American Horror Story is a horror television franchise created and produced by Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk. Described as an anthology series, each season is conceived as a self-contained miniseries, following a disparate set of characters and settings, and a storyline with its own "beginning, middle and end".
The first season, subsequently retitled American Horror Story: Murder House, takes place in the present day and follows the story of a family that moves into a restored mansion, unaware that the home is haunted by its former inhabitants. The second season, titled American Horror Story: Asylum, takes place in 1964 and follows the stories of the patients, doctors and nuns who occupy an institution for the criminally insane.
The series is broadcast on the cable television channel FX in the United States. The first season premiered on October 5, 2011, and concluded on December 21, 2011. The second season premiered on October 17, 2012 and concluded on January 23, 2013. On November 15, 2012, FX announced it had ordered a third season of the series, scheduled to premiere in the fall of 2013.
American Horror Story has been well received by television critics. The cast has been generally praised, particularly Jessica Lange. The series draws consistently high ratings for the FX network, with its first season being the biggest new cable series of 2011.
Season 1 - Murder House
The theme of the first season, retroactively titled American Horror Story: Murder House, is infidelity. The story takes place in 2011 and follows the Harmon family—psychiatrist Ben (Dylan McDermott), his wife Vivien (Connie Britton) and their teenage daughter Violet (Taissa Farmiga)—who move from Boston to Los Angeles after Vivien has a miscarriage and Ben has an affair. The Harmons move into a restored mansion and soon encounter the home's former residents, the Langdons: Constance Langdon (Jessica Lange) and her two children, Tate (Evan Peters) and Addie (Jamie Brewer), and the disfigured Larry Harvey (Denis O'Hare). Ben and Vivien try to rekindle their relationship, as Violet, suffering from depression, finds comfort with Tate. The Langdons and Larry frequently influence the Harmons' lives, as the family discovers that the home is haunted by the ghosts of its former inhabitants.
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Season 2 - Asylum
The theme of the second season, titled American Horror Story: Asylum, is sanity. The story takes place in 1964 and follows the patients, doctors and nuns who occupy the Briarcliff Mental Institution, founded to treat and house the criminally insane. The wardens who run the institution include the stern Sister Jude (Jessica Lange), her second in command Sister Mary Eunice (Lily Rabe) and the founder of the institution, Monsignor Timothy Howard (Joseph Fiennes). The doctors charged with treating the patients at the asylum include psychiatrist Dr. Oliver Thredson (Zachary Quinto) and the sadistic scientist Dr. Arthur Arden (James Cromwell). The patients, many of whom claim to be unjustly institutionalized, include lesbian journalist Lana Winters (Sarah Paulson), accused serial killer Kit Walker (Evan Peters), and alleged murderer Grace (Lizzie Brocheré). There are also spiritual and scientific elements that manipulate Briarcliff's inhabitants, including demonic possession and aliens.
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In January 2013, series creator Ryan Murphy hinted that a clue about the third season would be hidden in the tenth episode of the second season. In a later interview discussing that episode, he stated: "I sorta feel like for the third version I want to do something that's a little bit more 'evil glamour.' Just something that's a little bit more...one of the things that I missed this season was I really loved having that Romeo and Juliet youth story with Violet and Tate [from the first season]. I want something like that again and we're doing something like that in the third season. And we're contemplating shooting the show in a different place. We're contemplating shooting it in a place in the country where true horror has been." In a later interview, Murphy added that the time period for the season will be modern day. He also stated that the season will take place in multiple locations.
Creators Murphy and Falchuk began working on American Horror Story before their Fox series Glee began production. Murphy wanted to do the opposite of what he had done previously and thus began his work on the series. He stated, "I went from Nip/Tuck to Glee, so it made sense that I wanted to do something challenging and dark. And I always had loved, as Brad had, the horror genre. So it just was a natural for me."Falchuk was intrigued by the idea of putting a different angle on the horror genre, stating that their main goal in creating the series was to scare viewers. "You want people to be a little bit off balance afterwards", he said.
In February 2011, FX officially announced that it had ordered a pilot for a possible series from Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk, with both Murphy and Falchuk writing and Murphy directing. Dante Di Loreto was announced as executive producer. Production on the series began in April 2011. In July 2011, FX officially announced the project had been picked up to series.
