Review: New chapter with ‘American Horror Story: Roanoke’

marco-cadenaBy Marco Cadena


After countless misleading teasers and with an overall new format, “American Horror Story” returned after keeping its new theme under wraps until its Sept. 14 premiere.

“American Horror Story: Roanoke” tells the story of Shelby and Matt Miller, a married couple who moved from California to North Carolina after an assault left Matt temporarily hospitalized, and caused Shelby to have a miscarriage. Located in Roanoke Island, the new house begins to haunt the couple after abnormal and bizarre happenings take place.

This year, the horror anthology presents its plot as a paranormal documentary series titled “My Roanoke Nightmare.” The documentary follows the Millers’ story as actors reenact their experiences. In each episode, the storyline transitions from past to present as the couple share their story and actors take the part in the survival plotline.

Unlike other seasons, “Roanoke,” which airs every Wednesday at 9 p.m. on FX, does not feature a title sequence. Instead, each “chapter” begins with the phrase, “The following story is inspired by true events,” which is something new from the series.

“Roanoke,” which is the first season to premiere outside of October, will contain only 10 episodes, making this sixth installment the shortest “American Horror Story” run.

This season’s recurring cast features Emmy Award-winning actresses Sarah Paulson and Kathy Bates, as well as Denis O’Hare, Wes Bentley, Evan Peters, Cheyenne Jackson, Lily Rabe, Angela Bassett and Lady Gaga, who won this year’s Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actress in a Limited Series or Motion Picture made for Television, for her role as the Countess in “American Horror Story: Hotel.”

   New additions to the cast include André Holland (“Damages,” “Burn Notice”) and Cuba Gooding Jr. (“American Crime Story: The People v. O. J. Simpson”).

In the past, Ryan Murphy, creator of “American Horror Story,” announced each season’s theme shortly after the finale of the previous installment. However, this year Murphy decided to keep the theme a mystery, and instead released a series of deceptive teasers that kept fans wondering this season’s focus.

Teasers included a baby monster’s hand reaching for a knife, a millipede slithering across a woman’s face, a creature crawling on deserted train tracks, and a man getting his head stapled after an alleged surgery.

Other television spots featured tributes to classic horror films such as “Nosferatu,” “Creature from the Black Lagoon” and Stephen King’s “Children of the Corn.” At the end of every teaser, the number “6” and a question mark appeared next to each other, stating the mystery of this new season.

“Roanoke’s” premiere gathered 5.14 million viewers, making “Chapter 1” “American Horror Story” the fourth, most-watched season-opener behind “Freak Show,” “Hotel” and “Coven.”

With a 79 percent audience approval rating, and 75 percent from Rotten Tomatoes’ critics, “Roanoke” collected overwhelmingly positive reviews due to the show’s new format and overall reinvention.

Apart from “American Horror Story,” Murphy’s second season of the comedy-horror series “Scream Queens,” just premiered on Tuesday, Sept. 20, two days after Murphy’s “American Crime Story: The People v. O. J. Simpson” won five Emmy Awards in the Limited Series category.

Murphy’s new anthology series, “Feud,” which is set to premiere in 2017, will feature “American Horror Story” veteran Jessica Lange, alongside Susan Sarandon in the backstage battle between Joan Crawford and Bette Davis during the production of the 1962 film, “What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?” Other members of the cast include Sarah Paulson, Stanley Tucci and Catherine Zeta-Jones.

“Empire,” “How to Get Away with Murder,” and “Mr. Robot” are all premiering their newest seasons just in time for fall. “American Horror Story’s” reinvention, “Roanoke,” is just what the series needed in order to stay fresh and relevant among the general public.

With a finale scheduled for Wednesday, Nov. 16, “Roanoke” is set to experience a major twist during “Chapter 6” that will make the second half of the season look nothing like the first, according to Murphy in a recent interview for Entertainment Weekly.

Just like “Freak Show” and “Hotel,” “Roanoke” is expected to relate to other seasons of “American Horror Story.” This time around, this year’s season is rumored to be connected to Seasons 1 and 4. In “Murder House,” Billie Dean Howard, Paulson’s character, explained the history of the Roanoke Colony, which appears in the current “Roanoke” season.

From murdering nurses, to a creature with a pig’s head, and a ghostly colony, “Roanoke” takes “American Horror Story” back to the scary, yet terrific, tone of Seasons 1 and 2.

With this new season, Murphy and company prove, yet again, that simplicity and reinvention are key for the succesful run of any television series. Now, the question is not what the theme is, but what the rest of the season will develop into. Whatever the outcome is, we know Murphy and disappointment are never uttered in the same sentence.


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