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HORROR/SCI-FI TV RESEARCH
American Horror Story
Context
Iconic thriller series, “American Horror Story” (AHS) first aired on the 5th
of October 2011, on US cable network FX. The first of 11 (with a twelfth
due to release summer 2023) seasons, named “Murder House”, made
horror fans around the world fall in love with the show, some would say
Ryan Murphy’s show ‘revolutionized what was possible in the world of TV
horror’.
Each season follows a new set of characters, in a new setting within the
same fictional universe (this is discovered as audiences notice recurring
characters or themes as new seasons are released). Some plot elements
of each season are loosely inspired by true events. Actors such as Sarah
Paulson, Angela Basset and Evan Peters have been featuring in AHS
seasons throughout their careers, with Evan Peters starring in the most -
100 episodes.
Though some series have had varied reviews, AHS has been well received
by television critics, with many actors receiving awards for their
performances. Since the franchises huge success, they have created
"American Horror Stories", and episodic spin off to the original show.
House style of AHS
Throughout all 11 seasons, AHS has sustained it’s house style created in
season 1. Using the same recognisable font and eerie backing music in each
opening credit. Fans of the show recognise this instantly and know what they
can expect to see.
Unlike conventional opening credits, AHS never shows their characters,
instead they use montages of objects that correlate to the season, for
example there is images of people in hoods for the opening credits of series
“Coven”, based on witches, this season explores ideas of racism and other
topics considered ’taboo’. Actors names appear in AHS’ signature font –
overlaying the video playing behind it. The final pieces of text shown are
often the title “American Horror Story” and the season’s name, and then
finally the creators names: Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk.
Pictures
used
in
the
”Coven”
opening
credits.
Camera
To begin the scene a low angle is used, showing a tree, the angle emphasizes it’s size whilst also
conforming to conventions of a horror TV show. A wide establishing shot is used to show the audience the
house this season will be based on, instantly the house becomes recognizable. A young girl stands in front
of it as the camera slowly zooms in. The camera cuts to a wind catcher hanging off the tree, which is made
of animal bones, again keeping to conventions of horror shows. An over the shoulder is shown of the girl
watching the house, it then cuts to a long shot of the girl becoming startled by a pair of twins. Upon
entrance an extreme close-up of the pair’s faces is used as they inspect their surroundings. The pilot
episode is filled with handheld camera movement as it follows behind a pair of twins trashing an
abandoned house, creating an eerie vibe amplifying the horror aspects of the show. Throughout the scene
many two shots are used showing the twins and the destruction they’re causing. Some low angle shots are
used to make the twins seem bigger than they are, as if they have the power & control in this house,
though we come to realise they were indeed not in control, the angles were used to deceive the audience.
A POV shot is used to show a racoon, newly injured, followed by a low angle shot showing the twins
fascination. An extreme close-up is used to show the racoon still breathing and the fresh blood pouring
onto the floor, again amplifying the horror and causing fear in the audience.
Mise en scene
Throughout this scene there is a mix of both ambient and low-key lighting used, ambient lighting
commonly used whilst filming outside and low-key lighting used inside the abandoned house amplifying
the dark eerie vibe of the setting.
The setting is fitting with its genre: a creepy, old abandoned house. It is engulfed in overgrown plants and
vines creating the idea that the house is alive and is working alongside the vegetation. The house is
surrounded by a large trees with long arms, highlighting the idea of supernaturalness & the house being
alive. The grass bordering the house is outgrown, suggesting the house has been abandoned and
neglected for a while.
Characters in this scene include a pair of twins and a young girl who has down syndrome. They are all
dressed in clothes popular in the 80s, with the twins wearing striped polo necks, bell bottom jeans with a
belt and converse, and the young girl wearing a pastel yellow dress with white polka dots – reflecting the
time this scene was set in (late 1970s/80s). The characters have traditional 80s hair cuts, the boys sporting
a longer hair do, whilst the girl has a curly style. This sets the scene and the audience understand when
this scene was set.
Many props are used throughout this scene, the most prominent being the baseball bats the twins are
wielding. They use these to destroy anything they find in the abandoned house, including lamps, chairs,
tables, etc. Another prop used throughout this scene is the boys’ ‘Bang Snaps’, which make a loud
pop/crack when thrown onto the floor. These props amplify their rebellious ways & teenage hood.
Sound
The scene begins with non-diegetic, violin music playing, as the setting is shown, creating a sense of mystery
as well as suspense. It is accompanied by the pleonastic sound of clanking of the wind catcher made of bones
hitting one another. The non-diegetic music grows louder and deeper until there is a pleonastic sound of a
stone breaking through a glass window. The non-diegetic music emerges again when the boys enter the shot.
The diegetic speech “Hey freak”, represents the ablest attitude of the era. This scene is set in 1978, just
before the great social change of the 80s. One of the twins begins kissing at her, the sound is exaggerated
therefore is pleonastic. Indeed, this reinforces the ablism and mocking attitudes towards those with
disability. Diegetic speech is exchanged between the three, until the boys finally entering the house whilst
the girl repeats “you’re gonna regret it”. The non-diegetic chord music begins again, setting the scene,
audiences recognise that this suggests casualties may occur. Upon the first shatter of furniture (again,
pleonastic sound) a song begins playing, the song’s title is : ’Tonight you belong to me’, this foreshadows the
boys inevitable demise in the house. The 50s hit has been used in many pieces of media such as comedy
“The Jerk” in 1979.
The song continues playing as the boys destroy everything in sight, every shatter of furniture uses pleonastic
sound, exaggerating their destruction. Diegetic groans are used to show the extent of destruction and effort
they’re using to destroy everything. The song ends as a twin finds a dead racoon, implying their fun is now
over.

