline of Violet and Tate was a great one and the appearance of Larry was a great mystery and turned out as a big twist.
As for the little horror stories that played out within the house through the years, the story with Chad and Patrick was great and the original owners have an intense story of their own but so does Constance. Well, that is the beauty and greatness of this story, it all connects and is part of a bigger story that plays out and ends in a big finale.
Gore factor: ★★★★☆
Scare factor: ★★★★★
Originality factor: ★★★★★
Gruesome factor: ★★★★★
Read more about American Horror Story:
- American Horror Story season 2: Asylum review
- American Horror Story season 3: Coven review
- American Horror Story season 9: 1984 review
Cast and crew
American Horror Story: Murder House is created by Brad Falchuk and Ryan Murphy. It stars Dylan McDermott (Ben Harmon), Connie Britton (Vivian Harmon), Taissa Farmiga (Violet Harmon), Jessica Lange (Constance Langdon), Evan Peters (Tate), Jamie Brewer (Adelaide Langdon), Frances Conroy (Moira O’Hara), Denis O’Hare (Larry Harvey), Lily Rabe (Nora Montgomery), Sarah Paulson (Billie Dean Howard), Kate Mara (Hayden McClaine) and Zachary Quinto (Chad Warwick).
Music by: James S. Levine, Mac Quayle. Cinematography: Michael Goi, John B. Aronson, Christopher Baffa. Production company: 20th Century Fox Television, Ryan Murphy Productions, Brad Falchuk Teley-Vision. Original network: FX.