Murder House – 7/10 / Asylum – 9.3/10 / Coven – 8.7/10 / Freak Show – 7.1/10 / Hotel – 5/10 / Roanoke – 8.1/10 / Cult-4/10/_Apocalypse-9.2/10/_1984-7.3/10
Plot Synopsis: An anthology series of different horror-themed stories using the same recurring cast and big names in the mainstream media, American Horror Story tells horrific tales involving a Murder House in Season 1, Asylum in Season 2, Coven in season 3, Freak Show in Season 4, Hotel in Season 5, Roanoke in Season 6, Election Night in Season 7, Apocalypse in Season 8, and 1984 Slasher Movies in Season 9.
*Possible spoilers ahead*
Series Review: A revolutionary, style-dripping anthological series innovatively pushing genre-boundaries with yearly, season-long, self-contained story arcs brought to life by breathtaking cinematography, artistic (dubstep-y) credits sequences, impeccable horror atmospherics/ideas reinvigorating classic tropes like Haunted Houses and Slasher Camps while paving the way for new ones like Election Night and Circuses, and a recurring superstar/A-tier Emmy-calibur cast from Lange to Paulson to Roberts to McDermott given top-notch character work/writing to flex with, AHS is all-time great horror TV. 8.5/10.
American Horror Story Seasons Ranked: 1. Asylum, 2. Apocalypse, 3. Coven, 4. Roanoke, 5. 1984, 6. Freak Show, 7. Murder House, 8. Hotel, 9. Cult
Season-by-Season Quick Reviews
(Click On Titles For Full Reviews)
S1: Murder House – 7/10
Review: A fresh reinvention of horror TV brimming with dark energy from its sadistic haunted house basement opening scene and now-iconic dubstep-y score, Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk have struck gold in what would be a career-launching title with this impeccably-acted (Connie Britton, Kate Mara, Doug McDermott, & Taissa Farmiga all top-notch performances), nicely-scripted, well-paced, visually-disturbing, effectively-eerie tour-de-force season of television reinvigorating the well-stepped horror trope of haunted houses and showing what could be done with it. Despite Evan Peters’ weird spandexed character + brittle acting in parts (eventually overcame to become a highlight of the show but here a little rough around the edges ), an unanswered cliffhanger ending, and overall-convoluted plot – AHS S1 delivers a (mostly) hit spookfest for FX’s growing silver screen arsenal that understandably established it as one of the best – and few – good 21st century horror TV series.
Official CLC Score: 7/10
Review: The best season of AHS, Asylum masterfully showcases what modern horror TV can be at peak level. An absolutely sensational location setting apt for the criminally insane is filled by flawless performances by a once-in-a-lifetime TV cast from power-steeped masterpiece career-role by Jessica Lange to ill-fated reporter Paulson horrifically trapped and made insane against her will to Cromwell’s chilling Dr. Thermosin’s experimentation to the satanic show-stealing temptatory Lily Rabe’s Sister Eunice to a wildly-improved Dylan McDermott given his own incredible exposition through a sanity-testing abductory B-plot. Sadistic psychological & physical horror arcs masterfully genre-crossing in balanced and juxtaposed ways from exorcisms to mad scientists to sci-fi abductions to monster creatures to serial killers in Bloody Face adorn this stylistically-wowing series riddled with ’60’s nostalgia through painstaking set/costume design & period authenticity, tons of carefully-crafted homages to genre history in Easter Eggs taken from every possible theme/overlap season-long , human touches and an intricate web of deceit and lies as surgically-weaved as its macabre, and game-changing anthological decision making each season a completely-different storyline with a recurring cast and writers getting to flex in new roles each year to showcase their talent as still the greatest way to do a TV series. Besides a questionable Bloody Face design & one ~jarring alienic B-plot for McDermott in contrast to its religion/old-world realism-centric main one, AHS: Asylum is one of the greatest seasons of horror TV ever made.
