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TV Review: American Horror Story 6.1 “Chapter 1”
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American Horror Story
Season 6 Episode 1 “American Horror Story Season 6: My Roanoke Nightmare”
Directed by Bradley Buecker
Written by Brad Falchuk & Ryan Murphy
Created by Brad Falchuk & Ryan Murphy
Starring Angela Bassett, Kathy Bates, Wes Bentley, Chaz Bono, Evan Peters, Sarah Paulson, Lily Rabe, Cuba Gooding Jr.
FX Networks
Air date: Wednesday, September 14, 2016, 10pm

Few shows can rival American Horror Story for sheer creepiness. Over its first 5 seasons, Brad Falchuk and Ryan Murphy have shocked, scared, amused, and at times, befuddled fans. Each season a different theme, the show premiered in 2011 with the mesmerizing Murder House storyline. Since then, the seasons have met with a mix of critical success and backlash. Season 2’s Asylum was perfectly maddening, but seasons 3 and 4 (Coven and Freakshow) were near misses. Last season’s Hotel was a return to form, introducing Lady Gaga into the mix as the ravishing Countess, a vampire dwelling within the walls of a murderous hotel. The creators have acquired a phenomenal set of acting talent, many who return each season in different forms including Oscar winners Kathy Bates and Jessica Lange, Oscar nominee Angela Bassett, Evan Peters, Sarah Paulson, Lily Rabe and more. Season 6’s theme was the subject of a viral campaign with countless ads hinting at possible choices. Ryan Murphy himself introduces the episode asking us if we’ve guessed it, and away we go…

Spoilers for the Season 6 premiere of American Horror Story below.

Based on true events: My Roanoke Nightmare – Filmed in docudrama fashion we meet Shelby (Rabe) and Matt (Andre Holland), who narrate their story while Sarah Paulson and Cuba Gooding Jr. portray the couple in the “dramatic re-enactments.” They’re a couple whose budding city life was interrupted by a violent night out. They decide to ditch the city for rural eastern North Carolina where they purchase a quaint old farmhouse from an auction despite angry locals poking around. Matt feels at home in the country, but there’s something off for Shelby.

It doesn’t help when weird noises interrupt a romantic evening. Was it the creepy hillbillies angry about an interracial couple in their deep southern area, or was it something deeper and darker? When a storm disrupts her working, Shelby discovers that the hail is actually human teeth. Matt takes a work trip, leaving his wife alone in the house. One thing the guys are great at on AHS is crafting a setting that becomes a living breathing character. The murder house, the asylum, the witch-house, the carnival big top, and the hotel were all so well defined and explored that these sets felt like extensions of the casts. Great horror makes great use of its surroundings. Think of the Overlook Hotel in The Shining (1980). This is how Falchuk and Murphy craft their sets. And literally as I type the word “Shining” twin women walk by Shelby in the hallway. Okay, that was freaky. The freaky stuff continues as Shelby is attacked in her outdoor hot tub by people she claims were in costumes carrying torches and pitchforks.

Matt sets up security cameras and calls his sister Lee (Adina Porter/Angela Bassett in the re-enactments), a former cop, to stay with his wife while he heads back out to work. Lee is a recovering addict struggling with her demons, while Shelby is frazzled in a house she wants nothing to do with. The tension between these ladies is palpable. Just then Matt gets an alert from the cameras and there are people in costumes with torches… she wasn’t crazy.

When everything is calm, the house is left adorned with Blair Witch-style totems. Shelby wants out and takes off in the car. She ends up hitting a woman (Kathy Bates). She follows her into the woods and soon she is surrounded in yet another nightmarish scenario…

Well, that was something different. First off, the theme, My Roanoke Nightmare, is interesting and unique. It’s like watching an old episode of Unsolved Mysteries, but mixed with the supernatural horror you come to expect from American Horror Story. This series always starts strong, and the cast never disappoints. Roanoke and early settler culture is scary enough to begin with. Parts of this episode reminded me of Robert Eggers’ The Witch, which came out earlier this year and took place in early colonial times. It’ll be fun to see who stops by as the season progresses.

American Horror Story Season 6: My Roanoke Nightmare continues next Wednesday nights at 10:00pm ET only on FX.

Video

American Horror Story 6: Official Preview | FX


See what’s coming next…

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