Season Review: American Horror Story Roanoke

Having been unspired by Ryan Murphy's previous series like Nip/Tuckand Glee before, American Horror Story never managed to hold my attention. The sixth season American Horror Story: Roanoke was my first full rodeo with the FX success, and what he churned out was not exactly what I expected.

Matt and Shelby Miller purchase a farmhouse nestled on the mysterious land of the famous Roanoke colony. By moving to a new place, they hope to start over and mend their broken relationship. Instead their issues are nothing compared to what haunts them when their house acts as a magnet for paranormal activity. The duo share their tale in a fictional documentary My Roanoke Nightmare which re-enacts their experiences.

Combining two genres at once, American Horror Story: Roanoke is impressively a show within a show within a show - practically like the Inception of Ryan Murphy's creations.

My Roanoke Nightmare morphs from dramatic recreations into documentary when the Millers and all of the re-enactment actors return for a reality series Return to Roanoke: Three Days in Hell. Locked together in the old abandoned house, who and what the couple previously survived comes back with a savage vengeance.

Both Roanoke installments especially engaging is what feels like two sets of casts. Andre Holland and Lily Rabe capture the hesitant confessional vibe found on most ghostly docudramas, while their re-enactment portrayals are increasingly dramatized by Sarah Paulson and Cuba Gooding Jr. When the reality tv aspect steps in, there's a satirical contrast between their performances and as celebrities/actors - (especially Paulson - give her all the awards please!) but also AHS elite like Kathy Bates, Angela Bassett, and Lady Gaga.

Even though Murphy typically utilizes great casts, his content of sex and violence can often be a veil over thin storytelling. Here the violence is gruesome but isn't an onslaught without a purpose. The documentary duplicates the melodramatic and slow-burning tone of ghostly encounters series. And, then the reality tv part is sprinkled with creative commentary about pop culture, over-the-top personalities and motives of Hollywood stars, and so much more. It helps that a lot of the gore here is hodge-podged from other familiar movies/shows like Blair Witch Project, Paranormal Activity, Big Brother, and Ghost Adventures. Though Roanoke uses bloodshed to keep up the action and tension, its well-balanced by the writing.

I can't adequately compare if this season fell in line with it's predecessors, but on it's own, Roanoke was right up my alley. Much to my surprise, Murphy's wild supernatural probe fares to be shocking, gruesome and entertaining. There's a lot to revisit this season for clues, horror and humor, and may even give earlier seasons another chance too.

Rating: ★★★
What did you think American Horror Story: Roanoke?
Which season should I try next?

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