American Horror Story: Roanoke—Season Premiere, “Chapter 1”

“When a mob shows up in the middle of the night with torches, there are not there to welcome you to the neighborhood.”

When American Horror Story announced it’s 6th season, I rolled my eyes. I’ve steadily lost my love for the series after being inundated with too many poorly handled plot lines, inconsistencies, and loose ends. Then, when Season 6 announced its “mystery theme,” I was convinced it had to be true because show writer Ryan Murphy already threw everything, the kitchen sink, and aliens at us, and not even he knew what Season 6 would be about. Turns out the rumors of this season being titled American Horror Story: My Roanoke Nightmare, were true.

And color me surprised when the pilot aired and it was framed like a documentary. Fact: I am a sucker for those horribly produced, cheesy as hell “I Shouldn’t Have Survived” and “My Ghost Story” programs. I can’t help myself. This season, the cast even goes as far as to have the “real people” doing talking heads (where they are speaking directly to the camera) while a different person does the “actor portrayal.” It’s funny, refreshing, and such a welcome departure from the usual mode. 

I’m thrilled to see Lily Rabe back as Shelby Miller (reenacted by Sara Paulson). Lily has always been my favorite. She’s joined by Andre Holland as her husband, Matt Miller (reenacted by Cube Gooding, Jr.), and they give testimonials for a program called “My Roanoke Nightmare” regarding the chilling events after their victimization in a gang initiation in LA. Seeking refuge, they move out to North Carolina, where they stumble upon an old farmhouse in the woods.

At this point, I feel it may be time to revisit Season 4’s Horror Rules:

  1. Do not set foot in, let alone purchase, the abandoned farmhouse in the middle of the woods. See quote above for details.

With North Carolina being in the South and their’s an interracial marriage, the situation doesn’t sit well with the locals. As they begin renovations (because remodeling stirs up spirits like a fine gin and tonic), Shelby begins hearing and seeing things, including a hail storm which was actually a rain of teeth.

Teeth. Human teeth.

I may have mentioned this once or twice, but teeth (not in a mouth) freak me out. I’m so with Shelby on this one, even though it was all in her head. Or was it?

Matt, a traveling salesman, is forced to leave for work, which means Shelby is forced to stay in the house alone. After an incident where she’s nearly drowned, Matt returns home and takes extra safety precautions, including installing surveillance cameras and asking his sister Lee (Adina Porter, reenacted by Angela Bassett) to stay with his wife.

Then, Lee starts hearing things too, from ghostly wails to the mob breaking into the house—which brings us to Horror Rule No. 2:

  1. If you hear anything that sounds like a demon ghost baby wailing, get out of the house.

Seriously! Why would you stay? Definitely don’t go exploring the basement! Demon ghosts aside, Matt attempts to alert them to the very real threat of a torch-carrying mob storming their would-be castle. Shelby and Lee run to the basement.

Here’s where things got hilarious, for me at least. Shelby and Lee emerge from the basement after watching a found-footage tape of a man in the woods. He seems to have capture someone wearing a pig’s head and mutters something to the extent of, “I finally caught you.” Upon returning upstairs, they find dozens of stick-dolls strung up around the stairwell.

Why is this funny, you ask? Because Wednesday night, I was at a screening for Blair Witch with my best friend. The text I got from her during the AHS premiere read, “It’s a documentary. You’re not going to believe this.” Well, what do you know? Shelby even gets lost in the woods and, you guessed it, finds more stick-dolls dangling from a web in the trees. 

We briefly see the return of Kathy Bates as a ghost, maybe? Shelby hits her with the car just before the end of the episode, and Bates gets back up and heads into the aforementioned woods, where Shelby loses her and gets herself lost. 

I’m hesitant to pass judgement just yet, but I’m so tickled that Murphy really plugged the documentary angle by creating a new splash card (though the lack of the traditional credits and opening…noise hasn’t sat well with some diehard fans), and I want it to be just as B-movie horrible as its real television counterparts. I’m also hoping against hope that his female characters get to have agency. Don’t be the girls running and falling down and crying the basement. Fight back.

On a praise-worthy note, we finally had a first episode where no one was raped. I can’t tell you how surprised, relieved, and thankful I am. Yes, I know there are 12 episodes to go, but I’ll take the small mercies.

I don’t want to pin my hopes and dreams on this, but Season 6…might redeem a thing or two for me. I’m hoping that the box narrative of eye-witness accounts limits Murphy’s tendency to take on too much and let’s the story hold itself together. I’m curious to see if next week continues Shelby’s story, or if “Chapter 2” will have a different, conjoining story line, as it happens in the shows they’re replicating. I sort of hope not because the leap in narration always bothered me. 

There’s also an incredibly small cast which may help with the We’re Going to Do Too Much problem. Show veterans Denis O’Hare and Evan Peters are returning, along with Wes Bentley, Cheyenne Jackson, Finn Wittrock, Matt Bomber, Leslie Jordan, Jacob Artist, and Lady Gaga. Much like Darcy struggling with his feelings for Lizzie Bennet, I find myself reluctantly admitting that I like this season already. 

Plus, I’m pretty sure the farmhouse in the woods is the asylum from Season 2.

Given that all the seasons are connected, did you spy any easter eggs I missed? What are your expectations for Season 6? I’ll see you at the mid-season finale. 

Until then, don’t go out into the woods at night. 

 

Meghan Harker grew up in a small, awkwardly-named town in Georgia. She attended Brenau University, where she earned her BA in English and a minor in Graphic Design; she also attended the University of Cambridge, England, where she didn't quite master the perfect Oxbridge accent. She's an avid reader, writer, and fire spinner. She's currently working her first novel, a paranormal thriller. Visit her blog at ExquisitelyOdd.com.

Comments

  1. Pritpaul Bains

    The first epi played out to me like some kind of weird mashup of Blair Witch Project, True Detective, Sinister, Paranormal Activity, and Paul Tremblay’s A Head Full of Ghosts. More goofy/campy than horror-ish, per se, but then that’s in-line with every season since Asylum, I suppose.

    I’m curious as to whether they’ll run the docu-show spiel all season long or just for a few more episodes before cutting to an “afterwards.” Keeping it going all season will make it tough to maintain suspense when we see Shelby and Matt commentating on what happened without any real physical damage to speak of.

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