The long-awaited “American Horror Story” (AHS) season 6 premiere aired on FX this past Wednesday, Sept. 14, at 10 p.m. on FX, and with it came an end to the mystery as to what this year’s theme will be.
Past seasons of this popular horror anthology have been subtitled for the prime location where each story is set: Murder House, Asylum, Coven, Freak Show and Hotel. However, the moment the opening shots of the first episode of season 6 appeared on screen, it was clear this time around is going to be very different.
If you have not yet seen the episode, simply titled “Chapter 1,” and do not wish to get spoiled, stop reading now. The rest of this review contains specific elements of the show that have been part of the well-kept secret that co-creator Ryan Murphy utilized as marketing for this season.
Usually, AHS reveals each season’s theme months in advance, but fans were kept in the dark until the very last second this year. Over 20 teaser trailers were released on social media in the weeks prior to the premiere, but according to Murphy, only one had any real connection to the actual show while the rest were meant to deceive and distract viewers.
Now knowing the theme of this season, I can confirm that most of the teaser trailers were nothing more than strange short films that have no further place in AHS.
As for the theme and subtitle for season 6, it is “My Roanoke Nightmare.” The entirety of episode one was filmed in the style of a documentary television drama similar to “A Haunting,” complete with interviews with “real people” as well as a dramatic re-enactment with actors. “My Roanoke Nightmare” is not only AHS’s theme for the season but also the title of the show within the show.
AHS vet Lily Rabe (who in past seasons has played many extreme characters, from a possessed nun to serial killer Aileen Wuornos) portrays real-life Shelby, who narrates her story on camera. AHS fan favorite actress Sarah Paulson also returns in the episode as the actress who plays Shelby in the re-enactment. (Yes, it gets a bit confusing.)
Cooba Gooding Jr, who last starred with Sarah Paulson in Murphy’s other FX series “American Crime Story: The People v. O.J. Simpson,” also joins the AHS cast as the actor who portrays Shelby’s husband Matt in the re-enactment. And although both he and Paulson are now playing very different characters than their roles in “American Crime Story,” it is going to take a lot of getting used to seeing Marcia Clark and O.J. Simpson as a married couple.
The story of “My Roanoke Nightmare” follows Shelby and Matt as they leave the big city and move into a large country house in North Carolina. Local hillbillies, who wanted to buy the house and clearly have a problem with Shelby and Matt being an interracial couple, begin harassing them in the oddest ways imaginable.
“My Roanoke Nightmare” presents a scary story — something I believe has been missing from AHS since after “Asylum” — and a great cast. Other returning stars include Angela Bassett, Kathy Bates, Denis O’Hare and Wes Bentley.
Evan Peters and Cheyenne Jackson were also listed in the end credits despite being absent from the episode, indicating their roles will come later. Lady Gaga was also confirmed to be returning, however her name was not listed on the credits. Perhaps we will see her in a small cameo in a future episode.
The negative aspect of “My Roanoke Nightmare” is that it has cost AHS its signature tone. It does not follow suit with previous seasons. Maybe some will see this as a good thing, but this episode simply did not feel like the same show I have loved the last five years. It didn’t even have an opening credit sequence with the famous AHS musical score.
Admittedly, some similarities remain, such as fluid camera motions during long dolly shots, fantastic performances from cast members and plenty of weird and disturbing scenes. Several differences are also welcome ones. I cannot remember the last time before this episode that AHS included a good jump-scare.
Overall, season 6 has potential to be satisfactory. We as fans will just have to hope producers know where they are going with this. New episodes air on Wednesdays at 10 p.m. on FX.
View the newly released trailer for the rest of the season below: