The anthology series kicks off its second season with a twist on the creepy doll sub-genre

I’ve said it before: AMERICAN HORROR STORIES is the superior version of the AMERICAN HORROR STORY franchise. Year after year, …STORY has started with a strong, captivating concept and completely fallen apart just after the seasons half-way point. The strength in …STORIES lies in its succinct and to-the-point storytelling. Each episode presents its own one-off horror story, leaving little room for plotlines that go nowhere, lose ends that are never tied up, and the disappointment of a lame ending after a ten-episode season.

In its tradition of maintaining a repertoire of returning actors, HORROR STORY alum (and wildly talented) Denis O’Hare stars as Mr. Van Wirt, a wealthy widower and owner of a doll factory. He holds a pageant, of sorts, to find the perfect mother for his young, creepy son, Otis (Houston Jax Towe.) Enter Coby Rae (ingénue Kristine Froseth), an over-qualified job applicant who happens to be at the wrong place at the wrong time.

In typical HORROR STORY fashion the writers confuse “horror” with “horrific,” providing little-to-no suspense, instead utilizing shocking imagery to get a rise out of their audience. Not to say this tactic is completely ineffective; there certainly are a couple of memorable moments and some very unnerving goings-on. However, an attempt to comment on women’s domestic duties, gender roles, and whether it’s OK for little boys to play with dolls is begun…and completely abandoned.

I had resigned myself to embracing yet another HORROR STORY disappointment until the last two minutes of the episode when a surprising and clever revelation is made. However, as with the rest of the franchise, this twist continues the tradition of using plot devices to maintain its audience rather than captivating storytelling—also, the reveal relies completely upon being familiar with …STORY’s back-catalog.

Whether I like it or not, the franchise has made its mark on mainstream horror culture and isn’t going anywhere. Is it fun to watch? Maybe. Are there much better horror anthology series’ out there? Absolutely!

Ricky J Duarte

[He/him/his] Ricky is a writer, actor, and singer. He's also the host of Rick or Treat Horrorcast, a biweekly horror movie podcast. He lives in a super haunted apartment in New York City above a giant, spooky cemetery with his evil cat, Renfield, and the ghosts of reasons he moved to New York in the first place. www.RickOrTreat.com

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