American Horror Story Season Premiere Recap: A Roanoke Nightmare

American Horror Story

Chapter One
Season 6 Episode 1
Editor’s Rating *****
Sarah Paulson as Shelby.
Sarah Paulson as Shelby. Photo: FX

Hello, my name is Brian Moylan and welcome to my American Horror Story recap, brought to you by Mercedes Benz and Blair Witch, in theaters everywhere this Friday. That’s pretty much exactly how Ryan Murphy introduced this sixth season of AHS, standing next to a beautiful luxury sedan just as black as his imagination or the latex of the gimp monster that plagued the Murder House six frightening seasons ago.

He also says, “Tonight, we answer the question that has been haunting everyone.” He doesn’t tell us which question, though. At first, I thought he meant, “Is our nation actually stupid enough to elect Donald Trump as president?” but we already know the answer to that is yes. Then I thought he meant, “Is Taylor Swift going to release a new album this year?” but we already know that she’s been too busy Frenching Tom Hiddleston around the globe to even bother recording. Then I thought he meant, “What, exactly, is in the Cheetos Chicken Fries from Burger King?” but the answer to that is clearly chicken and the ground-up remains of the Jersey Shore cast. (Seriously. Where is the Situation?)

No, he really meant, “Just what the hell is this season of AHS all about?” Well, we didn’t get many answers tonight. I figured for sure that the end credits would reveal a title like American Horror Story: Rednecks or American Horror Story: TLC Specials, or American Horror Story: P.M. Dawn Reunion Tour. Something. But we got nothing. Guess we’ll have to keep speculating.

As some people guessed, it has something to do with the Lost Colony of Roanoke. However, this premiere episode is formulated as an episode of a reality show called My Roanoke Nightmare that is very reminiscent of Ghost Hunters, Ghost Adventures, Paranormal State, and Sex Sent Me to the ER, which is the most haunting series ever produced. On the show within a show, a couple, Matt and Shelby, talk about returning to Matt’s native North Carolina from Los Angeles after he is senselessly attacked on the street. We only see them in talking-head videos while two actors play them in dramatic reenactments, just like any of those cheesy shows.

It’s actually quite a clever concept, and Sarah Paulson playing Lily Rabe is the most meta–Ryan Murphy thing that one could possibly imagine other than Chord Overstreet playing Ryan Murphy coaching a young Chord Overstreet when he arrives on the second season of Glee. But, just like on those paranormal shows, there is way too much walking around in creepy environments and not enough real scares. How long does Shelby have to sit in the world’s second-creepiest hot tub (have you seen the one at Brett Ratner’s house?) before we know she’s going to get attacked? Pretty long, actually.

Also, how dumb are Shelby and Matt? There are so many times that I would have sent Shelby the “you in danger, girl” GIF if she had been my friend. I mean, really. They go to an auction for this rickety, leaf-strewn house built in 1792 and it will only cost $22,000 and the only other people at the auction are three rednecks with teeth that would make an orthodontist crumple into the fetal position. Do they actually think that it’s fine to just move in?

I don’t know, that central staircase is pretty amazing, but look at all the other creepy features of the house: The windows look like a pair of boobs drawn by a high-school kid on a Denny’s restroom wall and those two porthole windows make the wall look like it’s staring at you all the time, like an architectural picture of Jesus that follows you around.

Then, when Shelby is eating her probiotic after her morning yoga, it starts raining teeth all over the house. Ugh, that is the most disgusting thing that I have ever seen and, yes, I have seen the hot tub at Brett Ratner’s house. Then, when Matt gets back from the store, Shelby just slowly walks out to his car and hugs him. Is that what yoga does to you, because I would be running out to his car like, “You motherfucker it is raining TEEEEEEETTTTTTTHHHHHHH!!!!!!!” Then I would lock myself in the car and not get out until he drove me to the closest Motel 6 where I would just become a cleaning lady and never leave that motel again because I do not want to live in a world where teeth rain out of the sky.

Matt has to go away because he is the world’s last remaining traveling salesman, but he doesn’t want Shelby to be alone after the hot-tub attack. Who does he call? No, not the female Ghostbusters (#NotAllMen). He calls his sister, Lee, a pill-popping ex-cop who hates Shelby. Yes, that will go over very well. Lee obviously is the best character because she is played by Angela Bassett and the only thing better than being played by Angela Bassett in your dramatic reenactment is Beyoncé agreeing to be your child’s godparent.

Unfortunately, Lee might be as dumb as Shelby because when they hear noises in the house, they decided to go investigate the basement. Okay, the only thing dumber than buying a house that looks like the set for a music video from Marilyn Manson’s country album is exploring the basement of said house. There are not enough “you in danger, girl” GIFs in the whole world.

And that is when American Horror Story basically turns into The Blair Witch Project. The movie is somehow playing on a hideously old television set in the basement, and when Lee and Shelby come back upstairs, little twig things are hanging all over the house. Then, Shelby does the first rational thing that we’ve seen her do: She gets in her truck and drives the hell out of there … only to run over an old woman, get lost in the woods, and discover more of those stick people hanging from the trees. Yes, I already saw Blair Witch and I know what happens, so why do I need to watch it again? Is FX so impressed with its Fargo remake that they’re just adapting old movies now?

That is the least of our many questions, because Ryan Murphy doesn’t really answer any in this episode. Who are these people with the pitchforks? Who is that dude with his scalp chopped off? Why should we be worried about guys with torches and pitchforks in the woods if we’re not Frankenstein’s monster? Is every episode going to be an episode of My Roanoke Nightmare? Just what are the monsters that we’re supposed to be afraid of? Ryan Murphy said he was going to answer some questions and he really didn’t. He just left us with a boring TLC show that features at least one Oscar winner. At least that’s more than we can say for Honey Boo-Boo.

American Horror Story Recap: A Roanoke Nightmare