Thursday, 1 January 2015

Well, that escalated quickly...

American Horror Story: Murder House  managed to take a trip around the various nasty tales of California - the Black Dahlia turned up as did, eventually, the Antichrist. It all got a bit dense towards the finale, with the final episode playing, at times, like a satyr play against the tragedy of the main narrative.

Still, as far as TV can go (and I have a prejudice against the medium), AHS: MH did its job. It piled on the tropes until the tension became unbearable, and a couple of cheeky twists made for a satisfying finale. Should the writers ever wish to revisit the Murder House, they've set up a set of warring spirits who are likely to play out their traumas until Hollywood makes a good film.

Although the series claims to be 'about' infidelity, the episodes add up to an allegorical story about the nuclear family, and the bodies of the dead that their 'happiness' is built upon. The ending, which goes for laughs and resolution, is still unsettling. The family are reunited, but the bit that they left behind is the coming death of all things. That this sits as a subtext is a testament to the faith of the writers in their audience.

If anything, various themes are acknowledged, then left to fester rather than be exploited. There are side-swipes at the cult of celebrity - the Keanu Reeves lookalike who gets the chop is barely able to recognise the nature of death, but is delighted that his murder has made him famous. Psychiatry gets a hammering, and the redemptive arc of Tate is interrupted. Tate, in fact, becomes the focus of the second act: he shifts between hero and villain, while the other characters slowly piece together the truth about him and the house. 

Again and again, miscommunication and vanity drive the drama and, for all of the supernatural gubbins, AHS  is about the ability of good people to fuck up and get caught in their past failings. Strip away the schlock, and it has a surprising sympathy for even the most malignant spirits.

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