American Horror Story’s sixth season brings a much needed revamp to a dying show | Wiki­Commons

The blood­cur­dling anthology series “American Horror Story” is finally back on its feet. After a few years of back­sliding in view­ership, the show has returned to its original horror roots in its sixth season, opting for serious scares over shock value.  

In 2011, the “American Horror Story’s”debut shat­tered con­ven­tional tele­vision norms. Its subject matter was dark and dan­gerous. Its char­acters were as well-developed as they were evil. Its cast was stacked with award-winning actors.

In its first season, each movement of the plot served the end of the show. Nothing was pure spec­tacle – the gore only raised the stakes of the psy­cho­logical terror of its main char­acters, and, vic­ar­i­ously, the audience. While the series was often com­pared to the “Twi­light Zone,” “American Horror Story” felt more like some­thing Edgar Allan Poe would have enjoyed.
Though “American Horror Story” started out strong, by the time the series hit season five, the show was worn out. It had aban­doned its sto­ry­telling for sake of shock to secure view­ership, and fans soon tired of hack­neyed horror tropes. For­tu­nately, season six is proving to be a success. It’s fresh. It’s new, and its format is rev­o­lu­tionary.

Leading up to its season pre­miere, “American Horror Story” season six was shrouded in secrecy. For the first time ever, show creator Ryan Murphy did not reveal the show’s theme.

Rather than revealing the concept for the season in months prior, Murphy designed a series of “mis­direct” trailers — only one of Murphy’s 23 clips revealed the serie’s true theme. Fans were forced to spec­ulate what kind of gruesome turns the show would take.


The season’s theme was finally — perhaps only par­tially — revealed when the show aired on FX. While the series is tied to the lost colony of Roanoke, there seems to be a lot more to the story than an aban­doned New England set­tlement.


Season six is set in present day, and follows the story of a couple, Shelby and Matt, who decide to buy an aban­doned farm­house in the forests of South Car­olina in the wake of per­sonal tragedy.

While “the haunted house in the woods” concept seems cliché, it’s the way the story is told that makes it so cap­ti­vating: season six is a show within a show.


Season six mimics the format of popular para­normal docu­d­ramas like “Celebrity Ghost Stories” and “A Haunting,” shows in which real people describe their accounts to a camera, and then their tes­timony is fol­lowed by dra­matic reen­act­ments.


The audience is intro­duced to two nar­rators: Shelby (Lily Rabe) and Matt (Andre Holland). They portray the “real” couple, and they describe their para­normal encounters to camera, while  actors Sarah Paulson and Cuba Gooding Jr. reenact the events they describe.

For season six, the show’s iconic opening sequence is gone. In place of the show’s iconic opening sequence, the audience sees the title “My Roanoke Nightmare,” fol­lowed by the dis­claimer: “This story is based on true events. Viewer dis­cretion is advised.”
The doc­u­mentary format is unex­pected, and the lay­ering of sto­ry­telling adds more depth. The nar­rators give a sense of reality to the show and act as fore­shad­owing devices. Yet there are larger ques­tions at play when addressing their role.

There is no guar­antee the nar­rators are reliable, and often Shelby and Matt have over­lapping stories or con­tradict them­selves entirely. Shelby has gone from wanting to fight to live in her farm­house, to feeling trapped inside it.

Addi­tionally, the bulk of the show is focused on the reen­act­ments. Are these ver­sions of the story reliable as well? Could it be pos­sible that the show is totally staged, and the actual haunting takes place on the set of some reality TV show? In this season, viewers are never certain of what they are seeing.


Gooding and Paulson have hinted at a major plot twist midway through the season, and in a video interview with Enter­tainment Weekly, Murphy said, “Starting in episode six, the show has a huge turn, and the thing that you think you’re watching is not what you’re watching.”


Since Murphy has killed off his entire cast before, is it pos­sible the real-life nar­rators are dead? Will there be a clip at the end of the series that reads, “Two weeks after taping, Shelby and Matt were found slaugh­tered in their apartment”?  


Who knows? One thing’s for sure: major twists are heading our way, and no char­acter is safe.