American Horror Story Season 1 Blu-Ray Review
When I first heard that FX was going to be bringing horror to television, I was ecstatic. I am an avid watcher of horror movies and really thought that TV could use a good scare. AMC had recently started the 2nd season of their hit show "The Walking Dead", but I was still left wanting more. "American Horror Story" debuted, and I'll admit, I was preoccupied and didn't catch the first episode. From there on, I kept forgetting about it and eventually just gave up. It wasn't until Thanksgiving at my Aunts house when my Aunt and my cousin started talking about it did I decide that maybe I should just sit down and blaze through all of the episodes that had been accumulating on my DVR. So with no work the next day and the girlfriend out of town visiting her family, I sat on the coach for 8 hours and caught myself up. This year, you can be sure that I will be glued to the TV when American Horror Story: Asylum premieres on October 17th.
The show itself is quite interesting in that it's billed more as a mini-series than a running TV series. At the end of the season, the story that was being told over the course of the 13 episodes (or so) comes to a satisfying conclusion paving the way for a whole new storyline in season 2, I thought this was brilliant. Because of this, American Horror Story can reinvent itself every year without receiving criticism from those that don't like where the show is going. As long as we don't get a season 2 like season 2 of "The Wire", I think we'll be alright. Meaning, season 2 of "The Wire" moved away from almost everything that happened in season 1 and focused on a totally different group of people... needless to say, what made "The Wire" good, was the back-and-forth between the Baltimore PD and the drug dealers of "the tower", not a burly group of corrupt dock workers... I'm just saying. But based on the promos for season 2 of "American Horror Story Asylum" I think we'll be ok.
Now let's talk season 1. Ben, Vivian and their teenage daughter Violet, move to California to try to escape the hardships they endured in Boston. After having a miscarriage, Vivian caught Ben cheating on her. Rather than leave him, they decided to try and work things out, but in order to do that they felt they needed a fresh start in a new place. "Murder House" as it was so aptly dubbed, becomes their new California dream home. Per full disclosure from the realtor, they are aware of the home's past, but can't pass up the price. What they don't know is that there's more to the story than they were told, more awful things that happened in the house. If they only knew the unimaginable horror that occurred between those walls I think they would have reconsidered their purchase.
Not long after moving into the home, the old residents of the house start to make themselves known. Ben, Vivian and Violet are oblivious to the fact that they are ghosts and even confide in some of them and begin to trust them. There are points in the story where even I had a hard time determining if people were alive or not, but that's what makes the show interesting. Things turn ugly later on in the season when Vivian becomes pregnant with twins and the ghosts, along with the creepy neighbor, want the babies for themselves, which leads to a quite shocking end to the season.
As usual, I don't like giving too many details away when I write these reviews, but if you're into horror and are looking for something smart, sleek and scary all at the same time, then you're going to want to check this out. Don't get discouraged by the fact that Ryan Murphy, the creator of "Glee", is responsible for this, as it's an amazing show. And on top of it, Ryan Murphy is also responsible for Nip/Tuck, so that should give you a little more confidence in this. I can't recommend this one enough and if you're on the fence about picking up this blu-ray, I suggest you don't hesitate.
Presented in 1080P, the video quality on "American Horror Story" is a mixed bag. The quality itself is exactly what it's supposed to be, a bit gritty, sometimes grainy, a little hard to see in the dark scenes, but that was the intention of the show all along. It's one of the few shows on TV that is still shot on film rather than digitally, and it's for that reason that we get that grit that adds to the aesthetics. This is not a clean comedy, this isn't a show with bright colors, this isnt Glee. The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio also helps build the suspense as the murder house seems to reveal more and more victims. While I wasn't blown away with the sound, that doesn't mean that it's not bad. I still get creeped out by the music behind the opening credits and the blu-ray makes them sound even better.
There is only one commentary track on the pilot episode featuring co-creator Ryan Murphy giving sort of a background of the show. It's interesting, but I would have liked a few more commentary tracks on other episodes. On top of the commentary we have 4 featurettes ranging in length from 6 minutes to 24 minutes, all of which are very interesting. "The Murder House: Presented By Eternal Darkness Tours of Hollywood" is a fake guided tour of the murder house given by the tour that can be seen in a few episodes throughout the season. It gives us a quick look at all of the terrible things that happened in the house of the course of season 1, so if you haven't watched all the episodes yet, I would suggest not watching the special features as you'll definitely spoil some things. "Behind The Fright: The Making of American Horror Story" is a 24 minute behind-the-scenes look at how the show came together. There is a lot of production video cut together with a majority of the cast explaining some of their thoughts on their characters and the situations presented in the show. Definitely a good watch if you like these types of things. "Overture to Horror: Creating the Title Sequence" is exactly what it sounds like, a 9 minute look at what went into creating that haunting title sequence for the show. And finally "Out of the Shadows: Meet the House Ghosts" is 15 minutes long and is basically just interviews with all of the ghosts that inhabit the house. Again, if you haven't watched the whole season you may want to wait on this one.
I definitely recommend picking up season 1 of "American Horror Story" on blu-ray if you're a fan of horror. It's smart, it's sleek and it's original. I literally sat down and watched 8-9 episodes in one sitting when I first got into it because I just couldn't stop. If I had not caught up to where the season was at, at that point, I could have easily watched the whole season in one sitting.