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American Horror Story: Horror-ible or Great?

American Horror Story, the latest creation of Glee masterminds Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk, premiered Wednesday night on FX. It was moderately scary and definitely disturbing. Connie Britton is cool, and Taissa Farmiga has just as much ironic gravitas as older sister Vera. Latex catsuits are not my favorite evening wear.

I went on a review-reading kick before AHS aired, and promptly came down with a serious case of snark-envy. I’m most impressed by descriptions of Jessica Lange—so impressed, in fact, that I have decided not to bother writing a review of my own. Instead, I offer you the choicest quotations from the internet, with the obvious caveat that minor spoilers lurk behind every unopened door:

Update! We now have our own AHS reviewer maxpower03. Here's his review of the pilot.

From the New York Times:

AHS “has the potential to be a lot of fun, if that style and cleverness can be eventually coupled with characters we care about and a narrative that feels less like a haunted house sampler.”

• “Thematic connection of blood, violence, female sexuality and violation of the body? Check. Strobe-lighted scenes of small, murderous people in ‘Little House on the Prairie’ nightclothes? Check.”

• “Jessica Lange, in the diva role of the aging Southern belle next door, appears to have wandered in from a completely different show, or more likely a Tennessee Williams play, but it doesn’t prevent her from being entertaining.”

From Matt Zoller Seitz’s Review for Salon.com:

• “AHS seems more of a sick comedy than a suspense story. Although it quickly sets about building a dense mythology — one that will be further explored in next week’s installment, which I think is superior to this pilot — the predominant tone is one of knowing camp rather than creeping dread.”

• “At its worst, it feels like an R-rated version of Walt Disney World’s ‘Haunted Mansion’ ride, with a new nasty puppet around each corner."

• Jessica Lange’s “first big scene, an insinuating face-off with Vivian, finds Lange carrying on like Bette Davis in her ‘Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?’ phase, with awkwardly phrased line readings, bizarre body language and aggressive interruptions of her costar.”

From the LA Times Review:

• “It's difficult to look away. McDermott is lost, but Britton miraculously manages to shoulder the weight of even the most outrageous moments, including a sex scene involving that latex catsuit, which is horrifying mainly because the thing has been sitting in the attic without benefit of dry cleaning. Conroy is creepy and fascinating, O'Hare brilliant as always, and Lange, well, Lange is simply marvelous — she doesn't just chew the scenery, she spits it into her hand and uses it to make hallucinogenic tea.”

• Jessica Lange is in “glorious blood-and-moonlight-on-magnolias mode.”

From Alan Sepinwall’s Review:

• “American Horror Story is less a scripted drama than a crazy idea delivery system.”

• “You want Jessica Lange to skip past chewing scenery to swallowing it wholesale as the Harmon's eccentric Southern belle neighbor? Why not!”

And because that is the extent of what I have to say (and to steal from other websites), we’re now turning the review over to a few experts: you. Did you watch it? Did you like it?

And, most importantly: should we rate this out of small, murderous people in “Little House” nightclothes, nasty puppets, or complicated scenery-chewing metaphors?

Josie Kafka is a full-time cat servant and part-time rogue demon hunter. (What's a rogue demon?)

16 comments:

  1. I haven't seen it but it sounds strangely awesome :)

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  2. It was nuts, but I loved it. I think being aware of Ryan Murphy's writerly schizophrenia probably helps, though. It's sometimes frustrating, but absurd craziness is totally his forte. I wrote a review on my blog (-cough-shameless plug-cough-) for anybody interested.

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  3. We saw Dylan McDermott's bare butt.

    'Nuff said.

    I'm hooked.

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  4. I am so confused and turned around and I'm just sitting here thinking, "What on earth just happened?" I don't even know what's real or not or just in one person's head.

    It's an odd blend of supernatural, horror, confusion, and bad moral choices. Not sure if I'll tune in next week or not.

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  5. It's weird that I finding this laughable, whereas I feel horrified with Glee?

    HBR, I didn't take you to be an admiror of Dylan McDermott's bare butt. Is it only specifically his butt, or male butts in general?

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  6. I loved it! Could somebody on billiedoux.com please review it? It'd make the viewing experience so much better!

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  7. Male butts in general. Yes, I am a homosexual. Not that there's anything wrong with that.


    I've llooovvvveeeeedddddd Dylan McDermott since STEEL MAGNOLIAS.

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  8. Per Sepinwall and his podcasting partner, Dan Feinberg, Dylan McDermott will be showing progressively less skin in each subsequent episode. They had seen the first three episodes and were joking about how you got the butt in the first episode, then shirtless in the next, then fully clothed in the one after that. They joked that he'd probably end up in the gimp suit before too long. So if the prospect of McDermott's butt is the only reason you plan to keep watching, you may be disappointed. :)

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  9. Don't get me wrong, HBR. I never thought for a moment there was something wrong with it. I just wanted to know because I know you watch True Blood, and in one of the threads I stated something that I observed from what gay men I know say about the series, and was confirmed by another person in that very thread: that women in general are more attracted to Eric, while men were more attracted to Alcide (those who like men, anyway). Do you confirm my theory, too, or shatter it to million pieces?

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  10. I found it rather boring though I am generally not a fan of the horror genre. AHS seemed really clich├ęd which was probably the point but not in a fun way. The suit sex scene was disturbing and unsanitary and made me really uncomfortable. On another note that is one of the ugliest dogs I have ever seen. I predict that the crazy and not quite as crazy as the other teenager plot is going to be long and annoying like most teenager plots.

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  11. Don't get me wrong, HBR. I never thought for a moment there was something wrong with it.

    "Not that there's anything wrong with it" is a quote from SEINFELD. It's a joke.

    I just wanted to know because I know you watch True Blood, and in one of the threads I stated something that I observed from what gay men I know say about the series, and was confirmed by another person in that very thread: that women in general are more attracted to Eric, while men were more attracted to Alcide (those who like men, anyway). Do you confirm my theory, too, or shatter it to million pieces?

    Alcide is stunning. STUNNING. The voice, the body – the whole package.

    But I actually prefer Bill over both Eric and Alcide.

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  12. I'm a hetero female with a close friend who's a gay guy, and we *never* find the same man attractive. Definitely a source of great conversation. :)

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  13. I have the same problem with my hetero female buddies.

    We'll sit and check guys out when we're hanging out and we NEVER agree on which guys are cute.

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  14. Coincidentally, today a lesbian friend of mine presented me her girlfriend. We definitely have very different tastes. Thank God. If we had the same taste she'd get all the girls I'm interested in. She's much better than me at this.

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  15. As much as I'd like to contribute to the boy-talk -- and I would love to, that's not sarcasm -- gotta say I loved this pilot.

    It's also completely not your thing, Billie, since I sense you're easily squicked out. I've got a higher threshold than you, judging by your reviews, but I felt uncomfortable several times here. The leather suit sequence not so much -- and I'm surprised by the reaction to it from all the critics. But then I remember that I was raised on British Crime dramas and the League Of Gentlemen from the age of eight, and therefore have a much higher tolerance to this kind of thing.

    I'd love to see ongoing coverage, though.

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  16. This show is stitching together to be a great drama. Ryan Murphy is pulling it of and as a fan, I am very thankful. I can wait until Ben finds out about Violet... I have ot been so excited to see a show since Lost!

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