American Horror Stories premieres, with two episodes, Thursday, July 15 exclusively on Effects on Hulu.
American Horror Story, Ryan Murphy’s and Brad Falchuk’s decade-long television franchise, still bubbling with scares and sarcasm, now embraces episodic anthology play with American Horror Stories, a serious blow to a shorter horror and, perhaps even, an attempt to address some of the lingering woes that have plagued the regular seasons of Horror Story for a few years now. The end result here, after a two-part premiere – “Rubber (wo) Man” Parts 1 and 2 – is a story that starts off strong but then undermines its initial bite with a second half that feels too silly and sloppy.
Keeping things going in the American Horror Story universe, which has officially filled out sharing universe with 2018’s American Horror Story: Apocalypse, “Rubber (wo) Man” brings us back to Season 1’s Murder House (which was also a big part of Apocalypse and a bit playful in other seasons) for a new adventure through the ghostly halls of the west coast’s most haunted mansion. And while none of the main actors in the original Murder House tale are returning (Evan Peters, Dylan McDermott, Connie Britton, etc.), the story still makes good use of the unique ghostly physics of the location and the new one. doomed family who move in to try and capitalize on the diabolical history of the dwellings.
It is not yet clear whether the remaining episodes of Stories will be as openly linked to the famous past seasons of American Horror Story or if this is just an “introductory new format” deal in order to tie it securely. to the franchise right out of the door, but the concept works. While American Horror Story grows in the tooth and offers diminishing returns more frequently, Murder House is still one of the best-regarded seasons in the series. It is therefore both a simple and effective idea to launch this anthology show by diving back into this landscape rich in traditions.
When moody teen Scarlett (Sierra McCormick from The Vast of Night) and her fathers (Gavin Creel and returning AHS player Matt Bomer) move into the Murder House with the intention of turning it into a spooky Airbnb, we’re immersed in a story on a high the schoolboy is corrupted by the dark forces of the house (the Rubber Man, in particular). As the haunting unfolds, we discover that Scarlett herself has a unique traumatic past as well as an attraction to the more violent aspects of BDSM porn. The first episode is then allowed to creepily transform into something less like corrupt innocence and more encompassing dark and dreaded spirits finding and allowing each other. Add a dash of Stephen King’s Carrie and that makes for a really fun track.
Part 2 deliberately rocks the boat and disrupts the terrorist elements, as AHS tends to do, by overcrowding the allegory and making things more ridiculous. It’s always a challenge to balance horror and humor and this franchise has, over the years, relied much more on daring and irreverence to allay audience anxiety and fear. A little of it goes a long way, and unfortunately the series tends to use too much of it. Horror can certainly have feel-good endings and moments of righteous redemption, but Part 2 dilutes the mix by propelling Scarlett and her new ghost girlfriend (played by “obviously Cindy Crawford’s daughter” Kaia Gerber) forward as a pair of psychotic superheroes for a second half that plays out more like a comedy.
McCormick, however, is awesome and super engaging at the center of these two episodes. Regardless of the conclusion of part 2 of “Rubber (wo) Man”, this is certainly a character who could slip into a different story elsewhere in the AHS verse and feel quite comfortable in it. as a comfortable psychopath. There’s a Dexter-style quality to Scarlett’s transformation and aftermath and if Stories is meant to flesh out the tapestry of the entire franchise, then she’s a very welcome new point. The issues in Part 2 mostly lie with the characters of Bomer and Creel and their distracting marital drama from the more interesting Scarlett arc. They’re not unimportant characters, but their relationship implodes in a somewhat predictable way and it hijacks the whole story. Then there are other orbiting nonsense involving house ghosts that make the story appear to be taking a few steps back.
American Horror Stories may still hold the key, ultimately, to the problems of this decade-long property. Rarely able to sustain a full season of suspense and / or entertainment, American Horror Story feels tense in its intervening episodes, even in its best seasons. Here, in short, he has a chance to avoid this. As is also the case with the upcoming American Horror Story: Double Feature (yes, there is still a new season coming in August) where the series of episodes will be split into two separate stories, eliminating some excess. Even with those shorter takes, American Horror Story will still be challenged by the tonal footing and the fact that the elements and themes don’t unduly devour each other.
American Horror Stories is an American Horror Story spin-off. Each episode is said to be a standalone ghost story.