From the beginning, Murphy and Falchuk planned that each season of the series would tell a different story. After the first season finale aired, Murphy spoke of his plans to change the cast and location for the second season. He did say, however, that some actors who starred in the first season would be returning. "The people that are coming back will be playing completely different characters, creatures, monsters, etc. [The Harmons'] stories are done. People who are coming back will be playing entirely new characters," he announced. In November 2012, FX chief executive, John Landgraf described the unique format of the series stating, "[T]he notion of doing an anthological series of miniseries with a repertory cast – has proven groundbreaking, wildly successful and will prove to be trendsetting."
Connie Britton was first to be cast, portraying female lead Vivien Harmon. Denis O’Hare joined second as Larry Harvey. Jessica Lange soon followed as Constance, her first regular role on television. Dylan McDermott joined the cast, soon after Lange, as the lead Ben Harmon. Taissa Farmiga and Evan Peters were the last actors to be added to the main cast, portraying Violet Harmon and Tate Langdon, respectively.
In March 2012, Murphy revealed that the second season had been conceptualized around Jessica Lange who portrays Sister Jude, a sadistic nun who runs the asylum. Evan Peters, Sarah Paulson, Lily Rabe and Zachary Quinto also return as main cast members in the second season. Peters portrays Kit Walker, an inmate accused of murdering his wife. Paulson portrays Lana, a lesbian reporter who gets committed to the asylum only because of her sexuality. Rabe's character is Sister Mary Eunice, clumsy second-in-charge to Sister Jude. Quinto portrays Dr. Thredson, a psychiatrist at the asylum. Lizzie Brocheré stars as Grace Bertrand, a character described originally as "a fierce, ferocious, extremely sexual, and dangerous wild-child sexpot", but the role was later heavily revamped. James Cromwell co-stars as Dr. Arthur Arden, who proclaims to be in charge of the asylum and performs dark experiments on its patients. Joseph Fiennes is Monsignor Timothy Howard, a possible love interest for Sister Jude.
Series executive producers and co-creators Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk have stated that, as with the second season, "many actors" will return in different roles, including Lange. Evan Peters and Sarah Paulson have been confirmed to return, along with Lange. Murphy added that Lange will portray a "real glamour-cat lady." Taissa Farmiga, who portrayed Violet in season one, will co-star as a character that is involved in a prominent romance during the third season. Lily Rabe, who played a recurring role in the first season and co-starred in the second, has also been cast as a lead in the third season. Season one and two recurring actress Frances Conroy (Moira/The Angel of Death) has joined the season in an unknown role.
The pilot episode was shot on location in a house in Country Club Park, Los Angeles, California, which serves as the haunted house and crime scene in the series. Designed and built in 1910 by Alfred Rosenheim, the president of the American Institute of Architects' Los Angeles chapter, the Tudor or Collegiate Gothic-style single family home was previously used as a convent. The first season is filmed on what appear to be sets that are an exact replica of the house. Details such as Louis Comfort Tiffany stained glass windows, and hammered bronze light fixtures, were re-created to preserve the look of the house.
Production and shooting for the second season began in late July 2012 for a scheduled premiere in mid October. The exteriors for the second season were filmed in Hidden Valley, Ventura County, California, a rural area outside Los Angeles.
The opening title sequence was created by Kyle Cooper and his company Prologue. He also created the title sequence for the AMC series The Walking Dead and the 1995 film Seven. The theme music was composed by sound designer Cesar Davila-Irizarry and musician Charlie Clouser. The cinematography was done by Juan Ruiz Anchía and the editing by Gabriel J. Diaz.
For the first season, the sequence is set in the Harmons' basement and includes images of postmortem young children, fetuses in jars, skulls, a christening dress, a nurse's uniform, and a figure holding a pair of bloody hedge clippers. Murphy described the sequence as a mini-mystery and stated that "By the time you see the ninth episode of this season, every image in that title sequence will be explained". A photo of alleged ax murderer Lizzie Borden is shown.
The second season's opening sequence is done by the same creative team. "We are shooting a new title sequence with the same team that did last year's", series creator Ryan Murphy said. "The song may stay...not sure." The song was kept, and the new title sequence was set around the Asylum, utilising shots of inmates raving and surgeons operating on patients with bandages obscuring their faces. Elements include a young girl walking backwards on her hands and feet up a staircase, homaging The Exorcist, and a shot of the Virgin Mary's smile changing from one of benevolence to one of spite.
