The Review at a Glance: (max score: 5 )
Audio/Video total rating:
( Max score: 100 )
Studio and Year: 20th Century Fox - 2011
MPAA Rating: NR
Feature running time: 532 minutes
Disc Format: BD-50
Encoding: AVC (MPEG-4)
Video Aspect: 1.78:1
Audio Format(s): English DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French
Starring: Jessica Lange, Connie Britton, Dylan McDermott, Taissa Farmiga, Evan Peters, Frances Conroy, Denis O’Hare, Kate Mara, Lily Rabe, Morris Chestnut, Alexandra Breckenridge, Zachary Quinto
Directed by: Various
Music by: James S. Levine
Written by: Brad Falchuk & Ryan Murphy
Region Code: A
Blu-ray Disc release Date: September 25, 2012
Brace yourself for an addictive thrill ride! American Horror Story is TV's most original new drama, a deeply stylish psychosexual haunt devised to keep you on the edge of your seat. The Harmon's (Dylan McDermott, Connie Britton) fresh start in a new home deviously twists to reveal discoveries of love, sex and murderous revenge. Featuring a Golden Globe® -winning performance by Jessica Lange, Season One scares up a host of engrossing extras.
My wife and I watched several episodes of American Horror Story during prime time and found it interesting. Conceptually speaking I like the idea of building a TV series around a horror based theme with dramatic elements. The continuing storyline revolves around, The Harmons, a family in crisis that moves from Boston to Los Angeles hoping to leave their problems behind. Unfortunately theirs aren’t the type of problems that go away. Ben and Vivian suffered the loss of their unborn child and while coping with the range of emotions that entails he has a fling, and literally gets caught with his pants down. Their teenage daughter Violet is depressed, angry and suffers from the type of teen angst which leads to trouble at school and darker paths that are as yet undiscovered.
Ben locates an old Los Angeles mansion which is priced well below market value which is large enough to allow him to run his psychiatric practice from home. Upon arrival at the house the real estate agent informs them (as required by law) that the previous owners of the house, a gay couple, died in a murder suicide. Vivian and Ben move in and begin to set up house. Their relationship is still suffering from the effects of his infidelity and they struggle to coexist. Meanwhile Violet is having bullying issues at school.
Through flashbacks we see that the house, built in the mid 1920’s, was originally the home of a doctor and his wife. The doctor performed illegal abortions on women in the basement. They along with their infant son died tragically in the house which was the beginning of a series of disturbing and violent deaths that occurred in the house throughout the years. The remnant of those horrific events lingers and its pervasive darkness looms over all those that take up residence there.
American Horror Story setups things up very well as each episode follows the Harmon’s disturbing evolution from seeming ordinary familial dysfunction to unwitting victims/hosts of the evil lurking in the confines of their home. Secrets abound as a variety of characters are introduced, each with a role to play, the question is, are they living, dead or somewhere in between?
I don’t want to divulge too much about the story as it is best seen with no real knowledge of who, what, where, and when. The episodes we saw last season were right in the middle of the series which left us out of the loop so we gave it up. Watching from the beginning made all the difference. The show does a great co-mingling the Harmon’s personal problems with the building storyline involving the house, its history and the paranormal activity they face. New characters are introduced both via flashback sequences and current timelines and all are nicely tied in. Little is explained up front but all is revealed throughout the 12 episode season.
There are twists, some we saw, some we didn’t and the creepiness factor is well done. This is most definitely an adult show where elements of sexuality, gory violence, and other mature themes are explored. It features an excellent ensemble cast, headed by Jessica Lange (in her Emmy winning role), Connie Britton, Frances Conroy, Denis O’Hare and Dylan McDermott as well as several guests that capably add to the dark intrigue. I didn’t find the finale wholly satisfying but there are no real unanswered questions. Season one stands on its own with no specific tie into season two which airs on October 17th on FX. We’ll be watching and look forward to what this season has in store.
Season One’s 12 episodes are spread over three BD-50 Blu-ray Discs that come housed in a standard amaray style case with slipcover that contains a flip type insert to hold the discs. Here is the list of season one’s episodes:
- Home invasion
- Murder house
- Halloween part 1
- Halloween part 2
- Piggy, piggy
- Open house
- Rubber man
- Spooky little girl
- Smoldering children
The show contains thematic material, sexual content, partial nudity, violence/disturbing images and language.
AUDIO/VIDEO - By The Numbers:
REFERENCE = 92-100 / EXCELLENT = 83-91 / GOOD = 74-82 / AVERAGE = 65-73 / BELOW AVERAGE = under 65
**My audio/video ratings are based upon a comparative made against other high definition media/blu-ray disc.**
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)
- Low frequency extension:
- Surround Sound presentation:
- Dialogue Reproduction:
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)
- Black level/Shadow detail:
- Color reproduction:
American Horror Story: The complete first season comes to Blu-ray Disc from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment featuring 1080p AVC encoded video that has an average bitrate of 22 Mbps and lossless DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio sound that has an average bitrate of 3.4 Mbps.
This 1.78:1 framed video presentation offers good high definition resolution that has a filmic texture that works aesthetically well with the show’s theme. Images are stable and relatively sharp with plenty of discernible texture and revealing fine detail during close-ups. Many of the show’s sequences are shot in uneven and low lighting. Grain tends to take on more prominence during these segments which sometimes left backgrounds appearing a little muddled. For the most part Shadow delineation and depth is quite good. Blacks have excellent dynamic range and contrast is slightly elevated but is never a detriment to fidelity. Colors are snappy and bright and sullen and muted where appropriate. Fleshtones appear descriptive with variable depth that brings out the finest gradations in the differing complexional types among the cast. Other than a little digital noise against a few dark backgrounds I didn’t notice any overt instances of video related artifacts.
The DTS-HD MA soundtrack features crystal clear dialogue, robust dynamics and a subtle, yet enriching surround sound mix. I was pleased with its use of spatial dimension and directional cues to create an apropos and occasionally immersive sound field. This worked hand in hand with show’s music, and active sequences to build tension and drive its thematic elements. I thought it sounded quite good.
- Audio commentary by Ryan Murphy on Pilot episode
- (HD) Behind the fright: The making of American Horror Story – 24 minute featurette
- (HD) The murder house presented by Eternal Darkness Tours of Hollywood – 6 minutes faux tour of the mansion
- (HD) Overture to horror: Creating the title sequence – 9 minute featurette
- (HD) Out of the shadows: Meet the house of ghosts – 15 minute featurette
American Horror Story is a compelling, well written and envelope pushing TV Horror/Drama that works on a variety of levels. It successfully ties together a series of storylines that delve deep into the rabbit hole that the Harmon family has fallen into. It makes its way to Blu-ray from 20th Century Fox featuring excellent high definition video quality, rewarding lossless sound and a complimentary assortment of bonus supplements that looks behind the scenes while offering insights from the cast/crew. I watched all twelve season one episodes with my wife. We are hooked and eagerly look forward to the premiere of season two on October 17th. If you enjoy a spooky good time, check out American Horror Story on Blu-ray.
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