Fans of “American Horror Story” love the show’s many gimmicks, an anthology series that changes its focus with every season utilizing the same cast as different characters. It manages to attract high profile actors who partake in some gruesome acts of violence and sex, often playing against each other. Jessica Lange departed the series after Season Four, paving the way for pop star, Lady Gaga, to make her big acting debut. The results made a cultural impact, grabbing millions of viewers and earning Gaga a Golden Globe award, something Lange herself won for “American Horror Story.” After the last season, subtitled “Hotel”, ended, rumors began right away as to what direction season six would take. Clues were often scattered in previous seasons for future themes, but this was left in mystery. On top of that, who was going to return? TV spots started hitting the internet over the last couple months, all spotlighting familiar images horror fans would recognize, but never letting onto which one was our new season. After watching the season premiere, that answer is still unclear.
Filmed as a documentary called “My Roanoke Nightmare”, the premiere resembles that of popular TV documentaries that focus on people’s personal haunting experiences, not unlike “My Haunted House” or “The Dead Files.” Lily Rabe and Andre Holland play the “real life” versions of Shelby and Matt who move into a farmhouse in the middle of nowhere after they are attacked int he city, possibly causing Shelby to lose her unborn baby. In their reenactment, which is 90% of what we are watching, they are played by Sarah Paulson and Cuba Gooding Jr., both staples of the Ryan Murphy universe. Late nights in the house bring on horrifying sounds of slaughtered pigs and figures walking down the halls, only to disappear in midair. The cops refuse to help after Shelby is attacked by assailants unknown and the locals are not in favor of their new neighbors. Matt’s sister, Lee (Angela Bassett in the reenactment, Adina Porter as the real life woman) stays with Shelby to keep company as it is suspected Shelby is trying to scare him to move back. Even with Lee, a former cop, there, the events escalate with the discovery of a creepy videotape in the basement and security footage of people marching onto the property while carrying torches. Shelby tries to leave, ends up crashing into a woman (who possibly could have been Kathy Bates) dressed in colonial garb. The woman gets up, seemingly unharmed, and Shelby follows her into the forest where she stumbles onto a crowd of others who appear to be from another time and there is our episode.
“Chapter One” played it straight the entire episode (and stayed within the standard hour time slot which is unlike AHS) and it made it quite the effective experience. Opening with a “Inspired by true events” title card promised a unique experience separate from previous seasons. Yes, other seasons have involved historical figures and events, but never offered a full ride like this. That gimmick might be full of it, but I’m eating it all up as I actually jumped during the episode. I’m a huge fan of “American Horror Story“, but I would never describe it scary until now. What is unclear about the season is that if “My Roanoke Nightmare” is going to be a season long focus or are we to expect multiple themes throughout. As I write this, no footage has yet to surface of future episodes and I’m OK with that. This has to be one of the most normal episodes of “American Horror Story“, making it one of the scariest.