Glee, this is not. On Wednesday night, the creator of Fox's hit musical comedy will launch American Horror Story, FX's news psycho-sexual thriller. The show, which is being touted as "the scariest thing on television," is about a psychologist (The Practice's Dylan McDermott) who moves his wife (Friday Night Lights' Connie Britton) and daughter to a seemingly haunted Los Angeles mansion where the previous occupants died in a murder-suicide. What follows is a fright factory of bizarro neighbors, psychotic patients, and disturbing spooks as the family begins to realize that their big move may be more than they had bargained for. Is it all too much for viewers to handle, too?
Viewers will be hooked: Using a haunted house as a clever metaphor for a troubled marriage, American Horror Story is "a deeply disturbing adrenaline attack," says Hank Stuever at The Washington Post. There's a "Dark Shadows and Rosemary's Baby" vibe that absolutely works. Featuring "one scream after another" and boasting a "captivating style and giddy gross-outs," the pilot will surely leave viewers wondering, "Can I possibly watch an entire series of this?" And that's the hallmark of a successful horror story.
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It's flawed, but has potential: American Horror Story is "pretty much all scare, all the time," says Ken Tucker at Entertainment Weekly, unlike most thrillers, which rely on long periods of silence to set up the big boo!. With a parade of "screams, sex, jolts, mashed faces, psychotic behavior, and dead babies," there's no escaping the "moral rot and emotional ugliness" that permeates the show. Unfortunately, in the clumsy pilot, that mood proves more depressing than exhilarating — a problem that, once fixed, could make the show an unparalleled venture.
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It's trying too hard: The show is "pulling a couple of muscles and slipping some disks bending backward" in its attempt to be scary, says Tim Goodman at The Hollywood Reporter. Murphy's take on horror is a "visually assaultive experience," and the end result is an "everything-and-the-kitchen-sink of horror clichés." It seems that every single horror trope, beginning with "don't go in the basement," is on full display, as American Horror Story sacrifices logic and believability in an over-the-top attempt to scare us.
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