TV Series Review : American Horror Story – Murder House

“The Devil is real. And he’s not a little red man with horns and a tail. He can be beautiful. Because he’s a fallen angel, and he used to be God’s favourite.”

Here we are, the season I’ve been comparing all the others to. The first and original: Murder House.

American Horror Story: Murder House (originally titled as American Horror Story) is the first season of the FX television series American Horror Story, aired in October 2011 (who knew we’d be still watching 5 years later).

It centers on the Harmon family: Dr. Ben Harmon (Dylan McDermott), Vivien (Connie Britton) and their daughter Violet (Taissa Farmiga), who move from Boston to Los Angeles after Vivien has a miscarriage and Ben has an affair with Hayden (Kate Mara), one of his students. They move into a restored mansion, unaware that the house is haunted by its former residents and their victims.


The Harmons face many conflicts going on in their new home; the primary one stemming from Ben Harmon’s adultery, and the subsequent fallout with his wife Vivien and daughter Violet. Other conflicts include the intrusive behavior of the neighbors, Constance (Jessica Lange) and Adelaide (Jamie Brewer), as well as intrusions from one of Dr. Harmon’s patients, Tate (Evan Peters). A parade of mysterious visitors to their haunted home, including the scarred Larry Harvey (Denis O’Hare) make the first year of the Harmons in Los Angeles very dangerous. The house seems to have a vivid history, ranging from brutal murders to demonic manifestations, and it seems to have its own agenda.


I remember when I watched this season for the first time I thought it was amazing, I was so intrigued by this new series and wondered where it was going to lead me. After watching 5 seasons now, everyone has come to understand that there’s always an underlying secret at work and you spend each episode trying to figure out what’s going on. But in the first series you were relaxed, you had no idea what was coming or how deep all this went. No idea the level of history there was to the house and how much shit the Harmons were really in.

All the reveals I thoroughly enjoyed, whether it was revealing Moira’s actual appearance or Tate’s true self, I was surprised by them all. What I found funny about the Harmons was it appears that they’re supposed to be unlikeable. Ben was such a terrible husband, psychiatrist and father and the amount of mistakes he made was laughable. And both Vivien and Violet were so blind to everything and pretty annoying. It made you want to see bad events happen to them, which isn’t necessarily a negative thing because it made for entertaining TV. There’s no way in hell this family was made to be relatable unless you’re a rich hipster family who can move on a whim to a hundred year old house rich with history, just to save your marriage.


The history of the Murder House is fascinating; we get to see many of the residents’ backstories and how they came to be there. I thought it would be only right to list my favourites below (contains spoilers):

Firstly, Moira O’Hara (Frances Conroy/Alexandra Breckenridge).


Of course like everyone I found Moira sexy as hell, and probably in the following seasons that’s how she would’ve stayed. The revelation that there are two sides to Moira was huge. It was explained that she was seen by men as a young, seductive character because that’s how she was seen in life, but in death she was who the women saw, a sad and regretful old woman. It seems that her seductive character wasn’t an act she chose to put on but simply just how men saw her. As she described it “women see into the soul of a person”. When I think of her, I always think of one line she said to Contance: “I don’t want to be here anymore! I’m frightened! I miss my mother!”

Up next, it’s the original owners: a crazed surgeon, Charles Montgomery (Matt Ross), and his wife, Nora (Lily Rabe).


Charles Montgomery built the house for his wife, so he’s the one who started all this madness. Murder House didn’t get off to a good start because after the first family there had been numerous illegal abortions, a dead child brought back to life through reattaching dismembered limbs, and the couple’s bitter marriage ended in murder. All these events lead to the never ending madness of Charles Montgomery to continue. The story links him to the famous 1940s Black Dahlia case. It shows us a dentist had raped Elizabeth Short while she was under anesthesia, only to find he had administered too much and she died. Charles then appears in all his ghostly glory and violently mutilates her body. What interested me about their backstory was how long it spanned. Charles always leaps at the opportunity to be a crazed surgeon and their son, Thaddeus is still around when the Harmons move in. It was interesting to see where the ghostly happenings began, and it’s easy to see why.


Finally, Tate Langdon (Evan Peters).


Tate is the most popular character, for sure. I get it, Evan Peters is cute. But Tate Langdon is evil. It’s revealed in his backstory that his murder wasn’t really a murder at all, but really something he deserved. It turns out that he was part of a Columbine style school shooting, where he mindlessly gunned down students. In the Halloween episode where we learn that spirits are free to roam where they please, we see the faces of his victims who try desperately to get him to answer why did he target them. What did they do to deserve having their young lives so abruptly ended? Unfortunately for them, Tate claims he doesn’t remember what happened and as we know up until recently he hadn’t even accepted that he was dead. Out of everyone he probably has the best lines and his walk into the school shooting looks badass. But just as Violet doesn’t understand, and many people who see him as a simple heart-throb character don’t get is that he’s the Devil. He pretends to be sweet and naïve when he’s the hand at work making everything happen. I mean, he’s literally the father of The Antichrist for god sake. But we can all ignore that for his pretty face, can’t we?


Overall, Murder House is the original, and for the first season of a show it did remarkably well. It paved the way for series to come but it was in my opinion, definitely the best. It had surprise, intrigue, and it wasn’t afraid to be graphic.


  • Sally Powell

    Editor/Writer - Stay at home mum educating the horror minds of tomorrow. If it's got vampires or Nicolas Cage in it, I'm sold. Found cleaning bums or kicking ass in an RPG. (And occasionally here reviewing all things horror and gaming related!)

American Horror Story – Murder House
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