The Ghosts of American Horror Story
American Horror Story season one is out now on DVD, with season two premiering tonight on Fox. Season 2 is an all new story with all new characters, but with Hallowe’en coming up we’re getting all misty-eyed reminiscing about the various ghosts which haunted the Harmon’s murder house. Check out these classics which AHS used to full effect.
Little Kid Ghosts
The Orphanage, The Shining, Don’t Look Now – all pant wettingly terrifying simply because they contain tiny ghosts. Would Donald Sutherland have gone mad in Venice if it was the ghost of his eighty five year old mother popping up in a red anorak? No. No he wouldn’t. Because a component of our fear of little ghosts is survivor guilt – adults simply shouldn’t outlive children. The subversion of everything childlike, innocent and sweet is one of the most chilling things a work of horror fiction can throw at you.
There’s just something about a spirit in Osh Kosh B’Gosh that is especially unnatural. Who can forget the creepy toddler in Pet Semetary, raised from the dead in his little velvet burial suit, his head patched together like an old broken doll? Brr. Toddlers and babies have jerky, awkward movements – stick them in a haunted house setting and they look like zombies in training.
In American Horror Story there are two types of Kid Ghost, the bratty little twins Bryan and Troy, and the murderous Infantata, the deformed monster baby who kills them, and others. Bryan and Troy are nasty and violent, and it doesn’t really help that they’re identical twins dressed in matching outfits. They make noises and break things, all the chaos of unbridled childhood and they can never grow out of it. The Infantata is just horrifying – Frankenstein’s baby, all twisted and unnatural, raking people to death with its claws and teeth. His own violent death (he was kidnapped, then murdered and dismembered when no ransom was forthcoming) was one of the most horrible episodes of season 1.
Ghosts are often used to represent societal taboos, and sexy ghosts are an easy way of using sexuality to torment those hapless fools who wander into horror stories. In AHS the iconic rubber suit is worn by no less than three separate ghosts, and the ‘rubber man’s’ identity remained hidden for most of the season. The mask served to de-humanise the character, as it was meant to de-humanise the submissive sex partner it was designed for. You don’t know who’s behind the mask, what they want, whether they’re happy, sad, murderous or terrified – that is until they try to rape you or drown you in a bucket.
The other sexy ghost in American Horror Story is the younger version of Moira, the maid who turns the head of Constance Langdon’s husband and finds herself shot and buried in the yard for her trouble. She represents the taboo of infidelity and is a constant reminder of the affair which still ‘haunts’ the Harmon family. Like most sex ghosts she isn’t based in reality but is hypersexual and changes to reflect whatever Ben wants at any particular time. The fact that she appears to him also as her older self mocks his middle-life crisis and his choice of a younger woman who is unpredictable and immature.
One of the most shocking moments of AHS season two comes when we see Violet’s twisted corpse hidden under the house weeks after her seemingly unsuccessful suicide attempt. She, and the viewer, have been blissfully unaware of her death, until the whole conceit of “ghosts see what they want to see” bites us in the ass just like it did in The Sixth Sense. (And in Ghost Dad, though to be honest they prised a few more laughs out of that one.) Tate shows her the truth, we realise why she hasn’t been leaving the house, and Violet does what any teenager does when they get some news they don’t like and sulks in her bedroom.
The clueless ghost is the most sly scare the writer can deliver, because it hits us hard. Why, we could be dead right now and might not know it! What if that’s us, cheerfully wandering around in spirit form not finding it odd that we haven’t left the house in days and feeling that no-one paying you any attention is a welcome relief from the usual nagging? Then suddenly you stumble across your own lifeless body, puffed up with the gas of liquefying organs and home to a thousand tiny insects which eat you from the inside out.
American Horror Story is out now on Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment. Season two begins tonight on Fox.