I know what you’re thinking. Salome, you mostly feral woodland creature, did you misspell the title of this show? Bless your heart. But nope, this isn’t American Horror Story, proper–this is American Horror Stories, the spin-off. Instead of devoting the season to one overarching story, this show will comprise weekly separate storylines.
I think that’s a great idea, because as much as I’ve enjoyed some seasons, the show sometimes has issues with keeping one story together over an entire season. They’re always ambitious, sometimes to a fault. With the first two episodes, though, they go back to a familiar well.
Well, no pun intended, they go back to a familiar place, rather. For this one, we’re turning to the Murder House of season 1. Now if you didn’t watch that season, then you all need to know is that the house is what it sounds like. A lot of people get murdered there. And once you die there, your ghost is there to stay.
I say all that because it will come into play with these two episodes, which are, of course, parts one and two of the same story. Teenage Scarlett (Sierra McCormick) moves into the Murder House with her dads, Michael (Matt Bomer) and Troy (Gavin Creel). That may seem like a weird choice, but her parents plan to flip the house and then rent it out as a murder-themed B&B. Didn’t this idea (a murder B&B) come up in another show I reviewed? (Yes, the episode of Castle Rock where Jackie tasted the blood for some reason.)
Anyway, Scarlett is kind of isolated–few friends–and maybe that’s because she has very particular tastes. That is to say, she’s interested in extreme (and extremely violent) porn, much to her fathers’ horror. There’s something about it that calls to her. Like to the point that when she finds the infamous rubber suit (from season one of AHS) in a closet, she tries it on. You would have to pay me actual cash to try on as, one of her dads puts it, “a used S&M suit,” but I’m different.
This just leads to more tension with her dads, who are stressed enough by the renovation costs as it is. But at least there’s some hope for Scarlett. She’s got a potential love interest in popular classmate Maya (Paris Jackson). The girl’s even invited Scarlett to a sleepover.
Whoops, nevermind–it’s all a plot to humiliate Scarlett on social media. At the sleepover, Maya and her friends livestream a video of Scarlett changing into pajamas. That would be pretty embarrassing for most teens, I think, but unfortunately, it gets worse.
Maya, who’s been pretending to be interested in Scarlett, goads her into talking about her fantasies. And she does. Live on camera, although she doesn’t know that, she confesses her violent desires. Luckily, her friend Shanti (Belissa Escobedo) calls her and lets her know about the livestream, though not before basically everyone in their peer group sees it.
With that, a switch flips and Scarlett goes fully into her fantasies of violence and pain. She finds a partner in ghost Ruby (Kaia Gerber), who’s even more prone to vicious behavior. In fact, she keeps trying to convince Scarlett to kill herself, so that they can be together forever.
In the end, though, Scarlett can’t give up the world. But still, she returns to the Murder House every year on Halloween. That, of course, is the one day of the year when the ghosts get to leave the house and roam free. And she returns for Ruby. Basically, everyone else in the story is dead, but this is the closest we get to a happy ending in the American Horror Story world. Well, alright then.
7/10 – While I liked this episode just fine, it ultimately felt like a retelling of the first season of AHS. Maybe that was purposeful–to make it feel thematically tied to the mothership–but it felt a little done. Overall, though, I like this compact, contained storytelling.
American Horror Stories is currently streaming through FX on Hulu. There’s no UK host for it yet, but we’ll let you know when that changes.