The title sequence for both series of the show use a typeface that very closely resembles a style for which Charles Rennie Mackintosh was known.
As part of the promotion for the series, FX launched a "House Call" campaign, in which viewers at home could sign up and come face-to-face with a character from the series. Prior to the series premiere, FX released several clues to shine light on the series. They were offered on the show's official YouTube channel. Ten clues were released. In September 2011, FX launched a website which allows visitors to tour the murder house throughout the decades and look for clues.
In August 2012, the first promo for the second season was released on the American Horror Story Facebook page entitled "Special Delivery", in which a nun carries a couple of buckets filled with body parts through a field. As a church bell rings, the nun empties one bucket's bloody contents, leaving the empty bucket behind, and resumes her trek. Over 20 subsequent teasers have been released. Four photos were also released on EW.com. Two televised teasers, titled "Meet the Residents", were released on August 31, 2012. They feature the patients and some staff (such as Dr. Thredson, played by Zachary Quinto, and Sister Eunice, played by Lily Rabe) lying in twin beds and dealing with their individual issues as the heads of the asylum (Jessica Lange, Joseph Fiennes and James Cromwell) look on. The song "Que Sera, Sera", mixed with the show's theme music, plays.
The series premiered on October 5, 2011, and is broadcast on the cable television channel FX, in the United States. In November 2011, it premiered internationally on the respective countries' Fox International Channels. The second season premiered on October 17, 2012 and concluded January 23, 2013.
American Horror Story has received generally positive reviews from critics. The first season scored 62 out of 100 on Metacritic based on 30 reviews. Ken Tucker from Entertainment Weekly awarded the pilot episode a B+, stating "AHS is pretty much all scare, all the time: a whole lotta screams, sex, jolts, mashed faces, psychotic behavior, and dead babies." Hank Stuever from The Washington Post said in his review that "Overdoing things is one of Murphy's trademark flaws, but this show has a captivating style and giddy gross-outs." Not all reviews were favorable: Alan Sepinwall of HitFix gave the series a D−, saying, "It is so far over the top that the top is a microscopic speck in its rearview mirror, and so full of strange sounds, sights and characters that you likely won't forget it—even though many of you will wish you could." The Los Angeles Times' Mary McNamara gave it a mixed review, stating that it "...collapses into camp...upon more than one occasion" but also noting that it is "hard to look away".
The second season, American Horror Story: Asylum, has received early generally positive reviews from critics and scored 64 out of 100 on Metacritic based on 21 reviews. James Poniewozik from Time stated: "AHS: Asylum feels like a more focused, if equally frenetic, screamfest. It's also gorgeously realized, with a vision of its '60s institution setting so detailed you can smell the stale air and incense." Maureen Ryan of The Huffington Post said "It's to the credit of Asylum's writers, directors and cast that the emotional pain of the characters often feels as real as their uncertainty and terror." Verne Gay from Newsday gave the season a C grade, stating it "has some good special effects, just not much of a story to hang them on". However, Linda Stasi of the New York Post thought the season was "over the top", adding "I need to enter [an asylum] myself after two hours of this craziness."
2011 Satellite Awards - Outstanding Performance in a Television Series - Jessica Lange
2011 Satellite Awards - Best Genre Series - American Horror Story
2011 Horror Writers Association Bram Stoker Award - Superior Achievement in a Screenplay - Jessica Sharzer ("Afterbirth")
2012 Golden Awards - Best Supporting Actress in a Series, Miniseries or Television Film - Jessica Lange
2012 Emmy Awards - Primetime Emmys - Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Miniseries or a Movie - Jessica Lange
2012 Emmy Awrds - Creative Arts Primetime Emmy Awards - Outstanding Hairstyling for a Miniseries or a Movie - Monte C. Haught, Samantha Wade, Melanie Verkins, Natalie Driscoll and Michelle Ceglia
2012 18th Screen Actors Guild Awards - Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Drama Series - Jessica Lange
2013 American Film Institute - Top Ten Television Program of 2012 - American Horror Story: Asylum
2013 Art Directors Guild Award - Excellence in Production Design: Television Movie or Miniseries - Production Designer: Mark Worthington (Episode: "I Am Anne Frank, Part 2")
source: wikipedia, imdb