American Horror Story: not impressed

American Horror Story: Murder House (on FX)Directed by Bradley BueckerWritten/Created by Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuk and Jennifer Salt

American Horror Story: Murder House (on FX)
Directed by Bradley Buecker
Written/Created by Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuk and Jennifer Salt

[This review contains spoilers]


The Harmon family moves from Boston to Los Angeles for a fresh new start after Vivien (Connie Britton) miscarries and her husband Ben (Dylan McDermott) has an affair with one of his pysch patients. Their daughter, Violet, struggles with school and depression. Within a short few days of living in their new home, each person notices strange things, and each handles it in their own way. They hire a maid who has been caretaker of the house for the last couple decades. To Vivien and Violet, she appears like an old woman, but to Ben, she is a seductive young lady.

After Vivien and Violet are attacked in their own home while Ben is out of town to visit his mistress Hayden (Kate Mara), Vivien wants to move, but they can’t afford to before selling, and no one is willing to buy the house because, as most of the locals already know, it is more commonly known as “Murder House” and is the last stop of a local horror tour.

The action escalates as Violet becomes suicidal and realizes she is in love with a ghost, Vivien has been raped by one, and Hayden, after showing up in LA, is promptly murdered by a man who once lived in the house. It becomes clear that the creepy neighbor lady Constance (Jessica Lange), her son Tate, and the age-changing maid will do anything to save the house from falling into destructive hands, including murdering anyone who stands in their way, leaving them to become ghosts–or not, to ensure they can’t come back to tell the haunting truth.

"Murder House"

“Murder House”


I will admit, the first few episodes of American Horror Story grabbed my attention. I wanted to know what the f*** was going on in that house, and the property, and what’s up with the cooky southern bell neighbor? Who are all the ghosts? Why are they there? And why are there so many?

But by the middle of the season I began to lose interest, and at the end I was just wondering, had the writers even looked up anything pertaining to the supernatural? I may have been influenced by the CW show Supernatural and expected a lot of the same rules for ghosts to follow, but while ghosts are a controversial topic and difficult to research, there is popular lore that is usually present in most ghost stories whether they are shows, books, or movies. I’m not saying it’s not okay to have ghosts that don’t make the room cold, or can’t go through walls, or aren’t transparent, or don’t make lights flicker and doors slam. But if you’re going to change paranormal tradition, all I ask is a little consistency and explanation, which is my biggest grievance against this show.

Tate LangdonLet me start with the ghosts. The ghosts who matter can change outfits and do not show death wounds. [SPOILERS] Hayden has bruising on her arm, and sometimes Nora’s head (only in the back) is blown away. But Tate never has bullet wounds, Moira’s eye, although oddly glittery, is intact, and the gay couple do not show signs of death either. However, the two girls in nursing uniforms exhibit bloody stab wounds and one is always wet from the bath she drowned in. Nurse GhostsThe mother and two daughters who burned alive are still burning when we see them. And at the end, Vivien is not all bloody from childbirth. So, which is it? Do ghosts in the house keep their wounds even in death or not? And where do all the different outfits come from for Tate and Hayden to wear? Are they stealing clothes from the current residents? You’d think the family would notice if ghosts were wearing their clothes . . .

And on a side note, why is Moira the only one who has aged, or at least appears to age only to women? Also, some ghosts know they’re dead and others do not and some have been around for over 80 years. Like Nora, who comes to visit the house one day and is shocked at the shiny new appliances, but in flashbacks she has been in the house for years before present day. Did she just completely not see the house changing since 1920 and stayed in the basement? It seemed like the ghosts became super active only when Vivien, Ben and Violet moved in. How convenient. Young and Old Moira

In the vein of ghosts, I had a hard time with the medium in the show. She obviously could sense a ghost, talk to them, even the spirit [SPOILER] of Addy who does not die on the Murder House property but her invisible soul still lingers long enough to talk to the medium who relays the messages to Constance, Addy’s mother. However, the medium has no idea how to expel ghosts. She and Constance believe that Tate doesn’t know he’s dead and that he must realize that so he can let go and move on, but he does know he’s dead, and he doesn’t move on, so there is obviously some hold the house has on the spirits for not letting them go. But later, the medium does come up with one way to expel a ghost. She tells Violet that the only successful time it happened was at Roanoke, when the angry spirits of the dead colonists were expelled by a chieftain who burned the ghosts’ belongings and yelled “Croatoan” three times. Really, American Horror Story? With all the information that is out there, that is the best you can come up with? Whether you believe in ghosts or not, this has to sound like complete bullshit. Granted salting and burning bones, or calling in a priest, or convincing a ghost to move on to the light may sound just as preposterous, but those are at least common theories that some people swear by. Maybe it’s the Supernatural geek in me, but I didn’t buy this for a second, and I thought it weak writing for a story about ghosts. Oh, but the ghosts do listen and will leave you be if you simply yell “Go Away!”.

