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American Horror Story
Context and Season
Summary -
• The first season of 'American Horror
Story' is called 'Murder House' and
focus' on the Harmon family as they
move into said house as they are
dealing with the grief miscarriage and
infidelity. The family are unaware that
their new house was the site of nearly
two dozen gory deaths and that the
spirits of the deceased now roam their
home, unable to leave and causing
chaos and fear as they walk. As we are
taken through the season, we learn the
past of the ghosts in the house, plus the
future of the Harmon family and
unveiling a troubling truth.
Opening Scene –
Mise En Scene
• As the scene opens, a black background appears
with the sans-serif lettering of "1978". Next, we see
the back of a young girl who is wearing a pastel
yellow dress. This along with her short curly
hairstyle reinforces that this scene is set in the
1970's due to the stereotyped clothing that the
creators have chosen.
• Two young twin boys are also featured in the
scene, and they are wearing matching stripped t-
shirts. Not only does this convey the
era (1970/80's) that the scene is set, but
also highlights the fact that they are twins
as creators are following the stereotype that twins
wear matching clothing.
• The boys are also seen to be wearing braces,
Opening Scene –
Props + Location
• The season is set in a Victorian mansion that is in Los Angeles.
During the opening scene, the house is seen to be very broken
down and abandoned, featuring broken windows and being covered
in vines. Its deserted nature is further implied through the
overgrown grass and weeds that surround the house. Having this
distinct location gives the scene an eerie and suspenseful theme
which supports the genre and nature of the series.
• Props played a huge part in bringing the sinister nature of the
series together. The opening scene included props such as the
baseball bats the twins used to smash the abandoned mansion;
having these expresses the boys chaotic and destructive energy.
The twins were also seen to be throwing snapping explosives.
• The glass jars filled with body parts and other concoctions also
added to the scene as they leave the audience wondering the
history of the house. An audience is likely to find this disturbing,
therefore conveying the theme of the series, but also acting as
a grabber as they are wanting to know How? What? When? and
Why?
Sound -
• In the opening scene features the asynchronous, non-diegetic sound of the 1926 record
"Tonight You Belong To Me". This song is globally known to be featured in multiple horror film
and series; this therefore instantly puts fear into the audience as they are aware of what the
song represents. Also, the lyrics in the song conveys the intention of what is going to happen
further into the scene.
• The pleonastic sound of the snapping toys the twins carry around play a key role in creating
a feel of mystery; this is the pairs signature sound as the wonder around the mansion.
However, when the boys go into the basement, an inference is made that something has
happened to one of the boys when the snapping stops. This highlights the power of sound as it
leaves audience on edge as to what has happened without visually witnessing the event.
• The diegetic sound of the dialogue between the young girl and the twin boys infers that
something is in fact going to happen to the boys. The young girl states "Excuse me, you are
going to die in there", which forebodes the pairs inevitable deaths that will occur further into the
scene. The boy's response also craetes a sense of irony as they believe that the girl is lying.
• The pleonastic ambient sound of the twins smashing the house adds to the chaos that is
occurring in the scene, making it an intense watch for an audience due to the overwhelming
sound.
Lighting
• Natural lighting is used at the beginning when
the first interaction between the young girl and
the twins takes place of the scene as it is set
outside, so therefore makes the scene look
realistic.
• As the twins enter the deserted mansion, lowkey
lighting is used. This is due to the lack of
electricity in the house which reinforces
its uninhabited nature; the darkness also gives
the house the unearthly feel it has within it.
• Going into the basement, the dark lowkey
lighting paired with the high-key lighting of the
torch manages to reflect on the cobwebs that fill
the basement. Having the detail of the reflective
cobwebs infers the ancientness of the mansion
due to the sheer amount of dust and cobwebs it
is covered in.
• Spotlight lighting is used when in the last clip of
the scene when the last twin is attacked. The
lighting focuses on the creature that is lunging
towards the camera, giving the audience a clear
view of one of the supernatural beings that is
within the house.
Camera, Angle +
Movement
• The opening scene begins as a low angle shot while the camera tilts upwards into a tree. The camera then rapidly cuts
to another low angle shot of the mansion and the young girl standing in front of it; having this type of shot accentuates
the sheer size of the house and at the same time, making the girl look smaller. Also, with the use of the zooming in
effect, gives the audience the feeling that they are entering the gates of the home.
• This is followed by an establishing shot of the house; this gives the audience a clear view of the home and therefore
displaying where the episode is going to be set. Having this wide shot also allows the camera to capture
the overgrown trees, grass and vines that cover the house; this underlines the desertedness of the home.
