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The Hollywood Insider American Horror Stories Review

Photo: ‘American Horror Stories’

‘American Horror Stories’ aired this Thursday with the start of its second season premiering on Hulu. This show is a spin-off to the highly-regarded and feverishly followed series ‘American Horror Story.’ This new spin-off acts almost as an ode of homage to its predecessor, which in its long-running existence has developed a popular following who are fully devoted and enthralled by this horror series. What primarily has made this original series and now its inspiration so noteworthy is the fact that the creators attempt to use a traditional theme in horror with each storyline, and then they change every aspect that first appeared familiar, giving the audience a completely new entry in the ever-growing list of horror tales. The way in which the show’s story is first based in a recognizable form reflects in part the genius of the show’s creators. By choosing a popular aspect of the horror genre, there is a guarantee that this theme of familiarity will resonate with the audience and lead them to either becoming more invested in the series in order to determine whether the show will follow typical plot points relating to that horror theme, or if the series will stray from common thought altogether.                        

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‘American Horror Stories’: A Horror Anthology Series

‘American Horror Stories,’ the spin-off to ‘American Horror Story,’ is unique when considering its form against that of its predecessor. ‘American Horror Stories’ is described precisely as a horror anthology series. This means that each episode it boasts in a season is completely standalone in its story and plot. With each episode differing significantly from the rest, except when considering the genre that they fall under, it is reasonable to believe that certain episodes may be more appreciated and well-liked than others. ‘American Horror Story,’ the original series, featured a completely different form of storytelling. Each season of the original show was its own standalone story and this allowed the writers of the series to build upon their own ideas, sometimes even leading to the complete transformation of a storyline, breaking viewers’ expectations. ‘American Horror Stories’ is completely unlike this format. To its detriment, it only allows the viewer a small morsel of what a story could transform into. At times, like the latest premiere of season two, ‘American Horror Stories’ sacrifices quality of thought for convenience, trading in a satisfying conclusion that must be built up, for an ending that feels unfinished. This downgrade, ultimately, is a huge factor that contributes to what makes this latest spin-off feel like a knock-off of the original.   

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‘American Horror Stories’: Does this Spin-Off Series Improve upon the Original?

‘American Horror Stories’ is a spin-off series that unfortunately does not improve upon the original. There are many aspects in this latest series that differ from ‘American Horror Story,’ and all lend to the reduced level of quality that viewers and fans of the show are used to. It is difficult to determine what is the greatest factor which negatively impacts the new spin-off series the most. Even when considering ‘American Horror Stories’ form, the anthology-inspired show might have been able to succeed if the endings to the episodic format were more clearly thought out. This realization leads the viewer to consider the caliber of the overall story in general.

Granted, there are parts of the first episode of season two, ‘Dollhouse,’ which genuinely elicit terror and a sense of dread from the audience, a goal that all horror shows and films aspire to achieve, although at other moments this episode struggles repeatedly in proving what makes it truly original. While the story of ‘Dollhouse,’ might seem in theory “unique” to the viewer, it comes across as a lazy reenactment of any other horror plot that contains a serial murderer as its main antagonist. After watching the spin-off series, one can confidently state that instead of the creators having a fully fleshed-out idea for a revolutionary horror series, alternatively, they realized that they could pass off their half-finished ideas as shorts. That is precisely what the filmmakers of this series did, and it reflects in the consistency of their work which serves as little more than a shoddy representation of the ideals that the original series was inspired by.   

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‘American Horror Stories’: Overall Review and Analysis

‘American Horror Stories’ is a series that fundamentally lacks direction. In its beginning, the first episode, ‘Dollhouse,’ contains particular details which do make the storyline stand out from works that the show’s creators have thought of in the past. Although, this sense of originality is quickly lost behind the low-tier features that make up the body of this spin-off series. One of the biggest flaws of the new series is its heavy reliance upon the original show for clarification as well as pre-existing storylines that have already been established. In an ending that struggles to make sense of itself, the writers of the showplace the main protagonist in a situation that would normally be impossible to escape. The series creators did implement hints that are only understandable once the viewer has finished the episode, and are solely recognizable if the audience has already seen a particular season of the original series before. This pre-existing condition that the viewer is forced to endure is what ultimately determines the failure of the first episode, but it is not the only factor that contributes to the demise of the premiere of the second season of ‘American Horror Stories.’