And don’t even get me started on the ending. I do not believe for a second that Vivien and Violet would have allowed what happened to happen. They weren’t stupid, they weren’t new to how the ghosts in the house acted and what motivated them. It was a weak, unsatisfactory, cop-out ending.

The Harmon Family

For me, what started out as a creepy, mysterious story about a haunted house turned into a lot of over the top drama with inconsistent rules for the supernatural. Call me traditional, but I like some order regarding the paranormal. And the second half of the season just seemed to be murder after murder and the characters became extremely frustrating. I did like the reality of not being able to move out of the house because of the cost; that’s generally overlooked in every other haunted house story. Somehow the affected families are able to just pick up and leave, but not in this case. However, at the same time, all three Harmons were going crazy. They knew they were, and they did nothing and continued to do nothing even when they had the power to save half of their family. Overall, the show had good moments and bad, was entertaining but at times unbearable. And while I can see why some people would absolutely love this show, it turned out to not be for me. I had too much issue with the world the show created and the inconsistencies within it. I may check out season 2 to see if it has improved, but I doubt it.


2 AutumnrRaindrops (out of 5)



Ghosts of Machu Picchu

Wayna Picchu Awakening


When I stepped onto the dirt path and left the overhang of the park entrance, I saw the fog lifting from the bright green terraced mountainsides–a sight I had only seen in textbooks. It was easy to forget that it was only 6am and that I and my travel buddies had just ridden half an hour up a mountain on a bus that threatened to topple over the edge and crush the small town of Aguas Calientes hundreds of feet below. But now, in the early light of dawn, we began our journey through the ancient ruins of Machu Picchu in Perú.


As we walked, we hardly said a word to one another, lost in our own thoughts and silenced by awe. I couldn’t speak; I didn’t want to. I wanted to be on my own without anyone near me and just sit and absorb the atmosphere and watch the thick fog float through the broken doorways and out over the missing roofs. Across the river thousands of feet below, the sunlit mountaintops barely showed above the fog. I imagined what it must have been like, to wake each morning and step to the grassy ledge of a terrace and take in the sights as alpacas grazed and jungle birds began their daily song. For a few moments I thought I could hear the distant hum of families talking, of children running on the packed dirt from one house to another.

Edge of the WorldIn some places, walls of fog eliminated all sight past ten feet, hiding sheer drops that appeared to go on forever, but were only several feet down when you stepped near enough to see. Machu Picchu has a way of making you feel like you are at the precipice of the world, that there is naught before you but open air, endless mountains, and a steep drop to your death. But the terraced mountainside is quite safe. Each step is completely flat and about six feet wide. If you fell down to one, you could stop yourself from dropping to the next easily, but the heights still twisted my stomach in fear.


As we walked down the packed paths, up smoothed steps, and towards Waynapicchu (or Huayna Picchu), our climbing task for the day, the fog slowly lifted from the ruins. The park was nearly empty and it felt we were the only ones there. I took as many pictures as I could of the sites because I knew later there would be tourists in every picture, and I wouldn’t settle for that. It’s believed Machu Picchu could had been a holy place, a place for Inca priests to dwell, and I wanted to capture whatever holiness and serenity I could, but it was the feeling of the place I wanted to capture most. It’s nearly impossible to express in words or images what it was like to visit the ruins of Machu Picchu. One of the people in my group said that to her ruins were just ruins, and after one sees so many all over the world, they all start to look the same. But that’s not true for me. Every place is different, every place has a different story to tell. I was in another world, another time. I willed myself to feel the presence of the past that had been and of the people who had lived ages before.

Soaking in the SightsTAKING IT IN

I sat in silence at the base of Waynapicchu, waiting to climb the mountain to get a view of the park, trying to soak everything in. If I could have, I would have waited all day and watched the foggy haze turn to clouds and drift lazily around the mountain peaks before me and stare as the sun swept across the sky and sunk behind the mountains once more. But the gates to the trail opened right on time, and we joined the 100 other people who had come to climb Waynapicchu. We had no idea what we were getting ourselves into, but we knew we wanted the view of a lifetime, so we climbed for an hour to the top, using the same stone steps the Inca put in place centuries before, some only inches high, others nearly a foot or more. The railings were a new addition. Welcome, but sometimes I challenged myself and tried to take the mountain like a true Inca. I wasn’t cut out for that, but it was the most wonderful experience I’ve ever had. There’s nothing like trying to keep standing on soar, quaking legs, ready to complain, and then looking around and seeing a world unlike anything I’ve seen before, and maybe will never see again. Complaints were held back and fatigue pushed through, replaced with renewed vigor. Throughout the day, I was in a constant state of awe and wonder. I was in the ancient realm of the Inca, seeing what they saw, hearing what they heard, stepping where they stepped, touching what they built, and feeling the lingering presence of what could be the ghosts of Machu Picchu.View of Machu Picchu