I may not like horror for its gore and jump scares, but I do like it for its willingness to delve into dark plotlines and creative worldbuilding. Unfortunately for me, most horror stories are too scary for my taste, and as it’s the month of Halloween, I was lamenting that I wouldn’t find a creepy story that could fulfill my needs without giving me nightmares. Last week, though, I finally decided to suck it up and watch the first season of American Horror Story, entitled Murder House. All ready for the trauma I was about to subject myself to, I started off the first episode with my finger hovering over the mute button on my controller, my feet conveniently propped up in front of my face to block the screen from view should I need it, and my sister-in-law on the phone to talk me through the worst of it.
My preparations were for naught, however, as I found out, much to my own delight, that while American Horror Story is dark and creepy, it is not scary. Murder House left me with some mixed feelings—the story often falls victim to convoluted storytelling, sexist and ableist tropes, and a camera that jumps from scene to scene with very few transition shots. Nevertheless, I found the story enjoyable enough to blow through it in no time, but the more I thought about it, the less happy I was with the overall experience. Murder House suffered from some really bad storytelling decisions—it tries to talk about complex and serious issues, but fails to adequately explore those issues with the care they deserve. Murder House captivated me for the story it wanted to be, but the story that it actually is is a lot less compelling.
Trigger warning for sexual assault and ableism below.