Official CLC Score: 9.3/10
S3: Coven – 8.7/10
A magnificent, blurry magic-riddled chef d’oeuvre with primal dark-tripped sadistic witchy horror from its first Greek mythological Minotaur opening scene, AHS has found its stride with two masterful seasons of auteurist television in a row. Filled with silent film/nostalgic homages in mise-en-scene & camerawork like rarely-seen iris-ins & outs, fantastic setting in richly-historic/haunted New Orleans cityscapes and swampy cabins for a twisted (more realism-centric/darker, new) version of the Harry Potter story for covens & witches, brutality in voodoo/black magic macabre, a lifetime score of experimental chime-y innnovation pushing genre boundaries with indie drum-heavy swirling stylism, oppression and youth-chasing themes + social commentary amongst an impressive power dynamic/society under the Supreme, some fantastic horror side-arcs like the magnificent Zombie and Axeman + Seven Trials ones, & a phenomenal cast * performances even arguably outdoing Asylum with the incredible addition of modern-Scream Queen Emma Roberts to its seasoned Emmy-worthy ensemble of Jessica Lange, Sarah Paulson, Evan Peters, & Lily Rabe playinh off a career-defining lead performance by nihilistically-innocent Taissa Farmiga’s Zöe magnificently character-developed across the 13-episode arc for peak coming-of-age story payoff and an intriguing cast of dark arts students torn between the worlds of frat parties and tradition. Flaws include Gabourey Sidibe’s Queenie – who, while nicely-powered and given adequate backstory writing, sticks out like a sore thumb being clearly not the same level in performance as the rest of the series’ ensemble, the Academy could’ve used a few more students to spice up the cast, and AHS’ decision to focuses more on storytelling than the horror its title promises this season (respectably-ballsy and a great season of television by all marks any critic can appreciate but might bewilder some fans expecting Asylum-ic horror sequences).
Official CLC Score: 8.7/10
S4: Freak Show – 7.1/10
Review: Though drastically-bizarre to the point of turning off many mass audience demographics and often-times un-scary at all in stark betrayal of its premise/title, Freak Show is a sophisticated carnival-study that completely understands the psychological fascination for millions of the circus. Adorned with a masterful Lange saviorishly-decadent French-accented performance aided by its recurring star-studded advanced cast, wildly-impressive make-up/costume design making the unimaginable look Emmy-worthily realistic, a phenomenal location setting in milky Jupiter FL tropics juxtaposed with golden-hued tents, and heart-warming themes of stardom-searching by less-than-desirables and social acceptance of those societally-discriminated against merely for being different out of their control (sometimes over-referenced to the point of self-congratulatory obnoxiousness sure, but an important, emotionally-resonant message) – with of course one horror angle in the now-infamous nightmare-haunting Twisty The Clown – S4 respectably pushes the envelope going for elegance and variative ambition/ballsiness in trying something completely new and intellectual/visceral over simple scares (it could’ve had a few more of for a complete package).
Official CLC Score: 7.1/10
S5: Hotel – 5/10
Review: The Shining-like in old-world, classic-palatial art-deco glory with a tried-true hotel premise & beautiful richly-decadent location setting, stylistic flamboyance signature of exec-producer (& surprisingly adequate actress/maven) Lady Gaga, fine cinematography and aptly-solemn heavy-chorded score matching its ominous fluid scares & tone, and a thankful return to at least more horror and supernatural macabre + the dark atmosphere of early seasons with a nice twinge of detective arc and overarching themes of sex and dirtiness/luxurious infidelity played up by its recurring starry-cast. Bizarre inconsistency between garish overblownness in parts and *unwatchable* lethargy in others, contrived storytelling as much a ghost of past-AHS glory as its titular place’s residents focusing more on stylism than effective telling of its titular premise, too-heavy leaning on Kubrick’s far-superior hotel take, and looseness around the edges hold it far back from S1-3 level as a stay more at the Holiday Inn than the Overlook Hotel.
