American Horror Stories: “Rubber (Wo)man” Review

Nearly 10 years since the original premiere, spinoff series American Horror Stories debuted by taking us back to their iconic Murder House!  While this series is meant to an anthology itself, with each episode being its own story, it opened with a two part story that almost feels like a 90 minute movie with a beginning, middle, and poignant (as always) end.

Serial Killer Origin Story (Minor Spoilers)
Appearing to be set in modern day (which would put it 10 years after the first season of AHS), we meet 16 year old Scarlett (Sierra McCormick) and her dads (Matt Bomer and Gavin Creel) as they move into the infamous Murder House.  Her dads’ (who remain supernaturally skeptic) plan to renovate the house and open it as a tourist attraction, which they hope will yield huge financial returns.

However, Scarlett is in the midst of her own sexual awakening/discovery, which accelerates when she finds the S&M suit in her room (the same one Tate enjoyed wearing).  After baring her soul to someone who turns out to be a bully, Scarlett goes down a dark path that leads her committing several murders.  Though to be fair, you’re rooting for her most of the time.

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Most people would probably wanna clean this first before putting it on. Then again, she does kind of look like Black Widow, which is badass.

New Murder House?
While the house very much is the same, it’s honestly surprising (though quite refreshing).  The most we really get in reference to the parent series is a mention of another psychiatrist, a flash of the redhead twins, and a brief snippet of The Piggy Man.

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It always had dead bodies though, these are just new ones…

As more ghosts are added, and develop their own dynamic, we can’t help but speculate that different “eras” of ghosts tend to stick together.

Those from the Langdon/Harmon era seemed to bond, and many of the characters introduced here form a strange camaraderie, even though some were murdered by others present.

Poignant Horror
AHS has always thrived best when it was character driven, and we got satisfying and emotionally poignant endings to their stories.  Look no further than the season finales of Asylum, Freak Show, or 1984 for strong evidence of that.

AHS 21
There was definitely potential here for better family drama, but her parents didn’t really get enough screen time or enough of an arc to really flesh it out.

And while this series’ nature prevents story/character arcs from dragging on episode after episode, it wasn’t always easy to connect to these characters.  However it didn’t seem like the runtime was the issue.  Essentially, Scarlett just felt like a new version of Violet (their names even sound similar).

To be fair, Scarlett was taken to interesting places in just two episodes that Violet never got to go to.  But her dads, her bullies, her ghost girlfriend, and even the therapist all just felt like pale imitations of characters we’ve seen done much better in the first season of AHS.  Granted they weren’t always subtly written or acted back then, and they definitely aren’t now.

AHS 20
Paris Jackson (left) and Kaia Gerber (right) may come from very famous families, and have huge name recognition among an Instagram-savvy audience. But neither is really known for acting and it definitely shows…

The ultimate result is a decent TV movie that is really interesting when we’re seeing Scarlett become a serial killer, but probably won’t have the same lasting power as the original season of AHS.  Ultimately, it probably wasn’t super necessary to even revisit Murder House, as we’ve done so several times thus far.

But it is something of a staple of the series, so it’s no surprise that this show kicked off with it.  All that said, the beauty of this format is that each new episode is a new opportunity to tell a (hopefully) different and new story.

What did you think of the series premiere of American Horror Stories?  What do you hope to see in later episodes?  Let us know in the comments!

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American Horror Stories is streaming on FX on Hulu


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