• As the twins enter the scene, they are captured in a two shot. This highlights the closeness of the relationship, making
it so when they pair are inevitably separated by death, the audience will feel a further sense of distress. The shot also
captures the pairs key prop of their baseball bats.
• We are also met with a POV shot. However, it is seen to be from the perspective of one the ghosts that haunt the
house. We can assume this because as the twins move the camera looks as though it is chasing after them. This
gives a spooky theme to the episode as we are made aware of supernatural beings being within the house before
actually meeting them. As the scene goes on, more POV shots are put in place but from the perspective of different
ghosts from around the house and as this is.
• A close-up shot is used to bring attention to the animals and body parts that are in the dozens of jars that are in the
basement, highlighting this such as the minor details of the wrinkles on one of the head that lay within one of the jars –
doing this makes the body parts seem more realistic and in turn gorier.
• After searching for his brother, there is then a constant switch from a low and shot to a high angle shot feature each of
the twins, one of which has just been attacked. Having this low angles shot of the dying boy highlights his lack of
control and vunerablity in the situation. This is also reinforced by the high angle shot of his brother, pointing out
the difference between them.
• The scene then cuts to the same low angle establishing shot of the house and the young girl, however this time the
camera is zooming out, leaving the gates of the house where the boys will stay for eternity.
Opening Credits
• The opening credits play after the first scene of the episode. Within the credits firstly features a POV
camera shot, moving as if were a person crawling around what we assume is the murder house. The
camera the disappears into what looks to be a dark basement. Then a fast-paced cut is made, and pictures
of multiple Victorian babies appear on the screen, flashing between each other, while also catching on fire.
An intense eerie music mixed with almost industrial sounds are put over the credits too, synchronising to
the pace that the clips cut. The pictures also quickly flash between being unedited to then having an x-ray
filter placed over them
• The credits also feature the same jars of body parts that we see in scene one of the episode. Having
this highlights that they are a key part of the storyline within the season as the same introduction is placed
in every episode of the season. As the jars are being shown through faced past clips from different angles,
shots of broken glass is shown too. This leaves the audience wondering if the glass is the broken jars.
• The series has its own recognisable sans serif font that is used throughout the opening credits to introduce
the main cast. The cast and creators are put on a black background in the white signature font. Having this
font makes the show easily identifiable
• As the credits come to an end, all photos, jars and clothing are now seen to be on fire; the unrealistic
nature of the opening credits reinforces the abnormal theme of the series.

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American Horror Story Episode Analysis -

  • 2. Context and Season Summary - • The first season of 'American Horror Story' is called 'Murder House' and focus' on the Harmon family as they move into said house as they are dealing with the grief miscarriage and infidelity. The family are unaware that their new house was the site of nearly two dozen gory deaths and that the spirits of the deceased now roam their home, unable to leave and causing chaos and fear as they walk. As we are taken through the season, we learn the past of the ghosts in the house, plus the future of the Harmon family and unveiling a troubling truth.
  • 3. Opening Scene – Mise En Scene • As the scene opens, a black background appears with the sans-serif lettering of "1978". Next, we see the back of a young girl who is wearing a pastel yellow dress. This along with her short curly hairstyle reinforces that this scene is set in the 1970's due to the stereotyped clothing that the creators have chosen. • Two young twin boys are also featured in the scene, and they are wearing matching stripped t- shirts. Not only does this convey the era (1970/80's) that the scene is set, but also highlights the fact that they are twins as creators are following the stereotype that twins wear matching clothing. • The boys are also seen to be wearing braces,
  • 4. Opening Scene – Props + Location • The season is set in a Victorian mansion that is in Los Angeles. During the opening scene, the house is seen to be very broken down and abandoned, featuring broken windows and being covered in vines. Its deserted nature is further implied through the overgrown grass and weeds that surround the house. Having this distinct location gives the scene an eerie and suspenseful theme which supports the genre and nature of the series. • Props played a huge part in bringing the sinister nature of the series together. The opening scene included props such as the baseball bats the twins used to smash the abandoned mansion; having these expresses the boys chaotic and destructive energy. The twins were also seen to be throwing snapping explosives. • The glass jars filled with body parts and other concoctions also added to the scene as they leave the audience wondering the history of the house. An audience is likely to find this disturbing, therefore conveying the theme of the series, but also acting as a grabber as they are wanting to know How? What? When? and Why?
