Review: 'American Horror Story' non-stop homage to horror films past
By April MacIntyre Sep 30, 2011

It goes without saying that "American Horror Story" has freakishly odd moments and downright scary scenes, so no kids should be watching.

FX's latest "American Horror Story" will wash over you in stylish waves of moments of great horror films past, and that's okay by showrunners Brad Falchuk and Ryan Murphy, who spoke about this to me yesterday on a phone interview.

"We both are very big fans of the genre," said Falchuk. "I love 'Halloween,' and we both love 'Rosemary's Baby' and 'The Shining.' Anything where the genre part of it enhances the story as opposed to being sort of something about murder porn."

Ryan Murphy weighed in. "I also think the second episode in particular is about that, but I think as you go on, there is less of that. I mean, my favorite movie, horror, growing up was 'Don't Look Now.' The second episode, in a weird way, is a tribute to a lot of great horror movies and scenes that we like, but I think that happens less as we move through the show. But everybody says that about 'Nip/Tuck' too, about 'Glee,' that they can see a lot of 'Singing in the Rain' in the first three episodes. I think that anytime you do something genre, you are compared to the other genre pieces that have come before. In this case we embrace that just because I love that genre, and I think so many of those great directors were amazing. So I guess some of it is homage, but I think as we go deeper into the stories, you will see less of that."

Not only "Rosemary's Baby" is hearkened, but "Heathers," "Carrie," "Amityville Horror" and a few other classics too. But mostly you will be wondering, with the non-stop paranormal horror that awaits the Harmons from the get-go after they move into this too good to be true bargain house, why are they even staying? The Harmons, as a family, feel heavily constructed, not organic or real, which adds to the dramatics of the overall otherworldly story.

Mother Connie Britton delivers a stillborn at near term and then finds her husband, psychiatrist Dylan McDermott, in flagrante delicto with a 21 year old student in their marital bed. Connie is stunning, strong and most women I speak to who have seen this screener scoff that she stays with him "to start over," but then, women didn't write this script. Taissa Farmiga plays their surly cutter teen daughter Violet, who has several "Heathers" moments with the mean girls of High School. She is wooed by what we imagine is a young patient of her dad's, Tate (Evan Peters), but by episode two we feel Tate may be a hallucination or construct of the Victorian home which has paranormal evil powers a la "The Shining." The house is full of infamous murderous deeds of decades past, and is one of those places Shamans and mediums would warn you to avoid building on, like "Poltergeist"

The bright spots for me are Jessica Lange as Constance, who sends up a bit of Piper Laurie (if Carrie's mother were a mature sex kitten) in her berating bullying of her Down Syndrome daughter who she curses and labels "mongoloid." Constance gives us a delicious tease in the line, "Don't make me kill you again" to the changeling maid played by Frances Conroy.

How these two neighbors (Constance and her disabled daughter) get in the house all the time for me was more upsetting than discovering evil wallpaper and murals in the remodel. On top of that, Constance is so malicious she makes Ipecac laced cupcakes delivered to the Harmons and meant for Violet, but we don't really know why.

Nice touch with the maid played by Frances Conroy - who appears her real age to Britton's character, but to her husband is a younger, sexier version of herself (Alexandra Breckinridge). There are lots of masturbatory scenes from the maid and Ben, with lots of McDermott nude rear end shots, which worked wonderfully for Charlie Hunnam in FX's popular "Sons of Anarchy," so why not here?

Another big plus is Denis O'Hare, whose murderous father character is right out of "Amityville Horror," as the house possesses the men to do evil against their families. Now the fact he is released from prison because he has brain cancer was a laughable moment. Lifers who murder their families are left to rot in prison, they are not let out for pity sake.

What overcame O'Hare's character is happening to Ben too, as he sleepwalks, drifting in and out of reality and a puppet of the house's parlor games. By the end of the second episode, I wanted to see how Connie tries to salvage what is left of her family, and learn more of Jessica Lange's role in this, as well as Frances Conroy's maid character's history with her.

Not perfect, but good enough to keep me coming back to see what the house does to the Harmons.

Excellent work is turned in by the below the line crafts, notably Eryn Krueger Mekash for makeup design, Set Decorator Ellen Brill, who turned out gorgeous sets for Murphy on "Nip/Tuck," and Beth Rubino and her crew for brilliant production design. Bravo crew.


FX 'American Horror Story' ratchets up: Constance Comment
By April MacIntyre Oct 20, 2011

One of the biggest happy surprises for me is FX's "American Horror Story," which is improving in story weekly after the initial shock premiere.

That can be directly credited to Jessica Lange and Frances Conroy, Constance and maid Moira, whose history is revealed a bit, and we see now that Constance is somehow the keeper of the Harmon's house darkest secrets, and has no fear of the dwelling. In fact, she comes in and helps herself to the silverware as the dead specter of a maid she shot and killed torments the new family in different ways. Moira appears as a sexy siren to Ben, and an old spinster to Vivien.

Constance sees dead people. So do the Harmons. The delicious evil history of the home is revealed on "Murder House" takes us back in time to a doctor driven to madness by his climber wife, and their financial distress. Abortions in a time when it was an unthinkable act, experiments, murder-suicide, mayhem and other evils have permeated the floorboards of this superficially gorgeous home that has an rotten to the core frame.

Try selling the house now that they learn their home is the star attraction of the Hollywood murder tour!

Denis O'Hare's Larry is a jolly apparition perhaps? Or real? We are not sure. He only appears to Ben. Ben is having an Amityville Horror experience inside his own home, as he sleepwalks, and thinks murderous thoughts.!

Vivien even has her own ghostly visitor in broad daylight, in the form of a woman who she thinks is looking to buy the home. We see the violent head injury as the camera pans behind the distracted ghost, only to have her disappear when Viv turns to give her some tea. End scene.

This show is getting better and better weekly, and isn't just weird now for weirdness sake, but more focused, and the performances by Lange, Britton and Conroy are superb.

Side note: Bravo Ellen Brill, set decorator for the series, who lent her talent to Nip/Tuck for producer Ryan Murphy, and now beautifully dresses this evocative moody set to perfection.