Official CLC Score: 5/10
S6: Roanoke – 8.1/10
Review: A sublime colonial hauntable premise & backwoods NC location setting turn up the macabre and atmospheric chills in this nicely-simple return to roots after the peacockish (all show but no meat) Gaga-laden Hotel. Refined solemnity in tonal mix and score, unique narrative device telling the story through interview structure with reenacted live-action vignettes to make use of its top-tier cast only further aided by the phenomenal (show-stealingly versatile) Cuba Gooding, Jr., clear-cut simplicity in Paranormal Activity-meets-13-Colonies-meets-Blair-Witch scares with homages to earlier seasons of AHS in Murder House and Asylum with inventive scares like the bathtub one, plenty of Easter Eggs to the most haunted time in American history an effortless intrigue, impressive period authenticity in sets and costume design on a more intimate familial scale, strong character work with old-fashioned attentionn to development, wild season opening, & – of course – Pigman now central in AHS-lore. Though hindered by countless heavy-hitter absences like Roberts, Lange, Peters, and Taissa Farmiga with (sacrilegiously) no signature fan-favorite opening credits sequence, Roanoke is a return to form and one of the upper-tier seasons of AHS.
Official CLC Score: 8.1/10
S7: Cult – 4/10
Review: Although brilliant in concept bravely/innovatively centering around the infamous 2016 election night that shocked the world – with a charged opening right into that moment that changed U.S. history and creative-fueled fervor only AHS could muster with characteristic strong performances by its seasoned Peters-led cast (this time getting divided into wholly-varied ultra-realist political sides they certainly do wonders with the problematic writing given to them) and a few decent scares like the supermarket & opener ending – S7 abrasively politicizes what could’ve been spectacular as hinted in S7E1 a character study of both sides (especially MAGA-ians in desperate need of some introspective psychoanalysis) to examine the wild difference of opinion and world-outlook between them with some fresh politician-themed/corrupt Washingtonian horror into instead a hodge-podge of unfocused, stereotyped, cacophonous, trigger-full, Lange-less political generalizations that even somehow feel condescending to both sides – with an unscary/stale (masturbating) clowns plot lazily retreading past territory like Asylum’s sanity & shameless Twisty-pandering all-in-all scarier in screenplay dullness & failed delivery on its yuge potential promise than actual ‘Horror Story’.. or the thought of having Trump as President.
Official CLC Score: 4/10
S8: Apocalypse – 9.2/10
Review: One of the wildest openings I’ve ever seen in TV-history magnificently portraying the end of the world through a thrilling street-level (realism-centric) view of nuclear apocalypse, AHS S8 is power-steeped beyond exposition. Positively Hitchcockian in concept, Twilight Zone-ic in ominous foreshadowing while feeling like it could happen tomorrow, Biblical in scale, Old Testament-reminiscent in severity, Blade Runner-esque in world-building/imaginative constructs, Romeo & Juliet-like in romance, and LOTF-ian in society rethinking all bolstered with top-notch star-studded performances and beautifully-visualized end of the world storytelling the epitome of escapist fare. Despite one weak character in socialite Esmeralda plus a bit too much time spent stuck in the bunker below ground instead of exploring the irradiated horrors of outside world above it, Apocalypse drastically departs from previous AHS-horror confines and lore to deliver a societal-study inntellectual masterwork of universally-accessible, four-horseman themed, intellectual television 3rd in AHS-history only to the inimitable Asylum & Coven.
Official CLC Score: 9.2/10
S9: 1984 – 7.3/10
Review: Brilliance in 1984 Golden-Age-Slasher-Movie concept invoking the best the Friday The 13th era had to offer with spectacular fogset lake-camp location setting (the PERFECT slasher backdrop with stunninng cinematography), subgenre-authentic atmospherics from its brutal survivor-less opening cabin kill scene, strong takes by its seasoned Roberts/Lourd-led cast, tons of Easter Eggs and callbacks to genre predecessors, and unapologetic ’80’s-isms in an over-the-top sweatpants / electronica-riddled nostalgia ride accurate to the decade of decadence. Despite weird, fundamentally-flawed, underwhelming jingly middle-aged Robotnik/Walter White-y and Disney Channel-satanist antagonists and a contrived (unoriginal) plot plus weak 100th episode, S9 is a serviceable lost tape from a simpler / campy / fun time in genre history cruelly held back from peak potential by writers’ room problems.
Official CLC Score: 7.3/10