Binge Guide

Everything You Need to Know Before You Binge-Watch American Horror Story

by | September 30, 2015 | Comments

While prepping for Halloween festivities, one might want to allot some time to catch up on American Horror Story on FX, which begins its fifth season, Hotel, on Oct. 7.  Here’s why we think you should binge this monstrously fun horror series.


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What’s the premise?

Each season of AHS is its own horror-themed storyline occurring in extra scary environs, often using the same cast members in different roles.

What’s it like?

American Horror Story is one of the only shows on television that, much like Madonna, keeps reinventing itself every season, consistently engaging viewers regardless of their final opinion of the content. The first season, retroactively named American Horror Story: Murder House, focuses on a troubled family who moves into a house haunted by anyone who ever died on the property. The second season, American Horror Story: Asylum, moves to Briarcliff Mental Institution, where supernatural events occur regularly, and the staff is almost indistinguishable from the patients, sanity-wise. Later seasons include storylines about a home-school for young witches, a carnival freak show, and finally, this year, a terrifying hotel.

Why should I watch this?

Creators Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk wanted to veer away from their previous collaborations on Nip/Tuck and Glee and indulge their darker sides. Each season feels like the duo made a list of things you can’t show on network television for fear of sending ladies scrambling for their fainting couches, and then found a story to fit them. Beautifully shot, with fantastic production value in sets and costumes, and a talented cast to rival that of any other cable show, AHS feels like a modern continuation of Hammer horror films instead of just a cheap rip-off.

Where can I see it?

New episodes begin Wednesday, Oct. 7 on FX at 10 p.m. All four prior seasons are available on Amazon, Google Play, iTunes, PlayStation, Vudu, and on DVD and Blu-ray. The first three seasons are also available on Amazon Prime, Hulu, and Netflix (season four will be available on DVD, Blu-ray, Hulu and Netflix on Oct. 6).

How long will it take?

Each episode is an hour long, and the four seasons so far will take about 55 hours to scream through.

What do the critics think?

The first season is Fresh at 64 percent, and the second season topped it with a Certified Fresh rating of 77 percent. Seasons three and four are also Certified Fresh at 81 percent and 87 percent respectively. The critics seem to be aware of its over-the-top sensibilities but can’t ignore its appeal. Mary McNamara of the Los Angeles Times calls it “a big ol’ brooding, baffling, ridiculous, and occasionally compelling mess of a show,” and David Hiltbrand of the Philadelphia Inquirer warns viewers that “AHS Asylum crosses a line for television… It goes beyond dark all the way to clerical black, the scourge of all light.”

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Why should I watch this?

Put simply, it’s totally berserk and there’s nothing like it on television. Other horror-based shows like The Walking Dead and True Blood are certainly dark and disturbing, but the latter is just a soap opera in a black cape and fangs, while the former is more of a anthropological discussion of the human condition that happens to have zombies hanging around. American Horror Story feels like the middle ground between the two. It keeps social commentary at a minimum while still having something to say, peppered into shocking story lines and compelling emotional experiences for its characters. Although the cast has won numerous acting Emmys over the years, Jessica Lange deserves a special hand for being in the first four seasons and blowing minds everywhere in season two as Sister Jude. “The Name Game” episode in season two is a perfect example of the kind of mesmerizing madness that this show has become famous for, and certainly the reason I was excited to kick off seasons three and four.

What’s my next step?

Falchuk says that their inspirations for the show lie in movies like Rosemary’s Baby, The Shining, and Halloween. Murphy cites the Dark Shadows television program as his influence for combining supernatural figures and soap opera story lines. For more frightening Murphy/Falchuk goodness, check out the new FOX show, Scream Queens. Finally, if your love for the show stems from the wacky imagery, make sure to watch David Lynch’s Twin Peaks.

 

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