Review: American Horror Story: Roanoke (Episode 1)

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80%
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Intriguing

With an exciting new plot device and some good old fashioned jump scares, the AHS Season 6 opener definitely told tales of greater things.

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American Horror Story: Roanoke has landed, and though it is not at all what I predicted, it was still nice and scary. The cast and crew managed to keep whole new levels of schtum (we’re talking Jon Snow levels of secrecy here), and it worked wonders. Ambiguous and heart thumping, the episode raised more questions than it answered; exactly as a series opener should.

The first episode of AHS revealed a few things about the plot for the rest of the season, but there is a whole lot there to play around with. A couple of things did go bump in the night, but all these shifty figures are nothing more than dramatizations. “My Roanoke Nightmare” is the name of the docudrama capturing the happenings unfolding for the Miller couple, after they move to Roanoke Island – the former home of the Lost Colony.

The lead roles are taken by a quartet of talent; AHS-veterans Lily Rabe and Sarah Paulson as Shelby, and Cuba Gooding Jr. and Andre Holland as Matt. The former represent the ‘real’ people; the latter are re-enacting the events. Shelby’s character instantly caused suspicion and exaltation, with two of AHS’s most prized leading ladies returning, working both separately and together in a unique and interesting symbiotic relationship. Meanwhile both Gooding Jr. and Holland provide worthy additions to the cast, and Matt’s sister, former police officer Lee, sees the return of Angela Bassett and the entrance of Adina Porter as her ‘real’ counterpart. Surely Billie Dean Howard will pop up somewhere; potentially actors and ‘real’ counterparts will overlap and perhaps Howard fancied herself as an amateur actress after her stunt in reality TV. This new plot device could really be used in a million different ways.

So far, there have only been mere glimpses of a bedraggled Kathy Bates, Denis O’Hare, and possibly Wes Bentley, but a large chunk of the characters, including Lady Gaga’s, are yet to be introduced. This series sees a far more tight-knit cast, and the first episode has acted as a solid foundation from which to build upon. This confusing can of worms may just make for one hell of a series. The docudrama aspect isn’t so much frightening as it is unnerving, adding unreliable narrators and questions of authenticity to the elements of horror in the plot ingeniously, honing temperaments of suspicion and caution.

And it was scary. Lights dimmed, eyes watering, pillow clutching; it felt like a return to something rustic and raw after the luxury and epic murder mystery surrounding the Hotel Cortez. AHS has come full circle, replacing the stylish integrity of Hotel with the unknown and spooky history of the first settlers in the US. The first episode back was intriguing, and felt like a creeping step in the right direction. Here’s hoping the docudrama does not become a tired gimmick, but a worthy pairing to the horror genre. We can forgive Matt and Shelby a few rookie horror victim mistakes – i.e. staying in a weird house that is obviously being viciously targeted, never mind if it’s by ghosts or humans – if their series turns out to be a cracker.

American Horror Story: Roanoke airs on FOX UK at 10pm on Fridays. 

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