Season six of American Horror Story has a different look from its predecessors. ‘Chapter 1’ takes a note from Discovery Channel’s “A Haunting.” Using the familiar recounting formula with recreations to add a bit of drama. This open has some “piggy” overtones where a little screaming of the pigs signposts a bad times ahead.
It is also a device used by true crime show on both sides of the pond.
The show’s plot is set in the present, there are smart phones and outdoor hot tubs, although it takes place in the most rural of places. A huge house located in the middle of a South Carolina wood.
At the start of American Horror Story Shelby and Matt recount why they left California and moved back to the east coast. It takes a moment, even with the “Based on a true story” and “Viewer discretion advised” messages to realize the show’s format change.
Regardless of this shift, things move forward at a cracking pace. After Matt recovers from surgery, he was assaulted on the streets of LA, the couple bid on a house they stumble across on a picnic.
The nearly derelict building is up for auction and the only competition is a group of Deliverance locals. Matt outbids the hillbilly tribe and this does not go over well.
Shelby has bad feelings about the house and it not overjoyed that it is now theirs. The yoga instructor channels her inner calm and says nothing to her husband. They begin to redecorate the place and things begin happening.
The first event is clearly the work of the Deliverance trio. Blood spattered over broken barrels and pig’s squealing in the middle of the night disturbs Shelby and angers Matt.
Matt, a traveling salesman, leaves and Shelby, despite her misgivings settles in. As she enjoys a night-time soak in the hot tub she is attacked.
The police are not helpful.
Matt calls his sister Lee, a former police officer busted off the force for drugs, to come stay with Shelby. Lee and Matt’s wife do not get along.
The two women bicker over Shelby’s wine drinking. Lee is awakened by someone rolling an empty wine bottle into her bedroom. She confronts Shelby and as they argue the former cop hears someone else in the house.
They go to investigate. They find a video playing on a television in the basement. It shows someone in a realistic looking pig mask and a man (Denis O’Hare) dying.
Matt returns home and Shelby attempts to leave. She hits a woman standing in the road, (Kathy Bates holding a meat cleaver.) and stops her car. She see the woman go into the woods and Shelby follows.
She gets lost.
At one point, she falls and the forest floor appears to be breathing. Shelby gets to her feet only to find she is surrounded by people carrying burning torches.
Murphy has presented a great start to the sixth season of American Horror Story. A disturbing ghost tale with specters that may or may not be locals harboring a grudge.
There are homages to horror genre favorites throughout the first episode. The Blair Witch Project being the most apparent, Wrong Turn possibly being another. Although it is a toss up between that 2003 horror film and Deliverance.
There is one jarring moment in the opening episode. When Lee and Shelby head to the basement to investigate the intruder, Shelby asks where Lee’s gun is. The former police officer responds, “Where it should be, in a locked drawer.”
This one bit of dialogue, after Lee tells Shelby earlier that she is still “packing” despite not having a badge, rings false. As any gun owner will attest, having a firearm locked up does not help when faced with intruders.
Still, it is the “correct” answer for anyone who is paranoid about guns in general.
Political statements aside, the season is off to an excellent start. While fans are still missing Jessica Lange, there are enough favorites to make the show worth watching. The story line, with its “this little piggy” overtones looks very interesting.
American Horror Story airs Wednesdays on FX.