American Horror Stories: “The Naughty List” Review

Part of the fun with slashers is that even if characters are unlikeable, it becomes easy to root for the killer to get them one by one.  That seems to be what the latest episode of American Horror Stories is attempting, although its execution isn’t great.

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You’re definitely rooting for them to die from the first scene…

Bro House
Opening with perhaps the most annoying and obnoxious people ever seen in AHS history, the “influencers” collectively known as Bro House are annoying and extremely unpleasant. They’re not written to be liked, but they’re also not written with an ounce of nuance or subtlety.

You can have characters that are terrible people, but they’re still written and performed in an entertaining manner.  Look no further than the main characters of Seinfeld or It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.  The members of this college-less fraternity are just off putting, both intentionally and unintentionally so.

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They’re definitely intended to be terrible people. But terrible people can still be well-written, which they are not.

Obsessed with their social media following and paid sponsors, the irritating members of Bro House go out of their way with stunts and pranks to gain more viewers.  However, when they film someone’s suicide on a bridge, they face a pretty extreme backlash.

This leads them to try and “redeem” themselves by being horrible people at the mall by visiting Santa at the mall, sexually harassing the young woman playing the elf, and mocking a little person, all in the span of a few minutes.

Killer Santa
As it turns out the mall Santa (played brilliantly and creepily by Danny Trejo) doesn’t take too kindly to their antics, and vows that these bros will “get what they deserve”.  Trejo’s killer Santa is probably the only real reason to watch this episode, and sadly he doesn’t get much screen time.

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Trejo was featured prominently in the advertising for this series, so it’s a little disappointing that he’s not the focus of the episode, and only appears on screen for a few minutes.

The episode is at its best when it’s in full slasher mode.  Some of the kills are fun and creative, but out of its 38 minute runtime, this entire sequence is only about the last 10.

As far as killer Santas go, AHS has done this before but better in Asylum.  This is in no way meant to compare Ian McShane and Danny Trejo’s performances, because honestly Trejo isn’t featured here enough to really get an accurate gauge.

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To be fair, the series does always have great production design.

Hits vs. Misses
We’re now 4 episodes into this 7 episode miniseries, putting us just past the halfway mark.  “The Naughty List” is without a doubt the worst of the season thus far, but the two part premiere also left a lot to be desired.  With 1 hit (“Drive In”) and 3 misses, American Horror Stories may prove to be a failed experiment.

The series always thrived when it had interesting characters, and when they only have one episode to deliver an arc, it seems like they struggle with it.  Hopefully these pessimistic ramblings turn out to be proven false.

What did you think of this episode? How do you feel about the series overall?  Let us know in the comments!

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New episodes drop every Thursday on FX on Hulu

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