The American Horror Story Phenomenon: How Ryan Murphy Invented the Perfect TV Horror Recipe

Not every movie, TV series, music album, or casino becomes legendary and goes down in history. Some get it by chance, some, like BetChan Casino, get fame by hard work, and some are just born with the idea, the right implementation, and vision.


“American Horror Story” parents Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk managed to create a great tandem long before they even started working on the anthology. Together they had worked on the ironic “Body Parts” and the iconic “Glee,” and were intent on creating something fundamentally different from existing projects and necessarily related to their favorite horror genre.


As is the norm in horror movies, the house is no fortress for the new owners: creepy things used to happen under its roof, but now the building is inhabited by ghosts and other frightening creatures. The pilot appealed to FX executives, so Murphy and Falchuk quietly completed the season and decided to make a new one with a completely different story.

A New Season – A New Story

A different time, new characters, a fresh story — the not-so-popular format of the anthology series in Murphy and Falchuk’s hands has taken on a new coloring, which was not so popular before “American History.” In each season, the showrunners allowed themselves to flirt with clichéd images from horror movies – murder house, mental hospital, coven, circus, hotel, children’s camp, cults – and filled the series with references and allusions to well-known members of the genre.


Over nine seasons, the show has managed to quote such American horror classics as Halloween, Friday the 13th, Rosemary’s Baby, The Shining, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Freaks, and more.


Viewers quickly realized that the series could be added to their personal top not only for its fascinating plot twists, but also for the opportunity to indulge in nostalgia, and they loaded it onto their playlist for the commute to work. After all, you don’t have to watch “American History” from the beginning to understand what it’s about – each season has its own finished line.

New story – Same Actors

While Murphy and Falchuk prefer to change the stories, the actors try to use the same actors from season to season. Jessica Lange, Lily Rabe, Frances Conroy, Dylan McDermott, Emma Roberts, Dennis O’Hara, Taissa Farmiga, Kathy Bates, Finn Wittrock, Billy Lourdes appear in many parts of the show. However, its real long-timers are Sarah Paulson and Evan Peters, who have starred in eight of the nine existing seasons. To the delight of fans, Peters and Paulson will appear in “The Double Feature” and the “American Horror Story” spin-off. Murphy generally likes to give way to the young, but even more likes to revive forgotten stars from the ashes.


This, for example, allowed Jessica Lange and Kathy Bates to mark again at the prestigious awards, and Macaulay Culkin – to show himself again, because the actor will appear in the tenth season of the series.


It’s also interesting that characters from previous seasons, played by the same actors, appear in other stories of the anthology: the witches from “Sabbath” remind of themselves in “Apocalypse”, there is a glimpse of the grown-up Antichrist, born in “Murder House”, journalist Lana Winters from “Asylum” is interested in the events in “Roanoke”, and “living voodoo doll” Quinny will settle into the hotel “Cortez”.


Is there some kind of meta-plot to bring all the existing stories together into one grandiose canvas? That is the main intrigue of the series, which fans are still trying to figure out.

Multidimensionality of a Series

Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk are known for their ability to push boundaries. In “Body Parts,” the showrunners not only focused on interesting cases in the work of plastic surgeons and the drama in each of their personal lives but also raised serious questions about acceptance of oneself and one’s body. “Glee”-though a musical drama-comedy set in high school-was not afraid to talk about issues of gender identity, coming out, and teen pregnancy.


That’s why American Horror Story isn’t just a show about witches, aliens, and haunted houses. The series illustrates society’s greatest fears, explores contemporary racial, gender, and socio-economic issues, and its plot is inextricably linked to the life and history of America.


Thus, Murphy weaves historical figures into his fictional narrative and allows them to interact freely with the characters.


We meet the New Orleans socialite and serial killer, Delphine LaLaurie a sadistic woman known for her abuse of servants; we learn the history of the Roanoke colony, whose inhabitants disappeared without a trace; and in the seventh season, we become full participants in an election night that turned into a real horror for many Americans. The Cult’s provocative ad campaign, then, was fueled by a lingering atmosphere of anxiety and pessimism about public life in the United States after Donald Trump took office.


The authors create an image of America as a country of vice, corrupting morals, but they do not tire of repeating that the most frightening creature on the planet remains man.

It’s All About the Stylistics

Ryan Murphy’s style is impossible not to recognize. Violence unfolds against a backdrop of exaggerated glossy sets, cool colors are replaced by twisted to the maximum, and plots balance on the edge of serious and parody, where under the colorful wrapper hides important ideas and thoughts. From time to time it all looks hypertrophied, defiant, but to combine the incongruous – that’s what camp is in its purest form.


Ryan Murphy himself recalled that when he began his journey as a showrunner, 99.9% of serious “white male critics” asked him to make shows “less fun.” At the time, Murphy was very worried, but afterward, he noticed that “campiness” had become the voice of the people.


“Once I stopped trying to do ‘serious work,’ I achieved success as an author,” he likes to point out.


After all, Susan Sontag willed in her essay that camp “gives the bearer of good taste back the joy of life, whereas before he was constantly afraid of remaining unsatisfied. Such a change is good for digestion.”


Viewers are only too happy about this approach: throughout its existence, the anthology has collected more trophies than the number of serial killers who appeared in it, and they are not easy to count. Isn’t that a reason to finally start watching it?


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