  • 5. Sound - • In the opening scene features the asynchronous, non-diegetic sound of the 1926 record "Tonight You Belong To Me". This song is globally known to be featured in multiple horror film and series; this therefore instantly puts fear into the audience as they are aware of what the song represents. Also, the lyrics in the song conveys the intention of what is going to happen further into the scene. • The pleonastic sound of the snapping toys the twins carry around play a key role in creating a feel of mystery; this is the pairs signature sound as the wonder around the mansion. However, when the boys go into the basement, an inference is made that something has happened to one of the boys when the snapping stops. This highlights the power of sound as it leaves audience on edge as to what has happened without visually witnessing the event. • The diegetic sound of the dialogue between the young girl and the twin boys infers that something is in fact going to happen to the boys. The young girl states "Excuse me, you are going to die in there", which forebodes the pairs inevitable deaths that will occur further into the scene. The boy's response also craetes a sense of irony as they believe that the girl is lying. • The pleonastic ambient sound of the twins smashing the house adds to the chaos that is occurring in the scene, making it an intense watch for an audience due to the overwhelming sound.
  • 6. Lighting • Natural lighting is used at the beginning when the first interaction between the young girl and the twins takes place of the scene as it is set outside, so therefore makes the scene look realistic. • As the twins enter the deserted mansion, lowkey lighting is used. This is due to the lack of electricity in the house which reinforces its uninhabited nature; the darkness also gives the house the unearthly feel it has within it. • Going into the basement, the dark lowkey lighting paired with the high-key lighting of the torch manages to reflect on the cobwebs that fill the basement. Having the detail of the reflective cobwebs infers the ancientness of the mansion due to the sheer amount of dust and cobwebs it is covered in. • Spotlight lighting is used when in the last clip of the scene when the last twin is attacked. The lighting focuses on the creature that is lunging towards the camera, giving the audience a clear view of one of the supernatural beings that is within the house.
  • 7. Camera, Angle + Movement • The opening scene begins as a low angle shot while the camera tilts upwards into a tree. The camera then rapidly cuts to another low angle shot of the mansion and the young girl standing in front of it; having this type of shot accentuates the sheer size of the house and at the same time, making the girl look smaller. Also, with the use of the zooming in effect, gives the audience the feeling that they are entering the gates of the home. • This is followed by an establishing shot of the house; this gives the audience a clear view of the home and therefore displaying where the episode is going to be set. Having this wide shot also allows the camera to capture the overgrown trees, grass and vines that cover the house; this underlines the desertedness of the home. • As the twins enter the scene, they are captured in a two shot. This highlights the closeness of the relationship, making it so when they pair are inevitably separated by death, the audience will feel a further sense of distress. The shot also captures the pairs key prop of their baseball bats. • We are also met with a POV shot. However, it is seen to be from the perspective of one the ghosts that haunt the house. We can assume this because as the twins move the camera looks as though it is chasing after them. This gives a spooky theme to the episode as we are made aware of supernatural beings being within the house before actually meeting them. As the scene goes on, more POV shots are put in place but from the perspective of different ghosts from around the house and as this is. • A close-up shot is used to bring attention to the animals and body parts that are in the dozens of jars that are in the basement, highlighting this such as the minor details of the wrinkles on one of the head that lay within one of the jars – doing this makes the body parts seem more realistic and in turn gorier. • After searching for his brother, there is then a constant switch from a low and shot to a high angle shot feature each of the twins, one of which has just been attacked. Having this low angles shot of the dying boy highlights his lack of control and vunerablity in the situation. This is also reinforced by the high angle shot of his brother, pointing out the difference between them. • The scene then cuts to the same low angle establishing shot of the house and the young girl, however this time the camera is zooming out, leaving the gates of the house where the boys will stay for eternity.
  • 8. Opening Credits • The opening credits play after the first scene of the episode. Within the credits firstly features a POV camera shot, moving as if were a person crawling around what we assume is the murder house. The camera the disappears into what looks to be a dark basement. Then a fast-paced cut is made, and pictures of multiple Victorian babies appear on the screen, flashing between each other, while also catching on fire. An intense eerie music mixed with almost industrial sounds are put over the credits too, synchronising to the pace that the clips cut. The pictures also quickly flash between being unedited to then having an x-ray filter placed over them • The credits also feature the same jars of body parts that we see in scene one of the episode. Having this highlights that they are a key part of the storyline within the season as the same introduction is placed in every episode of the season. As the jars are being shown through faced past clips from different angles, shots of broken glass is shown too. This leaves the audience wondering if the glass is the broken jars. • The series has its own recognisable sans serif font that is used throughout the opening credits to introduce the main cast. The cast and creators are put on a black background in the white signature font. Having this font makes the show easily identifiable • As the credits come to an end, all photos, jars and clothing are now seen to be on fire; the unrealistic nature of the opening credits reinforces the abnormal theme of the series.