New “American Horror Story” is exciting but inconsistent

Photo courtesy of Gage Skidmore, Flickr

After almost two years since the release of its last season, “American Horror Story” has finally returned with its tenth season “Double Feature,” which proves to be unlike any other. 

“American Horror Story” is a beloved horror anthology series that first aired in 2011. Each season has its own plotline, but there are many seasons that connect to each other or have hints of past plots sprinkled within.

“American Horror Story (AHS): Double Feature” aired on Aug. 25 on FX, and the first six episodes are only part of the first feature, entitled “Red Tide.”

“AHS: Double Feature: Red Tide” follows a screenwriter, his pregnant interior designer wife and their violin prodigy daughter as they move to isolated Provincetown, Mass. for the winter. The family plans to make this a motivational trip for work and creativity.  

The horror begins once it is revealed there is a special black pill that can raise anyone’s work ethic and potential to incredible new highs. The catch? Talented minds must feed on fresh human blood to survive.

Some people throughout P-Town, as they prefer to call it, are certainly unlike the typical Massachusetts citizens, and they ultimately are a threat to the small winter population. The partial season succeeds in terms of suspense and anticipation, but overall, the actual performance and execution of the episodes fell flat as the season progressed. 

The first two episodes were incredibly strong and genuinely revived the horror elements that were lost in the most recent seasons. Music, sound choice, location and color tones were thoughtfully crafted, and it added to viewers’ sensory scares. 

The final episodes revealed some interesting twists, but the finale itself was rather disappointing—which was a bummer—as the majority of the season was unique and enjoyable. It feels as if the writing didn’t fully take advantage of its potential.

The best part of the season, however, was the characters. “AHS” is known for using the same stars in most of the seasons, with Sarah Paulson and Evan Peters consistently playing two leading roles. Both Paulson and Peters were featured in this season, but they were only supporting roles. It was incredibly refreshing to see other actors have the space to shine as leads. 

In “Red Tide,” Finn Wittrock, Lily Rabe and Frances Conroy stood out as the main leads. All three stars are “AHS” veterans, but have never had focused roles like these before. 

Wittrock first made his way into the world of “AHS” in season four, “AHS: Freak Show,” with the iconic character Dandy Mott, a psychotic man-child who had an itch for killing and becoming one amongst the freaks. Even with his particularly memorable role as Dandy, his role as Harry this season was his first leading role, and it was so well deserved. 

Wittrock has a niche for combining charm and cruelty so beautifully in his roles, and Harry was just another opportunity to showcase this. Wittrock may be one of the only people who can make filling a camping thermos with fresh human blood look so desirable.  

Rabe, who is most beloved for her roles as Sister Mary Eunice in season two, “AHS: Asylum,” and Misty Day in season three, “AHS: Coven,” shared months before the current season premier that her new role as Doris has made its way to her favorite role.

Similarly, Conroy has been around since season one, “AHS: Murder House,” as the housemaid, but this season she had her first starring role as Belle Noir. Conroy is the grandmother of “AHS,” yet her vitality and ageless beauty as a powerful actress shined in this season, proving her age cannot hold back her potential in Hollywood. 

Other great character assets to the season were notorious “Home Alone” actor Macaulay Culkin and eleven-year-old actress Ryan Kiera Armstrong. 

Culkin’s appearance in “AHS” has been in the works for some time now, and the anticipation was well deserved. He captured the hearts of viewers with his sweetheart, drug addict, screenwriter, prostitute character Mickey. Though Mickey was only a supporting character, his performance was memorable, and certainly much different than Kevin McCallister.

Armstrong, on the other hand, is a fresh face in Hollywood, and is the first child star to be featured in the main credits. Her character Alma was definitely irritating and a bit of a manipulator, but her performance was well executed, showing audiences that children can be just as scary as—if not more than—adults.  

Ultimately, “Double Feature: Red Tide” was a horrifically enjoyable season, and it has only just begun. The second half of “Double Feature” premiers Wed. Sept. 29. This installment is titled “Death Valley,” and it is promised to feature aliens, the Kennedys and a lot of fan favorite “AHS” actors. 


⅘ stars