Thursday, September 15, 2016

My Review of American Horror Story: Roanoke: "Chapter 1"

Written by Ryan Murphy And Brad Falchuk
Directed by Bradley Buecker

Shelby: "Humans respond to fear in two simple ways. Fight or flight. There's no shame in getting the hell out of the way."

With all the secrecy surrounding this season, I've decided to change things up. Instead of recaps, I'll do a more traditional review for the new season and after months of waiting, we finally know (for the most part) what exactly this new season is actually about and it's certainly a bit of a departure from seasons before.

Told in a Paranormal Activity documentary style, My Roanoke Nightmare focuses on an interracial couple named Shelby (Lily Rabe), a yoga teacher and Matt Miller (Andre Holland), a pharmaceutical rep who along with the latter's former cop sister, Lee (Adina Porter) recalls the events of the couple buying a farmhouse in North Carolina, in Roanoke and the crazy goings on that came with it.

Here's where it goes all documentary style. Rabe, Holland and Porter are recalling the events but it's actually being seen via Sarah Paulson (as Shelby), Cuba Gooding Jr (as Matt) and Angela Bassett (as Lee) within the events themselves as Shelby and Matt deal with some unhelpful locals and one too many crazy event throughout the hour long premiere episode.

For instance, Shelby herself witnesses a hailstorm of teeth, is nearly drowned in a hot tub by a ghostly Colony woman (Kathy Bates) whom she later hit with her car and even got locked in the basement with her sister in law to watch a video of a terrified man (Denis O'Hare) being hunted before stumbling into the woods and encountering some scary locals, which also included Wes Bentley as the episode came to a swift end. By comparison, husband Matt almost fared a little better.

There's a sense of this season trying to recapture the 'innocence' of sorts that it had when the show debuted in 2011. Shelby and Matt are similar enough to Ben and Vivian from the first season but somewhat a little more likeable and happier together as they deal with the loss of a baby, Matt being assaulted by a gang of thugs and moving from the city back to country. It also helps that both Sarah Paulson and Cuba Gooding Jr have great chemistry with each other as well.

This opening episode certainly took a slower pace than seasons past and by not having too many cast members all at once, I think it maintained it's focus a little better. Needless to say, all the praise in the world needs to be heaped onto Sarah Paulson/Lily Rabe, Cuba Gooding Jr/Andre Holland and Angela Bassett/Adina Porter but even with the scantest amount of screen time, Kathy Bates was pretty unsettling as well. I can't wait to see where the rest of this season is going,

- We didn't get the title sequence as such for this episode but both Evan Peters and Cheyenne Jackson are regulars this season. Matt Bomer and Lady Gaga are recurring. Oh and Chaz Bono made a brief cameo in this one.
- Roanoke (the official title) was actually mentioned back in the first season and I'm curious to see if this season will references former years like Freak Show and Hotel did.
- Sarah Paulson and Cuba Gooding Jr were also on The People V. OJ Simpson earlier this year. Paulson will be appearing in Feud next year as well.
- Now that the mystery is out of the way, I hope we get some proper cast pictures/trailers for this season.

An intriguing start to the new season. Chapter 1 certainly feels like the show starting from scratch all over again and it's documentary/real life events style format worked well enough for this opening episode, though whether it can be sustained I'm not sure. I do like that they scaled back on some of their more overt excesses as well for this episode too though I'm sure things will undoubtedly get crazier as we progress into the season.

Rating: 7 out of 10

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