Title: American Horror Story (Season #1: Murder House) [Mandy C.’s Take]
Released: 2011

Fix: Keeps You Up At Night, Major Case of the Heebie Jeebies
Platform: Disney+


See Also: Meredith’s Take

Netflix Summary:

Exploring humankind’s unsettling capacity for evil, this darkly twisted drama plays upon the power of supernatural fears and everyday horrors.

Season 1 Summary: A Boston family makes a new start by moving cross-country to Los Angeles … only to find that their new home might already be “occupied.”

FYA Summary:

HRH Connie Britton and her magnificent hair family move across the country to make a new start after many things go wrong in Boston: a miscarriage and an affair among them. The house they move into in LA is, to all appearances, an absolute gem (even considering the fact that the previous tenants died in an apparent murder suicide), but things get very strange, very quickly, and it becomes apparent that the previous tenants are not the only people to have met unfortunate ends while living there.

Familiar Faces:

Connie Britton as Vivien Harmon

Full disclosure: I have never seen Friday Night Lights. But you can’t be around FYA HQ for long without learning of the wonders of Tami Taylor/Connie Britton, and coming to be in awe of her amazing hair. Even while playing Vivien, a woman who has had many terrible things happen to her, and who continues to have terrible things happen to her, Connie remains radiant and strong. Her having a lead role in American Horror Story (AHS) makes total sense, because she’s obviously made a deal with the devil.

Dylan McDermott as Ben Harmon

Dylan McDermott also has nice hair, and the numerous times he takes his shirt off (or walks around in the complete buff) as Ben certainly adds to the show, but where Vivian is a strong, powerful woman, Ben is a terrible, weak man. The guy’s got massive issues, and has made a serious mess out of his life. That said, he’s still kind of likeable, and his earnestness (and Dylan’s charming smile) really makes it hard to dislike Ben for long. But then you remember what he’s done, and you dislike him all over again. It’s a vicious cycle, which, I think, is made worse by the fact that Dylan is so attractive. This sounds terribly superficial, but I think if Ben had been played by someone less handsome, he would have been easier to hate the entire time.

Evan Peters as Tate

I only know Evan from his role as Quicksilver in X-Men: Days of Future Past, and he totally killed it in that movie. He, uh, kills it in AHS, but in a whole different manner. Again, I think the show’s creators did a really smart thing in casting such an attractive person for the role of Tate; it’s hard to hate him, even as his character gets more and more terrible with each passing episode.

Taissa Farmiga as Violet Harmon

Although Taissa is believable as “tortured” teenager Violet, her whining and often wooden delivery grows old pretty quickly. I’ve never seen Taissa in anything else, so I have no idea if this is her standard acting, or not-so-great qualities of the character.

Denis O’Hare as Larry Harvey

Larry is a HUGE creep in AHS, but also an amazing character. Denis is a familiar face, but also one of those actors who can lose themselves in a role, which I find so impressive. One side of Larry’s body is burned, and he therefore has limited range of motion with one arm, leg and facial expressions. Denis does a fabulous job at making it seem like all of the fake injuries, prosthetics and stage makeup are real. (Side note: The stage makeup on this show is fabulously done.)

Jessica Lange as Constance Langdon

Jessica Lange is a legend, and she brings her gravitas to the role of Constance in a brilliant way, making the character tough and strong-willed, but also sad, and filled with the weight of many missed opportunities (and imagined slights).

Frances Conroy as Moira O’Hare

I didn’t watch all of Six Feet Under, but the episode in which Frances’ character dyes her hair sticks out in my mind. Frances often plays meek characters, which is helped by her soft voice and unthreatening demeanor, but the woman has an edge to her that pops up when you least expect it. Moira is just such a character; one that seems like a total pushover at times, but every so often you see a glimpse of the terror she could rain down on her enemies if only she had a little more backbone.

Christine Estabrook as Marcy

I can’t quite remember what else I’ve seen Christine in, but she’s so perfect in the role of beleaguered realtor Marcy. I feel for her, being stuck with the job of selling the AHS house, but at the same time, I really don’t feel that bad?

Kate Mara as Hayden McClaine

Kate is a familiar name, and a familiar face, but if I’ve ever seen her in something other than AHS, it has slipped my mind. From interviews and red carpet appearances, however, I expected Hayden to be as poised and sweet as Kate comes across—boy, was I wrong. Hayden is a M-E-S-S mess, and a yelly one at that. The character is older than Violet, too, but comes across as a bratty younger sister type.

