We’re back at the now infamous aging Gothic mansion colloquially known as Murder House as American Horror Story spinoff American Horror Stories Episode 1 begins (almost 10 years to the day the parent series premiered), introducing us to a new family and a new horror story.
The legends surrounding Murder House are infamous. As its namesake suggests, people have been dying there and becoming ghosts for decades. Even in-universe characters know to fear the Murder House as it remains a firm part of the haunted tour through Los Angeles.
It’s actually the house’s eerie reputation that entices its newest
buyers. Michael (Matt Bomer) and Troy (Gavin Creel) are interested in renovating Murder House and turning it into a tourist trap appealing to those who like staying at haunted Airbnbs and partaking in slumber party massacres.
The opening scene introduces us to Michael, Troy, and their daughter Scarlett (Sierra McCormick) in a scene reminiscent of when we first met the Harmon family in 2011, right down to the close-up of that creepy bone wind chime. I also don’t think it’s a coincidence that Violet and Scarlett both have colorful names, although, in this instance, it might just be a reference to McCormick’s fiery red locks.
American Horror Stories Episode 1 puts a new family in Murder House’s thrall
Either way, it’s interesting to see the contrasts between the Harmons and this new family. While the Harmons thought Murder House would be a refuge and a fresh start, Michael, Troy and Scarlett travel to the house knowing full well what atrocities have been committed there. They don’t believe in it, at least not the paranormal activity part. “We believe in science, in this house,” Troy says.
Almost all the most memorable assets of the first season reappear here (except Tate, sorry, Evan Peters fans), including the Infantata, the twins, and the Rubber Man. In this case, there is no mystery as to who the Rubber Man is because Scarlett finds the suit and becomes the Rubber Woman, instead.
Like Violet before her, Scarlett struggles to acquiesce to the move and fit in at her new school. She’s gay (although not fully out, but she’s not not out either), outspoken, bold, and her red hair makes her stick out like a sore thumb. Combined with her new residence, you can see why she becomes a target for the mean girls at school.
Complicating things further is Scarlett’s complex sexuality. She enjoys watching hardcore BDSM porn with people in humiliating and unpleasant situations. It’s something Scarlett’s dads are aware of, and she previously promised them she was done looking at it, but they catch her in a lie by having an IT guy investigate all websites access on their home server. One of them even asks Scarlett whether she’s more interested in sadism or masochism. Then they make her go to therapy.
Well, we know therapists and Murder House get along like a house on fire, so it’s not too surprising that Merrin Dungey’s therapist gets brutally killed not long after she’s conducted her first session (yes, her character sticks around as a ghost and makes a cute joke about not being the only therapist here, “I have to fight for hours!”). And let’s spend a second here discussing said family session. Troy and Michael reveal that Scarlett was once kidnapped as a child. She was missing for 10 whole days before being reunited with her dads.
Sometimes her dads wonder if Scarlett has some latent trauma that has caused her disturbing fascination with sexual violence despite Scarlett claiming not to remember anything from those 10 days and the fact she came back without a scratch on her. American Horror Stories Episode 1 doesn’t spend much time on this little factoid, so I wonder if it might come back up in the second part of this story.
The therapist brings up an interesting point regarding Murder House. We, as viewers, know it is haunted. But in the case of Scarlett, does she fall prey to the rubber suit because she’s in a place where dark things have happened and that darkness has invaded her psyche? When she wears the suit, her eyes go black as if she’s possessed. In those moments, she gives in to those dark desires brewing under the surface.
American Horror Stories Episode 1 ends with a bloody massacre
Given all of this, it’s not surprising that Scarlett is shocked when the cool, popular, blonde Queen Bee Maya (Paris Jackson) shows interest in her and appears to be something of a kindred spirit. She’s not rattled when Scarlett confesses to being grounded because she accidentally stabbed her dad (while running around in a rubber suit as a “prank”) and even considers it hot and hardcore.
But just like Violet, Scarlett is bullied and humiliated by Maya and her friends. Maya lures Scarlett to a slumber party under the pretense of a hot hookup, making her believe that she’s interested in her.
Then she turns on her, basically doing the 2021 equivalent of a bucket of pig’s blood at prom. Maya toys with Scarlett’s emotions, fully aware of her crush and convinces her to open up about being a virgin and even her interest in hardcore BDSM, only to reveal that her friends have secretly been filming and livestreaming the entire thing from her closet. It likely would have gone even further had Scarlett’s only friend, Shanti (Belissa Escobedo), not texted her repeatedly to warn her!
Devastated, Scarlett retaliates against Maya and her friends by blackmailing them into visiting her at the Murder House. Earlier in the episode, Scarlett questions whether fear or shame prevents people from achieving their biggest desires. She believes it’s shame and proves that hypothesis when she brutally murders Maya and the other three girls in the Murder House basement, where so many have died before them.
Later, she admits to her dads that it’s the sadism in the porn she watches that interests her. No kidding.
What did you think about American Horror Stories Episode 1? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.
The first two episodes of American Horror Stories are now streaming through FX on Hulu. New episodes debut weekly.