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AMERICAN HORROR STORY TITLE SEQUENCE ANALYSIS

  • 2. Context Iconic thriller series, “American Horror Story” (AHS) first aired on the 5th of October 2011, on US cable network FX. The first of 11 (with a twelfth due to release summer 2023) seasons, named “Murder House”, made horror fans around the world fall in love with the show, some would say Ryan Murphy’s show ‘revolutionized what was possible in the world of TV horror’. Each season follows a new set of characters, in a new setting within the same fictional universe (this is discovered as audiences notice recurring characters or themes as new seasons are released). Some plot elements of each season are loosely inspired by true events. Actors such as Sarah Paulson, Angela Basset and Evan Peters have been featuring in AHS seasons throughout their careers, with Evan Peters starring in the most - 100 episodes. Though some series have had varied reviews, AHS has been well received by television critics, with many actors receiving awards for their performances. Since the franchises huge success, they have created "American Horror Stories", and episodic spin off to the original show.
  • 3. House style of AHS Throughout all 11 seasons, AHS has sustained it’s house style created in season 1. Using the same recognisable font and eerie backing music in each opening credit. Fans of the show recognise this instantly and know what they can expect to see. Unlike conventional opening credits, AHS never shows their characters, instead they use montages of objects that correlate to the season, for example there is images of people in hoods for the opening credits of series “Coven”, based on witches, this season explores ideas of racism and other topics considered ’taboo’. Actors names appear in AHS’ signature font – overlaying the video playing behind it. The final pieces of text shown are often the title “American Horror Story” and the season’s name, and then finally the creators names: Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk. Pictures used in the ”Coven” opening credits.
  • 4. Camera To begin the scene a low angle is used, showing a tree, the angle emphasizes it’s size whilst also conforming to conventions of a horror TV show. A wide establishing shot is used to show the audience the house this season will be based on, instantly the house becomes recognizable. A young girl stands in front of it as the camera slowly zooms in. The camera cuts to a wind catcher hanging off the tree, which is made of animal bones, again keeping to conventions of horror shows. An over the shoulder is shown of the girl watching the house, it then cuts to a long shot of the girl becoming startled by a pair of twins. Upon entrance an extreme close-up of the pair’s faces is used as they inspect their surroundings. The pilot episode is filled with handheld camera movement as it follows behind a pair of twins trashing an abandoned house, creating an eerie vibe amplifying the horror aspects of the show. Throughout the scene many two shots are used showing the twins and the destruction they’re causing. Some low angle shots are used to make the twins seem bigger than they are, as if they have the power & control in this house, though we come to realise they were indeed not in control, the angles were used to deceive the audience. A POV shot is used to show a racoon, newly injured, followed by a low angle shot showing the twins fascination. An extreme close-up is used to show the racoon still breathing and the fresh blood pouring onto the floor, again amplifying the horror and causing fear in the audience.
  • 5. Mise en scene Throughout this scene there is a mix of both ambient and low-key lighting used, ambient lighting commonly used whilst filming outside and low-key lighting used inside the abandoned house amplifying the dark eerie vibe of the setting. The setting is fitting with its genre: a creepy, old abandoned house. It is engulfed in overgrown plants and vines creating the idea that the house is alive and is working alongside the vegetation. The house is surrounded by a large trees with long arms, highlighting the idea of supernaturalness & the house being alive. The grass bordering the house is outgrown, suggesting the house has been abandoned and neglected for a while. Characters in this scene include a pair of twins and a young girl who has down syndrome. They are all dressed in clothes popular in the 80s, with the twins wearing striped polo necks, bell bottom jeans with a belt and converse, and the young girl wearing a pastel yellow dress with white polka dots – reflecting the time this scene was set in (late 1970s/80s). The characters have traditional 80s hair cuts, the boys sporting a longer hair do, whilst the girl has a curly style. This sets the scene and the audience understand when this scene was set. Many props are used throughout this scene, the most prominent being the baseball bats the twins are wielding. They use these to destroy anything they find in the abandoned house, including lamps, chairs, tables, etc. Another prop used throughout this scene is the boys’ ‘Bang Snaps’, which make a loud pop/crack when thrown onto the floor. These props amplify their rebellious ways & teenage hood.
  • 6. Sound The scene begins with non-diegetic, violin music playing, as the setting is shown, creating a sense of mystery as well as suspense. It is accompanied by the pleonastic sound of clanking of the wind catcher made of bones hitting one another. The non-diegetic music grows louder and deeper until there is a pleonastic sound of a stone breaking through a glass window. The non-diegetic music emerges again when the boys enter the shot. The diegetic speech “Hey freak”, represents the ablest attitude of the era. This scene is set in 1978, just before the great social change of the 80s. One of the twins begins kissing at her, the sound is exaggerated therefore is pleonastic. Indeed, this reinforces the ablism and mocking attitudes towards those with disability. Diegetic speech is exchanged between the three, until the boys finally entering the house whilst the girl repeats “you’re gonna regret it”. The non-diegetic chord music begins again, setting the scene, audiences recognise that this suggests casualties may occur. Upon the first shatter of furniture (again, pleonastic sound) a song begins playing, the song’s title is : ’Tonight you belong to me’, this foreshadows the boys inevitable demise in the house. The 50s hit has been used in many pieces of media such as comedy “The Jerk” in 1979. The song continues playing as the boys destroy everything in sight, every shatter of furniture uses pleonastic sound, exaggerating their destruction. Diegetic groans are used to show the extent of destruction and effort they’re using to destroy everything. The song ends as a twin finds a dead racoon, implying their fun is now over.