A note for future viewers: take caution in the hallways. Whether it is walking under the Tiffany fixtures of Murder House, sneaking out through the dingy, concrete walls of Briarcliff or hallucinating in the Hotel Cortez, Ryan Murphy’s American Horror Story is bound to give you a scare. From ghosts to vampires to psychopathic killers, this haunting hit TV show will have you cowering over the slightest noise.
Boredom is not a word commonly found in an American Horror Story fan’s vocabulary. From spirits and infidelity to mental patients and murderers, every season provides a thrill for the viewer, with a new plot and mystery to solve. Unlike most shows, the central plot of AHS seasons are not entirely fictional. It seems to be inspired by real horror stories in history. For instance, in Season 2 Asylum, a top contender for inspiration is the now closed Willowbrook State School in Staten Island, New York. The inhumane living conditions of Briarcliff mirrors the abusive treatment mentally ill patients received at Willowbrook. Another inspiration is the Cecil Hotel for Season 5 Hotel. The Hotel Cortez has undeniable similarities to the Cecil Hotel in Los Angeles, such as a home to serial killers and the site for numerous deaths. Although some seasons are not well received compared to the others, American Horror Story still gathers millions of views each episode.
Without the stunning performances of the actors and actresses, the show would not last a season. Recurring thespians including Jessica Lange, Denis O’hare, Frances Conroy and Sarah Paulson, of whom all play essential roles on the show. Each season has the actors tackle an entirely different character. This can be seen as Jessica Lange transforms from Constance, a neighbor who can’t seem to part with Murder House, to Sister Jude, a woman who lost her way and became a nun to help her find her path to God. All of the performers add a unique flair to AHS, such as Evan Peters, who is able to deceive viewers with a dramatic change in appearance and personality depending on his character. This sensational work has not gone unnoticed by critics. Jessica Lange was nominated for and won a multitude of awards due to her roles on the horror show, including two Emmy awards for Outstanding Lead in a Miniseries or Movie.
Behind the scenes, the producers, directors, and design teams work tirelessly to bring the show to life. Nofilmschool, an online film guide, quotes Michael Goi, a director, for his words in the video, Behind the Fright- The Making of American Horror Story: “Every director who worked on the show brought a unique approach to the story that they were telling. Every single one of them brought elements to the show that became the style of American Horror Story.” Everyone in the production contributes to the making of the show. Two groups of writers each create a season, one for spring and one in the fall. Another noteworthy aspect of AHS is the idiosyncratic cinematography of the show. Goi has adopted the use of split-focus diopters or tilt-shift lenses to highlight seemingly normal moments that turn out to be significant later on. He uses many classic filming techniques which are creatively incorporated into the series. The hard work of the producers and the crew engrain the horrific tales each season has to offer into the mind of viewers.
Once you watch American Horror Story, you create an infrangible bond with the show. Take out a notepad and be prepared to write this down: stay alert as you wander through America’s horror stories. Heed Adelaide Langdon’s advice “You are going to die in there.”