Mageina Tovah as Bianca

The role that most sticks out in my mind that I’ve seen Mageina in is Peter Parker’s sweet neighbor in the Spider-Man movies. (The Toby Maguire versions, not the Andrew Garfield ones.) Bianca is much less sweet, but not much less of a wallflower.

Azura Skye as Fiona

Azura is one of those people who’ve been in so many things, but always seems to play similar roles. I suppose Fiona is a bit different, in the end, but even so, this character’s just going to meld (in my mind) with the others Azura has played.

Lily Rabe as Nora Montgomery

When it was announced that Lily was going to play Cressida in the Hunger Games series, I had nothing to base my opinion of the casting on, seeing as I’d never seen her in anything. Now that I’ve seen her in AHS, I’m sort of glad the role fell through, and for more reasons than my major crush on Natalie Dormer. Although Lily was great in the role of old-fashioned, high-society Nora, there’s a fire to Cressida that I can’t see Lily embodying. Although, having watched the first few episodes of season two, in which Lily plays a completely different character, I might be very wrong about her acting abilities.

Eric Close as Hugo

Eric does very well at playing a cheating husband, and that’s pretty much all there is to Hugo.

Zachary Quinto as Chad Warwick

Zachary is a terrific actor with a great ability to become different characters. He doesn’t lose himself in a role (see Denis O’Hare, above) as much as make them his own, and the character of Chad is no exception. I both wanted to hug and punch Chad, and even though he’s not in the show all that much, he makes a memorable impact.

Morris Chestnut as Luke

The character of Luke is, basically, in the show for his hotness, to be a foil for a jealous husband. And Morris is so, so beautiful, so he’s perfect for the role. Can the man act, too? Of course, but that’s not really what the role of Luke calls for.

Eric Stonestreet as Derek

Eric’s in AHS for all of one episode, but does a great job while he lasts. Derek is a much different character than Cam on Modern Family—the only other role I know Eric from—and it was fun to see Eric in a different light.

Sarah Paulson as Billie Dean Howard

Apparently, Sarah becomes a series regular in successive AHS seasons, but in this first one, she’s got a very small part. It’s easy to see why Sarah was cast as a lead in the later seasons, however—Billie Dean stands out brightly amongst the other guest stars. And I really like Sarah—not from knowing her personally, which I don’t … you know what I mean—so more power to her.

Joshua Malina as Dr. Curran

I’ve seen Joshua in many things, but I don’t believe I’ve ever seen him in such a compromising and questionable role as Dr. Curran. He’s not a nice guy, friends. Don’t let his sweet smile fool you. (Dr. Curran, that is. Not Joshua. I’m sure he’s very nice.)

Mena Suvari as Elizabeth Short

Mena is great at being sultry and sexy and just innocent enough to be dangerous. Elizabeth’s role is a small one, but Mena knocks it out of the park.

Couch-Sharing Capability: Please, Bring Many Friends

I started watching AHS late one night after my husband had gone to bed. (I have TERRIBLE ideas sometimes.) When I did eventually go to sleep, I tucked myself close to him and made sure there wasn’t anything lurking outside our bedroom windows. I also couldn’t fall asleep for a while, even though it was late and I was tired. If you’re one who enjoys scaring themselves into wakefulness, by all means, watch this one alone. But if you prefer to be able to sleep well at night, invite your friends. And close your blinds.

Recommended Level of Inebriation: Lots, if You Can Stomach It

Drinking an adult bevvie while watching this show might take the edge off of the “goes to 11” creep factor of the first half of the series. During the latter half of the series when everything gets less creepy and more “WTF?” weird, having a stiff drink in hand might make it easier to stomach what goes down. However, if you’ve got a weak stomach, I might suggest forgoing anything that might cause the rumblies.

Use of Your Streaming Subscription: Good

I’ve been hearing things (both good and bad) about AHS for years, but it wasn’t until the theme of the fourth season was announced (“Freak Show”) that I got interested in actually wanting to watch. Now, I do realize that each season of this show stands, for the most part, separate from the others, but I am a completist, so I figured I would start from the beginning. I enjoyed the first season, and have since watched the first few episodes of the second, but I don’t think this is a show that I need to have in my personal collection. (I am going to keep watching, though. Like I said: completist.)

Mandy (she/her) is a manager at a tech company who lives in Austin, TX, with her husband, son, and dogs. She loves superheroes and pretty much any show or movie with “Star” in the name.