I know you like it, Americans, but you do Hallowe’en all wrong. For a start, there’s the costumes. They’re supposed to be scary, you can’t just wear any old fancy dress. Going to a Hallowe’en party as Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz is just not on, unless you’re basically admitting a deep-seated fear of gay icons. Trick or Treat? Well, that’s debatable and I don’t know who’s right or wrong but I can tell you now that ACTUALLY GOING THROUGH WITH THE TRICK IS BAD. Don’t do that. Changing your Twitter avatar to a spooky skull on the first of October? TOO SOON. The most egregious affront to Hallowe’en, however, has occurred only recently and in an unlikely spot – cable television.
You see, American Horror Story: Murder House was first broadcast on FX in the United States on the fifth of October. The second series, Asylum, premiered on the 17th of October. And Coven, the third series, began on the ninth of October. Is it too much to ask that a series so steeped in American (and, for that matter, European) horror tradition premieres on the 31st of October? Or at least as near as possible?
Why “American”? Well, there’s nothing more American than owning property. It’s the American Dream, houses for sale Dayton, Ohio some land surrounded by a fence. Built, as in all the best haunted house stories, on an Indian burial ground. And American Horror Story, series one, is all about decades of murder on a slice of prime West Coast real estate.
I think it’s one of the most original and intriguing TV series in recent years, and one that’s come out of nowhere with a whole new way of representing the horror genre on television.
Here’s the thing: TV doesn’t like anthologies any more. The days of The Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits and Alfred Hitchcock Presents… are all over. So what do you do if you love those short, creepy stories about creeps who come to bad ends, and you work in television, and you’re coming off one of the biggest surprise hits of recent years*? You make an anthology show but disguise it as a soapy serial.
Anthologies, however, have to have some sort of a theme. Rod Serling made his shows all about paranoia and characters who discover the world isn’t as it seems. Hitchcock’s series was largely defined by its pitch black sarcasm.
The very American theme of American Horror Story, S1, is the horror of childbirth.