‘American Horror Story’ season six: Don’t watch before going into the woods

Charlotte Seton

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American Horror Story” is not your typical horror television show. Certain unique attributes, such as a new storyline each season and the tie between these storylines and real life events, make the series highly addictive but also mentally disturbing. The current season, “Roanoke,” is notable for how certain scenes start out quite tranquilly and then very quickly move to a dark and spontaneously scary place. The unrelenting tempo of the music and the unique sound effects enhance the spine-chilling effect of these scenes.

As the tension increases, the viewer is likely to offer warnings to characters on television―and then still jump out of the chair at the inevitable climax of the scene. This reaction is exactly what one wants from a good horror show.

“American Horror Story” is an increasingly popular anthology horror series created and produced by Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk. The show uses many classic horror tactics; massive amounts of blood, incongruous killers, flying knives, corpses, various animal and human body parts and paranormal effects are all part of its toolkit.

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In spite of these predictable effects, the show brings a fresh approach to the genre. One change season six of “American Horror Story” offers is a new storytelling style. This season is presented as a documentary in which one group of actors reenacts the story as it is told by a second set of actors. Both sets of actors are playing the same part, but the actors in the documentary provide important insight about what is happening and how the characters are reacting to the events.

The current season focuses on Shelby Miller (played by Lily Rabe in the documentary component of the show and Sarah Paulson in the storyline) and Matt Miller (Andre Holland in the documentary and Cuba Gooding Jr. in the story). The happy couple leaves Los Angeles after experiencing a gang attack and resulting health issues, including a miscarriage.

Shortly after outbidding some local hillbillies for a suspicious farmhouse in rural North Carolina, horror begins to intrude on the couple’s lives in various forms. It starts with the discovery of videotapes made by the previous owner of the house that detail the terrifying events that happened there.

Another fresh aspect of the series is the new storyline with unique characters and settings it offers each season, driving fans’ curiosity and desire to continue to watch the series. The themes range from a modern day haunted house tale (in season one) to an insane asylum in the 1960’s (season two) with predictably twisted characters.

Season three involves an all-girls boarding school and witch students using supernatural powers, while season four is set in a ‘50s Florida freakshow involving people who are monstrous in different ways. Finally, season five is based in a haunted hotel containing a bizarre mix of real and ghostly inhabitants and events occurring in the past, present and future.

Although the plots vary greatly, the show uses the same actors from previous seasons.  These actors and actresses are so accomplished that it’s fascinating to see how unbelievably well they represent different characters season after season. Featured actors in the series include Kathy Bates, Dylan McDermott, Angela Bassett, Jessica Lange, Evan Peters and Chloe Sevigny.

The fact that some plots are loosely inspired by true events is also appealingly scary. The suggestion that some of these horrific actions have actually occurred in real life brings a new element of terror to the plotline. For example, season six of “American Horror Story” relates back to the disappearance of the Roanoke colony in Virginia in the 1590’s due to the show’s setting, the appearance of ghosts of past settlers and the theme of human sacrifice. The eerie sense of reality makes the viewer more driven to understand how much of the show is based upon true facts.

This series is for mature audiences only. The first few episodes of the sixth season expose the viewer to human sacrifice, burnt and mutilated corpses, decapitated animals, murderous nurses and lots of blood. It is not entertainment that should include young siblings, but it’s perfect for thrill-seeking audiences.

This is a series you should expect to binge watch, maybe over the weekend. Watch it only if you dare, and remember: beware of screams from the woods!