Review – American Horror Story: Murder House

A large Victorian mansion in LA with a terrible history.  A small family just trying to find a new beginning after going through tough times.  They’re only told of one terrible past happening in the house – how the previous tenants had apparently committed suicide – but they dismiss it and take the house.  They’re convinced this will be the start of a new life for them.  But they don’t realize what horrors they’ve walked into.

They didn’t realize their new house was a prime destination for the Tour of Eternal Darkness.  They didn’t realize they had bought the Murder House.

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This first season of American Horror Story centers around the Harmon family: Ben Harmon, a psychiatrist, his wife Vivian, and their teenage daughter Violet.  They initially move to this new house to start a new life after Vivian had previously had a miscarriage and later found Ben cheating on her with one of his own patients.  They’re trying to fix things, trying to make their marriage work, and hope that moving will be able to help them start fresh and leave things behind.

But strange things are happening in this house, things that none of them can explain.  Their neighbor’s daughter keeps getting into the house and saying how all of them are doomed.  They start finding out about other deaths that had occurred in that house years ago.  And meanwhile all of the things they were trying to run from in the past has just come back to haunt them and make everything worse.  Will they be able to survive, or will the vengeful spirits that died there take the Harmon family too?

I was pleasantly surprised by this show and didn’t think I’d end up liking it quite as much as I did.  The first episode had me intrigued and wondering about mysteries that had been presented and I just wanted to keep watching so I could find out what was going on.  However, as I continued watching, I grew to care for the characters which I initially wasn’t sure that I liked all that much.  And the thing about this show is that every other episode it seemed to be making me switch back and forth between whether I loved or hated them, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen something do that before.  It was done well.  All of the characters have flaws and all of them have strengths: something to like about them and something to not like about them.  It’s what makes them human.

So spot on character development, and although this story started out with a dark mystery as its driving force, this really is a character driven story (my favorite kind of story).  It wouldn’t have worked as well as it did if I didn’t care about any of the characters, but it made me care and that was great.  Not just about the Harmon family, but all the other characters around them (though some I just straight up hated, but that was sort of the point anyway).

The horror elements came from the mystery and not having any idea of what might be happening next.  There was a constant threat of death, or even worse things sometimes, and I was on the edge of my seat as I got further into the show, needing to know what would happen next.  It was so compelling I didn’t want to stop, and with each new piece of information revealed, I was just drawn in deeper.

It had a fair amount of gore, and several moments where I actually had to shut my eyes and squirm at the thought.  I’m generally not a fan of gory horror and definitely don’t like it if it’s only there to be exploitive.  Most of the gore in this show had a purpose, though there were a few things that I think it could have worked just as well without showing it in great detail, but to each their own.  It didn’t ruin the show for me, it just made me uncomfortable, and isn’t that what horror is supposed to do in the end?

What could have been set up as just a simple haunted house story with murderous ghosts was turned into something compelling and thoughtful and memorable.  I’m so happy to have seen this show, and although I know the next seasons will be focusing on something completely new with completely different characters, I can’t wait to see what else they have in store.

This is a fine piece of horror, and I would recommend it to anyone else who likes horror or dark mysteries.  You won’t be disappointed.  I wasn’t.

This was a great start to my October.  And now, I’m off to watch their next story, Asylum.  Stay tuned~

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