Disclaimer: I started watching American Horror Story (@AHS) quite religiously from the moment season 1 came out. I followed half of that season and I thought it was amazing. I was about to convert but then I saw the rest of it. I saw the first episode of the second season. I saw a couple of episodes of the second last season and I watched the last season whole, just to be sure. The rest is history.
When it comes to horror there is not a lot available on television. In fact there hasn't been for a while. Gone are the days where we cherished a screening of the Twilight Zone or the Outer Limits. I am specifically referring to the revivals of these shows (circa early 90s) as I am an 80s baby. Each episode left us in awe. These two shows were particularly great because not only were they well filmed but also the skill of the writers was self evident. They managed to tell us so many stories in their time that no one can argue that these shows deserved to be on television. The love and effort of the people involved in these creations was demonstrated in each episode.
Initially, I thought this article would be a solid rant about @AHS but in order to write a less emotional and more logical analysis I decided to not pen down anything immediately. Instead, I decided to mull over my experience and let things come to me. Even though the motivation for this is the horror that is @AHS, I'll be discussing the state of horror television in general and how it is getting raped. If anybody still has any doubts, I'd like to clarify that I think the last season of @AHS was pitiful. scratch that I think the whole show is. The last season was a horrible piece of story-telling. It suffers from the classic case of i-know-horror-no-seriously disease. The show is full of gore, not once did I think there was anything scary about it. Watching gaga prance around in the woods for the first few episodes was confusing. Rest of it was intestines. I couldn't help but think that I had wasted 10 hours of my life.
Now, some of people classify gore as a sub-genre of horror, but I would then ask you; is the purpose of Horror not to scare you? Some scares may disgust you too and yet some others that may shock you. Fear is the pre-condition if you want to treat gore as it's sub genre. The key thing is that the scare is always there, how it is manifested and what other emotions it may invoke in the audience is open. As evident it is from shows like @AHS, Gore can exist without horror and therefore a case can be made that gore is a B-grade genre that should stand on its own and attract it's own particular viewership. Utilising it as tool in the horror genre should be limited to accentuate situations that are relevant and where it makes sense.
So, maybe these guys are doing too many drugs or not enough. Either way, I am not sure what is going on. What I am certain of is that I am definitely not on the same prescription and this is not horror but in fact a gore-drama. @AHS was particularly bad this last season, because not only is it obvious that the writers didn't put any effort they recycled the same bloody story thrice in the same season. Can you believe it? Imagine having to sit through a listening session of a boring story not once but thrice and you can't leave because as soon as you get up to leave somebody claims that the food is about to be served. If there is anything worthy in this series it is the fact that it has a good cast, but the actors lose a bit of respect, simply by association. Anybody claiming that this is some sort of artistic expression is either part of the crew or down right delusional.
Having said that, assuming most of the show's representative audience online is real people and not bots, it is wonder worthy as to why the people who watch it, watch it. I suppose each to their own. I think people have different perceptions as to what horror is. Some people simply prefer gore, blood and brutality and that is just the way it is. I don't get it but that is the world we live in. Hopefully, all the ratings and positive reviews are from bots and if so there is still hope for the world.
Some people might claim that The Walking Dead (@TWD) is a horror show too. I'd beg to differ. I am a die hard fan of the series, comics, books and television. Yet I do not think it would be fair to classify it as a horror series. It is thriller at best. True that, just like @AHS, @TWD also has loads of gore, but there is a lot of good writing behind it. It is not always in your face. You see glimpses of the gore in passing. Context is key here.
The last good horror show I saw was Penny Dreadful. It had the right elements of tension, suspense and the appropriate thrills. The story was solid and the narrative drew just enough from historic fiction and folklore to maintain relevance. Too bad it got cancelled.
So what is going on. Maybe it is the lack of choice that is lowering our standards. Perhaps we are a bit more accepting than we ought to be. Maybe the production companies have a lot of money to burn. Or perhaps, our society has degraded to the point where such filth appeals to us. It seems like for horror television all good things do not last but the bad things are eternal. I sincerely hope that it changes.