The first episode, ‘Dollhouse,’ is filled with lackluster writing, unmistakable over-acting, and an ending that is as infuriating as it is pathetic. The ending of the episode relies upon a deus ex machina which conveniently saves the heroine and defeats the villain. It is as convoluted as it is uninspired, and it drives the audience to the idea that if any part of the new season of ‘American Horror Stories’ is as poorly written as “Dollhouse,” this new spin-off will be particularly short-lived. Overall, ‘American Horror Stories’ serves as evidence that its creators are clearly struggling to find and repeat the true originality and greatness that made ‘American Horror Story’ a fan favorite and cult classic.  

Directors: Loni Peristere, Alonso AlvarezWriters: Brad Falchuk, Ryan Murphy, Manny Coto, Angela Harvey, Crystal Liu, Our Lady J

Cast: Cody Fern, Nico Greetham, Bella Thorne, Britt Lower, Alicia Silverstone, Madison Iseman

Producers: Brad Falchuk, John J. Gray, Ryan Murphy, Manny Coto, Reilly SmithCinematographers: Shasta Spahn, James KniestEditors: Yaniv Dabach, Julia Franklin

By Thomas Jacobs

Click here to read The Hollywood Insider’s CEO Pritan Ambroase’s love letter to Cinema, TV and Media. An excerpt from the love letter: The Hollywood Insider’s CEO/editor-in-chief Pritan Ambroase affirms, We have the space and time for all your stories, no matter who/what/where you are. Media/Cinema/TV have a responsibility to better the world and The Hollywood Insider will continue to do so. Talent, diversity and authenticity matter in Cinema/TV, media and storytelling. In fact, I reckon that we should announce “talent-diversity-authenticity-storytelling-Cinema-Oscars-Academy-Awards” as synonyms of each other. We show respect to talent and stories regardless of their skin color, race, gender, sexuality, religion, nationality, etc., thus allowing authenticity into this system just by something as simple as accepting and showing respect to the human species’ factual diversity. We become greater just by respecting and appreciating talent in all its shapes, sizes, and forms. Award winners, which includes nominees, must be chosen on the greatness of their talent ALONE.

I am sure I am speaking for a multitude of Cinema lovers all over the world when I speak of the following sentiments that this medium of art has blessed me with. Cinema taught me about our world, at times in English and at times through the beautiful one-inch bar of subtitles. I learned from the stories in the global movies that we are all alike across all borders. Remember that one of the best symbols of many great civilizations and their prosperity has been the art they have left behind. This art can be in the form of paintings, sculptures, architecture, writings, inventions, etc. For our modern society, Cinema happens to be one of them. Cinema is more than just a form of entertainment, it is an integral part of society. I love the world uniting, be it for Cinema, TV, media, art, fashion, sport, etc. Please keep this going full speed.

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Author

  • Thomas Jacobs is an avid writer, Cinema aficionado, and filmmaker. He graduated with Dean’s Honors from the University of California, Santa Cruz with a major in Film and Digital Media. His passion is directly tied to the appreciation and creation of film and television, and this fact is reflected in his intent to be a writer for the acclaimed entertainment journal, The Hollywood Insider. His beliefs mirror the core goals and mission statement of The Hollywood Insider by sharing an admiration for quality entertainment as well as bolstering a sense of positivity and equality among all humans. Thomas believes that Cinema is an advantageous promoter of civil and social empowerment, and he shares a mutual societal view with  The Hollywood Insider, that people should not be judged by the color of their skin, but the content of their character.

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