updated 10/27/2011 AT 5:00 PM ET
•originally published 10/31/2011 AT 1:35 PM ET
For me, a truly engrossing TV show these days is one that I’ll actually sit down to watch in real time, DVR-free. And FX’s spooky new Wednesday night series American Horror Story might just fit the bill.
If I didn’t have to watch it during the daytime, that is.
Yes, the show is that scary. But there’s also plenty more to it. Henceforth, three reasons to watch … with the lights on. (Caution: potential spoilers ahead!)
1. It’s the Perfect Kind of Creepy
The premise: Troubled couple Ben (Dylan McDermott) and Vivien (Connie Britton), move to L.A. after Vivien delivers a stillborn baby and Ben cheats on her. With their daughter Violet (Taissa Farmiga), they settle into a too-good-to-be-true old house that turns out to be haunted. But that’s where the typical scary storyline ends. With more style and cool than most recent horror movies, the show succeeds with subtlety. In the Oct. 26 episode, a doctor’s reaction to Britton’s sonogram (she’s pregnant again, but we don’t know by whom – or by what) is easily the most unsettling moment of the hour. Adelaide’s “pretty girl” Halloween mask is quietly terrifying, too.
There are more obvious frights too, like the thing in the basement that will rattle even seasoned scary movie-watchers. You’ve also got plenty of disturbing images, such as the original owner of the house doing hideous things to his dead baby. But the show doesn’t sink to the typical horror movie lows, like the mirror scare (when you think the ghost is going to pop out, but doesn’t only to then appear in the mirror!).
2. The Stars – And Guests
There’s not a weak link in the cast, and Jessica Lange takes the prize for Most Awesome Character. As Constance, she’s creepy, funny and downright fascinating. Her meaty scenes are memorable, as are her zingers, like the delicious warning she issues to Frances Conroy’s character Moira: “Don’t make me kill you – again.”
As for guest stars, Zachary Quinto is incredibly watchable as a previous tenant of the house who meets a dire fate. Though he doesn’t live through much of the Halloween Part 1 episode, his role doesn’t end there. Not unlike my dearly departed Rescue Me, just because someone’s dead on this show doesn’t mean we’ve seen the last of them. And according to EW, Modern Family’s fabulous Cameron, Eric Stonestreet, will also pop in this season.
3. It Keeps You Guessing
Funnier and sicker than you’d expect, American Horror Story is a dizzying mix of humor, sex and the macabre. As a horror movie aficionado, I’m thoroughly refreshed by a creepy show that leaves me with questions every week. Is Tate (Evan Peters) the “Rubber Man,” or was that just a fake-out? Will we meet Constance’s other children? And what other secrets does the house – my favorite character of all – have in store? I can hardly wait to find out.
First thing Thursday morning.