The difference between “American Horror Story” and “American Horror Stories” is slight.
Stories don’t spill out over 10 weeks, they wrap up in an episode or two. They’re steeped in horror, but the “AHS” hallmarks are as obvious as a gold seal on a greeting card envelope.
In the first edition (which runs two episodes), we get to revisit the original show’s Murder House. There, the infamous rubber suit still hangs since, presumably, it wasn’t taken as evidence.
To get us back to the original scene of the crime, two renovators (played by Matt Bomer and Gavin Creel) have bought the house and decided to market it as a haunted bed and breakfast. Their daughter, Scarlett (Sierra McCormick), is lukewarm on the idea and wants them to bail. They insist and, sure enough, she finds something suspicious – the black suit. She tries it on and, soon, there’s trouble – at school, at home, you name it. When Scarlett wears the suit, she feels a sense of power, a power that brings out her desire for violent sex.
That prompts a coming out of sorts and a flirtation with a queen bee (Paris Jackson) who runs her own hive of “Mean Girls.” They pretend like they’re Scarlett’s friends but that doesn’t last even last as long as a slumber party.
Creators Brad Falchuk and Ryan Murphy hew closely to the original concept (even dropping in the rules of Murder House). Here, though, there’s a bit more humor and a relationship between Bomer and Creel that brings up plenty of questions – particularly when one calls in a contractor (Aaron Tveit) and plays “let’s make a deal” with the drywalling expenses.
In the second episode, we meet another teen girl (played by Kaia Gerber) who has an interest in Scarlett.
While Murphy has packed his series with a variety of second-generation celebs, he rings bells with Jackson (the daughter of Michael Jackson) and Gerber (the daughter of Cindy Crawford). They hew closely to “Scream Queens” and push the envelope with scenes that explore their sexuality. Their acting abilities may be similar to their parents’ at the same age, but they pair well with McCormick, who seems more mature than anyone in the house.
Bomer and Creel, oddly, don’t seem to fit in this setting. They embrace the humor but can’t quite promote the terror. When they’re introduced to the realities of the Murder House, it isn’t with the kind of fright you’d expect.
Tveit does a much better job of straddling the “AHS” worlds. He’s just as creepy as Evan Peters and twice as attractive.
Although he doesn’t have a large role, he makes an impact, suggesting a return visit in a later episode.
And that’s where “American Horror Stories’” biggest mystery may lie.
Will the anthology’s episodes have connections? Or are they just a way to use the Ryan Murphy Rep Company?
Because the mothership had difficulty sustaining a season’s worth of episodes, this could be a better way of recalling horror themes and infusing them with A-list talent.