Summer of Scares: American Horror Story- Murder House — Retro Review


*This post contains spoilers*

American Horror Story’s is a fine example of a fun and campy anthology series and is arguably one of writer Ryan Murphy’s best show by far. Some cliche, contrived, and convoluted plotlines are made up for in tone-setting, character, and soundtrack. Characters like Constance Langdon, Myrtle Snow, and Liz Taylor are not only all written well but have excellent wardrobe selection to fit the theme and style the show brings. The music is weird but fitting, adding to the mythos of the show are tracks like Dominique by the Singing Nun, the Coven Theme from season three, Patience and Prudence’s “Tonight You Belong With Me”, and David Bowie’s “Life on Mars” to name a few. 

For each season it seems to be the case that specific color schemes and camera perspectives are taken to set the tone of the said season. Coven was Black, White, and up in your face. While Asylum was grey and long. Let’s not forget the amazing monologues. Today we are going to focus on the season that started it all with the color red, Murder House.

The show begins with the Harmon family moving into a very old yet aesthetically gorgeous house, this move is due directly to the family’s desire to start over after Mr. Harmon made the terrible decision to cheat on his wife. The family slowly becomes invested in the people surrounding the house and those who are trapped on the inside. Yes, they eventually find out that the house is haunted by many spirits, those of which who have died and were trapped there. A Dead Maid, Two Gay Lovers, and multiple dead children later, the Harmons become more knowledgeable on the history of the house and more importantly become even closer to being consumed by the Hell Mouth. 

One of the major factors in American Horror Story the overall critical analysis of each and every American Horror Story season is one that is often the shows tool for executing great stories.  This factor is something that American Horror Story excels at and that is one of character development or character design. Let’s look at some of the major characters for a clearer image of this statement.

Remember that dead maid we mentioned before? Her name is Moira O’Hara and she is played by the elegant Frances Conroy. Conroy’s Performance’s in the franchise have not been as celebrated as others but most certainly should be as her roles are always excellently delivered and are just as impressive as her co-star Jessica Lange (Constance Langdon). Moira is a role that is no short of this claim. Moira often plays opposite of Constance and is the first instance of this parallel in all the seasons. That parallel being Frances Conroy and Jessica Lange’s characters play foils to each other. This season Moira is Constance’s old maid who was killed by the later for sleeping with her husband. The truth, however, is that Moira was raped by Langdon’s husband. The dynamic between the legendary (not used lightly) actresses is a sight to behold, this is shown through the mere disdain they have for each other (the characters) in the dialogue.

Speaking of legendary actresses, Constance Langdon who is portrayed by Jessica Lange is one of the most popular and remembered American Horror Story characters. This statement is interesting in and of itself given the fact that the show is filled with many supernatural and colorful characters. The old southern white woman seems less and less rememberable than  Lady Gaga vampires, secret Nazi scientists, fashionable all-powerful witches, Angela Bassett Voodoo Queen, and gorgeous trans women but the fact remains that Constance Langdon is one of the most remembered. This is due to the legendary performance by Jessica Lange, in her execution of the character and particularly in the characters exquisite monologues she makes this trope into a character in her own tier. American Horror Story is known for its exquisite monologues and Constance has some of the best ones. 

For Example:

Ever since I was a little girl, I knew I was destined for great things. I was going to be somebody. Person of significance. Star of the silver screen, I once thought. But… my dreams became nightmares. Instead of laurels, funeral wreaths. Instead of glory, heh, bitter disappointment. Cruel afflictions. Now I understand. Tragedy was preparing me for something greater. Every loss that came before was a lesson. I was being prepared. Now I know for what. This child… a remarkable boy. Destined for greatness. In need of a remarkable mother. Someone forged in the fires of adversity, who can guide him. With–with firmness. With love.”- Constance Langdon

American Horror Story murder house was filled with many other characters that allowed it to be one of the greatest and most remembered seasons of the series. Great reveals happen every episode and the show never seems to get tired, while there are a few stretches in terms of plot continuity that doesn’t affect the overall greatness of the show and the talent that it’s cast brings to the table. Other actors like Sarah Paulson and Evan Peters made their debut in this season. Their characters, no matter how big or small, made a great impact on the overall storyline and the deliverance of this piece. When Murder House characters returned for American Horror Story: Apocalypse the same level of professionalism in terms of acting was brought to the table to reprise all of the roles necessary to tell the apocalypse story.

At the end of the season, the setup for this aforementioned apocalypse happens in the birth of Michael Langdon, the son of Vivien Harmon and Tate Langdon. This setup allows for the American Horror Story universe to grow and develop over time. It was a long-awaited mystery to be solved but we eventually found out that next baby became the Antichrist and serves as the main antagonist for the witches of the coven in season 8. American Horror Story Murder House not only set the bar high when it comes to what a good season of the show should look like but also what a good horror franchise should do in terms of the execution of its character design and development. If you haven’t seen the show already I would highly recommend it as it is horrific, gorgeous, and downright impressive.

I give American Horror Story Murder House a 9/10 for its excellent character development, design, and the capability of its actors to deliver on a believable Horror Story.

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