The anthology spinoff of “AHS” kicks off with a two-hour premiere taking fans back to the haunted Murder House that started it all!
One of the biggest flaws with Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk’s “American Horror Story” has always been the bloat, which makes this new spinoff series a refreshing new twist on the popular franchise.
Premiering exclusively on (FX on) Hulu, “American Horror Stories” tightens up the anthology season format into single anthology episodes — or in the case of this premiere, two episodes.
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Even with two episodes, there wasn’t room for that strange tendency to start throwing everything and the kitchen sink into the script to see what sticks. Instead, we got a pretty tight narrative across these episodes that never lost focus on its main character.
As much as Sierra McCormick was the clear lead in this two-part premiere, Paris Jackson clearly stole this premiere with a surprise turn that drove the narrative to its inevitably dark and twisted ending.
In many ways, these two episodes played like a movie and its surprise sequel no one ever really expected to get. But both chapters did everything right, as far as horror goes. There was plenty of gallows humor, lots of gore, screams and terror. And there was plenty of tension.
Perhaps even more exciting for fans, and appropriate for the first episodes of this new chapter in the “AHS” saga, this story took us back to a familiar location, the Murder House from Season 1.
Alas, we didn’t get any fun cameos from Evan Peters or any of the other denizens who lived there, but never fear. By the end of these two hours, there were plenty of new ghosts haunting those extremely haunted halls.
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Actually, we may have gotten an unofficial Evan Peters cameo, as Rubberman definitely showed up. In fact, the Rubberman suit was as much a character for this premiere as was the Murder House itself. Both tied us back to the beginnings of “AHS,” while telling a fresh new story of horror in the house.
That horror came in the form of a very 2021 problem faced by many teens, and this is where Paris showed off some pretty solid acting chops. The main character across both episodes is Scarlett, a 16-year-old who’s into pretty violent sex stuff … and pretty violent non-sex stuff as it turns out.
Paris’ Maya lured her into a false sense of security by making Scarlett think that she was into her. But when Scarlett started to confess her deepest dark secrets, after stripping down to her lingerie, her only true friend desperately texted her to say Maya and her “mean girl” friends were livestreaming the entire moment.
Absolutely mortified, Scarlett threatened to kill herself if the girls didn’t come over. It was when they did that we learned just how much into violence Scarlett was, with a little help from the House itself (she got those black eyes blues).
Scarlett murdered her tormenters, but in true Murder House fashion, that didn’t really mean much other than the fact that now she couldn’t escape them at all.
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Paris played both sides of her character extremely well, the shallow insecure teen ready to put someone else down (with no thoughts of real-world consequences) for a laugh or to deflect from her own insecurities, and the fake temptress and vixen she created to lure Scarlett into a false sense of security.
By the second episode, as the entire narrative shifted, so did Maya’s role. She and her mean girl cohorts were still major characters, but now Maya’s dual side is the badass ghost she wishes she could be, tormenting and ultimately killing the girl who killed her and the bully who really can’t stand up to a bigger bully.
Out of nowhere, Episode 2 introduced us to Ruby, a new character we quickly learned had also died in the house and then subsequently became a ghost. Much like sequels to classic horror films, there was an absurdist element to this hour, as well as an extra dose of humor.
The therapist murdered in the first episode kept showing up wanting to have a session with Scarlett and her dads. We then find out that in an effort to convince Scarlett to kill herself and live forever in the house with her, Ruby brutally murdered both of her dads.
They took it pretty well.
Along the way, one contractor murdered another and then the Rubberman murdered him. But they weren’t gone, either, hilariously showing up and telling Scarlett to go get the materials to rehide all the bodies piling up.
And then there’s all those times Paris’ Maya and her friends tried to be badasses, intimidating Scarlett and on Halloween (when they can leave the house), her best friend Shanti only to become pussycats when Ruby showed them what a real psychopath looks like.
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Remarkably, as the hours progressed, we learned that Scarlett is an absolute monster in her own right. She may have been somewhat justified in killing the mean girls, but pretty soon she was just killing indiscriminately. And yet, she was still painted as our sympathetic lead character.
We were rooting for her to get her freedom from the house. Hell, by the end, she was the only person left alive out of everyone (save one of the mean girl’s brothers). And even after killing Scarlett’s parents (for which, again, everyone took it pretty well), Ruby decided she was willing to let Scarlett go.
In exchange, Scarlett did Ruby the honor of brutally murdering her twisted “Uncle Tony,” the guy who bought her from her real parents when she was young. And she came back to visit the bizarrely domestic sitcom world Ruby, the dads and the mean girls had created every Halloween.
Like every “AHS” installment, this was a strange entry that left us feeling a lot of different ways, but it wasn’t nearly as frustrating as most seasons. We stayed tight on Scarlett’s story from start to finish and we found ourselves rooting for her, even as that means we were rooting for an indiscriminate serial killer to be set free to murder at will.
We’ve no idea if we’ll return to this character now or ever again, but Sierra did a great job of making her sympathetic and interesting as a lead, while also terrifying and psychopathic and surprising in her choices.
As we ramp up for whatever’s to come when new episodes of “American Horror Stories” drop each Thursday, here’s some of the early reaction to Paris Jackson’s twisted turn and the premiere in general (both the show and Paris were trending all night).
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