Ryan Murphy's twisted horror anthology American Horror Story has taken audiences to some incredibly dark places throughout its nine seasons, and through murder houses, asylums, witch covens, and freakshows, Murphy and his writing team have proven time and again that they know how to give an audience nightmares. Unfortunately for fans of the long-running series, season ten was put on indefinite hold and while this was unfortunate for the die-hard fans that love to speculate about what each new season will bring, the time off did give Murphy a chance to pursue a new project called American Horror Stories, which is set to explore a new contained horror story every week.
Premiering July 15th, American Horror Stories made its debut with a double feature of episodes entitled "The Rubber (Wo)Man" parts one and two, which sees a teenage girl named Scarlet and her two dads move into the infamous LA murder house, in the hopes of turning the damned building into a cozy haunted bed and breakfast. Like all residents of the murder house though, the family soon finds their lives and sanity deteriorating around them, especially after Scarlet discovers the rubber man suit previously worn by Evan Peter's Tate Langodn in Season One. Seemingly having a mind of its own, it only takes one curious try-on for the suit to envelope Scarlet, and soon she begins acting out the dark desires that she had only dared explore on the internet, like luring her school bullies into the basement for some knife-wielding revenge. In classic American Horror Story style, this is only the tip of the blood-drenched iceberg too, with part two seeing Scarlet pursuing a romantic relationship with a switchblade wielding resident ghost named Ruby.
Unfortunately for long-time fans, and especially fans of the earlier seasons, American Horror Stories doesn't offer up anywhere near as many scares it should. The idea of returning to the Season One murder house is interesting enough, but also something that was already explored in the Season 8 Apocalypse arc, where we saw that the ghosts were actually living in harmony and actively working to keep potential buyers away from the dangers that the house posed. Possibly the strangest aspect of the first two episodes however, is the fact that the ghosts of the previous residents are completely forgotten about, like they somehow just passed on to the afterlife, although the show also goes out of its way to remind us of their presence, like when a newly deceased family therapist remarks that she now needs to share office hours with the therapist upstairs, a nod to Season One's Ben Harmon. By now, the murder house has lost its edge, and its secrets no longer surprise or scare the audience, leaving it to feel like a haunted house attraction which you have already walked through three times in a row.
Even if the first two episodes of the series don't have the desired effect, American Horror Stories shouldn't be counted out just yet. The series is still well-written and acted phenomenally, and only needs to break out from under its predecessor shadow and begin exploring its own realms of horror in order to be successful. Luckily, we still have fourteen more weeks of stories, with the next episode set to premiere on July 22nd, and center around the screening of a band film that has disastrous consequences for its audience.
American Horror Stories "The Rubber (Wo)Man" is currently available for streaming on Hulu through the FX section.