Not My Beautiful House

Sometimes you just can’t help yourself. You know it’s wrong. You know it’s bad for you. But somehow the wrongness becomes part of the attraction. The habit grows claws, and digs in hard. And gods help me, I think it’s happening now.

American Horror Story is one of those shows that I’m just not going to be able to stay away from.


It’s just such a ridiculously over-amped, over-cooked lump of weirdness. I guess we should know better than to expect subtlety from a horror show brought to us by the creators of Glee, but American Horror Story takes a basic scare-story staple and…

Well. Imagine if you take a creepy little doll, and stick it in a microwave for a minute or so, until it bubbles and warps and melts. The end result is freaky and disturbing, sure. But it isn’t a doll any more. That’s what American Horror Story is like.

I’m not being clear, I know. It’s just tough to get a handle on this show. It starts on common ground – dysfunctional family moves into an Old Dark House Full Of Secrets and a cellar with Something Nasty in it. In the first five minutes you have a strange child offering warnings, a couple of loudmouthed kids up for a bit of destruction and a quick and brutal encounter with the Nasty.

So far, so ho hum. But it’s all about the details. The two kids are identical foul-mouthed ginger kids with mullets and braces. The girl has Down’s Syndrome. The cellar has jars full of human bits and foetuses, which the copper tops barely look at. The Nasty looks like something out of an Aphex Twin promo.

In lieu of any kind of plot, the writer and director throw random weirdness at us the way jocks throw slushies at the Glee Club. The results are as messy as you’d expect. There’s a dysfunctional high school kid that’s half a season from a Columbine meltdown. Theres a maid who, depending on circumstance, is either a stocking-clad hottie or the mum from Six Feet Under. There’s a gimp suit that seems to be walking around all by itself and sexing up the ladies. And everyone’s screaming at each other. ALL. THE. TIME.

It’s not surprising the cast don’t have a clue. I don’t either. Poor Connie Britton and Dylan McDermott wander through the house and barely manage not to bump into the scenery. Jessica Lange, at least, gets the general tone, and cosplays Sue Sylvester as Blanche DuBois – half kitten purr, half cobra spit. And she gets all the best lines. “Don’t make me kill you.” Eyebrow arch. “Again.” I wish I could tell you what her character is. I think I was busy at that point trying to get my eyes to stop melting.

American Horror Story is a show that transcends normal critical responses. It transcends normal use of language. You have to make up new words just to get a handle on the damn thing. Berserkaloid. Freekasmic. Insanious. It’s like someone gave a sugared up ten year old copies of The Amityville Horror, the last episode of Twin Peaks and four cans of Red Bull and said “Do something with that, kiddo.” It’s like being threatened by Liberace with a chainsaw.

This show is one episode old and it’s already tying knots in my brain. It’s six yards of diamanté-encrusted chiffon too camp to be scary. There’s no story. You’d get more realistic performances out of a cast of sock puppets. And yet. And yet. I can’t conceive of not watching it. It is far and away the most deeply insanious hour of broadcast TV this autumn. I never really believed in the concept of the guilty pleasure until now. I don’t want to encourage it, but I’m simply unable to tear myself away. This is my Strictly, my X Factor. I will hate myself for every second I spend letting this freekasmic heap of berserkaloidity stomp around in my frontal lobes. I’m lost, twitching and flailing like David Byrne. Stuck in a trap that I walked into willingly.

This is not my beautiful house.

My god. What have I done.


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Writer. Film-maker. Cartoonist. Cook. Lover.

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