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American Horror Story S6E01: My Roanoke Nightmare (2016)


It’s Raining Teeth, Allelujah!

Well, here we are at last. After many teasers and as many misdirections gleefully generated by the AHS marketing team (It’s a cult! It’s Charles Manson! It’s Texas Chainsaw Massacre! It’s Children of the Corn!), we have the glimpse of a beginning of an idea of what the show will be about this time… maybe. Meaning that we absolutely don’t know what to expect. Isn’t it lovely?

The least one can say is that Brad Falchuk and Ryan Murphy are creative under pressure. After an apparently serious first season about infidelity in a haunted house went haywire under the dual influence of a rubber man and Jessica Lange, Season 2 to 5 were based on classic horror concepts. Following this logic, we could have expected something like American Horror Story: Hospital. But that would have been discarding the idiosyncrasies of each season. Asylum was an insane rampage in horror tropes, Coven a perverted version of girl empowerment through oppression, Freak Show an equally vicious and tender tale of segregation, and Hotel a gothic, over-the-top melodrama on addiction.

No such comfort this time. No spooky prologue. No credit sequence. A mockumentary form going as far (the horror!) as incorporating found footage. For a time it feels almost as after four seasons of amping up campiness and stylishness, the showrunners took the gritty, low budget road. One has doubts, though. Just think of the art installation the intruders deploy in the staircase of the house during the 30 minutes or so Shelby (Sarah Paulson, welcome back) and Lee (Angela Bassett, ditto) spend stuck in the basement. The house itself, both grandiose and spooky as hell. This is no Blair Witch.

So: a gluten-intolerant yoga teacher (aren’t they all? Lili Rabe) and her sales rep husband (Charles Malik Whitfield) are interviewed in front of a green wall (ha!) in the framework of a documentary titled “My Roanoke Nightmare”. The story they tell is reenacted by what we assume are actors, Sarah Paulson and Cuba Gooding Jr. But isn’t there something weird about the fact that something that happened to them years before is played by actors older than them? There is a hint of a dual timeline, and in one’s opinion we can expect the testimony and the reenactment to diverge at the some point.

There are actually a lot of weird elements in this episode. Why an interracial couple would bargain their life savings on the impulsive purchase of an obvious haunted house, and enraging the local rednecks in the process, no less? Why what is expected to be some form of a backwood cult would choose such elaborate ways to frighten said couple (the husband calls it “terrorism”, if so it’s extremely photogenic). Why is the husband always absent when bad things happen, why live so far of his job, and so on and so forth.

This first episode is incongruous to say the least, and nothing beats a genuine surprise when so many expectations were raised. But this one better be good, because the setting is somehow unappealing. And apparently one’s hope to see Lady Gaga as a cannibal redneck retard will not be fulfilled. Damn.

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