After months of mystery around the theme of Season 6 of “American Horror Story” on FX, viewers were rewarded with “My Roanoke Nightmare” in a delightfully scary and intriguing premiere episode.
The story of a couple who experience a violent event and move to an increasingly creepy house in the country of North Carolina is told in the style of a “true-story” documentary with talking-heads style interviews.
The documentary cuts between actors depicting the tale’s events on screen and the real-life couple, Shelby and Matt Miller, portrayed by Lily Rabe (“The Merchant of Venice”) and Andre Holland (“The Knick”). The couple is attacked during a gang initiation in Los Angeles, and after she loses her baby, they outbid the creepy local Polk family for a 10-acre property in the North Carolina woods. The reenactors playing Shelby and Matt are Sarah Paulson and Cuba Gooding Jr., reunited on screen after their critically acclaimed performance in “The People vs. O.J. Simpson.”
Because we know they survive the ordeal, it could be argued that the fact that the real Shelby and Matt Miller are alive to tell the tale of the horrors they experienced kills the tension of what’s to come. But perhaps like the new Lady Gaga song claims in the teasers for the season, this is all a “perfect illusion,” for nothing is what it seems so far.
Between teeth falling from the sky as rain, a creepy home video depicting a Pig-Man, ghostly appearances in the house, a sinister drowning attempt in a hot tub, strung up stick figures reminiscent of those in the “Blair Witch Project,” and Kathy Bates (“Misery”) appearing in colonial garb before disappearing in the woods where the ground pulsates as if it is breathing, nothing is clear except that this season is returning to building tension from atmosphere rather than placing emphasis on shock-value moments.
To the frustration of many viewers, the episode did little to clarify what the season’s actual theme will be and lacked the creepy introductory sequence of former seasons.
Returning cast members billed but not yet seen include Evan Peters, Dennis O’Hare, Lady Gaga, Wes Bentley and Cheyenne Jackson, and their role in the drama to come is exciting to ponder. Creator Ryan Murphy has said that the season will be shortened from the normal 13 episodes to just 10 and moved the premiere and finale dates up so the season will end in November rather than near the holidays. Murphy told Vanity Fair that “Roanoke” will be more “dark” and “rouge” than the last season, “Hotel,” was.
In a show that is constantly reinventing itself, this season furthers the mystery that keeps viewers theorizing what new horror will emerge to enthrall us all.