Matt and Shelby, a couple from Los Angeles, leave the city and move into a mysterious house in North Carolina, where strange things begin to occur. – [imdb]

One of the most obvious changes to past seasons is the style. This season is told in a paranormal documentary format. Matt (André Holland) and Shelby (Lily Rabe) along with Matt’s sister Lee (Adina Porter) retell the story of their experiences in an interview/documentary format while reenactments are played. During those Shelby is portrayed by Sarah Paulson, Matt by Cuba Gooding Jr. and Lee by Angela Bassett.

It had been reported several times prior to the first episodes release that this season would be much darker and creepier than its previous season “Hotel” and it definitely is. Although past seasons also managed to be dark and creepy “My Roanoke Nightmare” managed to do it in a more simplistic and subtle way, for the most part. There are jump scares, however, you can see most of them, if not all, coming from a mile off. Only one managed to get a reaction out of me, and that’s only because I didn’t have time to prepare myself. Other than those, the show provides it’s scares in more simple and subtle ways.

Some other good things:

  • Whenever the “real” people talk there is quiet, eerie music playing the background. That, coupled with their tone of voice and volume, adds to the creepy and dark feel of this season.
  • The music and ambience in general. It adds to each scene, but never takes from it. Sometimes it slowly helps to raise the growing tension in you so that before you know what’s hit you, you’re more riled up. The music and ambience gives more emphasis to a lot of the words and visuals, but like I said, it never overpowers.
  • The shots and camera angles. There are so many times where the camera is angled just right so that you see only partially see something or you just catch a glimpse of something. It manages to show you so much while still hiding a lot from you to help keep the mystery alive.
  • The characters. The fact that only three characters were introduced properly meant you were never overwhelmed, but after seeing glimpses of some other characters (Kathy Bates, Wes Bentley, etc) it’ll be interesting and fun to see how each character is introduced, and what their roles are.

The not so good things and/or problems:

  • The interjection from the “real” people might become a bit too much and tiresome for some viewers. I like the style, but after having conversation with others I know it’s not everyone’s favourite.
  • Also if there are any life threatening situations involving those three characters you know they’re going to survive because they’re retelling their story. This could potentially remove any tension and suspense.
  • The lack of theme song and opening credits was a bit of an issue. Although I haven’t liked every opening credit for the show, it felt weird not having them at all. The cut scenes before every advert seemed to be in replace of the opening credits, which I’m honestly not that pleased about. The cut scenes became a little tiresome after a while. Again, this is only the first episode, so hopefully things will change and we’ll get an opening theme/credits in future episodes.

Generally speaking this first episode was a good opener. It manages to capture a compelling story with the darker vibes associated with American Horror Story, but this time it keeps itself more in check. It’s definitely a lot more innovate too. In some ways it makes you nostalgic for past seasons, but at the same time gives a lot of new and exciting things to keep it fresh.

There are a lot of things to critique (mostly the things I’ve mentioned above), but there’s also a lot of well done factors too. Those make me want to hold out hope that all the not so good things are rectified in future episodes.

There’s a couple of things I’m looking forward to in future episodes:

  1. The teasers and posters. We saw a lot on the lead  up and it’ll be interesting to see how each of those is incorporated. Seeing the first episode and knowing the overall theme, a lot of the teasers and posters make sense, but some are still questionable and a mystery at this stage.
  2. Seeing whether or not they can keep up the tone they’ve set up in this first episode. If it continues I will definitely continue to be invested in this season. In this episode the tone and style kept me captivated and alert.

I have a strong feeling this season will be a good one, but we are only in the first episode, so we’ll have to see if it manages to hold up. It’s also for that reason that I’m not going to let the things I didn’t like affect my overall opinion too much at this stage.

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