Warning: Spoilers for Season 6 of American Horror Story below. You've been warned.
American Horror Story Season 6 has been the talk of the internet for some time now with over 26 teaser trailers released in the build-up suggesting potential themes for upcoming episodes. However, the showrunners stated only one trailer would reveal the true theme.
And now, with the release of the first episode we officially have that theme: My Roanoke Nightmare. We will delve into what that means exactly in moment, but having viewed the opening episode, something even more interesting than theme has presented itself: How this season is being told.
Perhaps taking influence from Netflix’s hugely popular Making A Murderer, as well as the found-footage horror conventions of The Blair Witch Project, this season of AHS presents itself in the format of a true-crime documentary show, complete with character interviews and dramatic re-enactments.
This is an incredibly interesting approach and a massive departure from the traditional narrative framing of previous seasons as it allows us, even in these early days, to make several predictions of what is in store for future episodes. In the spirit of that, we are going to be looking at five, yes five things fans can expect from the show as a direct result of this documentary style presentation.
1. Expansive Mythology
While other seasons have dealt thematically with pseudo-historical American horror genres such as insane asylums, freak shows and murder hotels, this season is the first to potentially deal specifically with a real-life historical event: the Roanoke Colony.
Being presented in true-crime format, this allows for a grittier, factual plot for our viewing pleasure.
So what exactly is — or more accurately — was the Roanoke Colony?
The Lost Colony was founded on Roanoke island in North Carolina in the late 16th-century. During the Anglo-Spanish war, three years after the last shipment of supplies from England had been sent, the colonists disappeared.
English settlers sent to check on the colony discovered it wiped from the map, save from a few skeletal remains. However, intent on making the colony work, the English settlers stuck around and attempted to found a second township in replacement of the first. This one also disappeared without a trace, the only clue to what had transpired was a single word carved into a fence post: “CROATOAN.”
The most popular theory is that the settlers didn’t disappear at all, instead they decided to leave the island and live with the natives, who, adding to the validity of the theory, were named Croatoans.
However, because of the strangeness of the events, the story of the Lost Colony has been played off countless times as having a supernatural origin.
AHS taking on this topic is quite interesting as it is a well-documented mystery in American history and allows for the writers to draw from a pretty expansive collection of theories to create their backstory mythos. Considering the documentary-style the show is now taking, we could be in for some heavily realistic folk horror.
2. The Plot Will Be Stronger
Viewers may find that AHS will be steering away from its usually graphic “Style over substance” approach. The narrative conventions of “based on a true story,” dramatic re-enactments and character interviews means that some of the more heavily stylistic choices made in the past simply won’t be an option for 2016's outing.
AHS has in the past made some pretty bizarre style choices, ranging from musical numbers to crazy graphic vampire orgies. If the show wishes to remain true to its non-fiction structuring, they will be limiting themselves as to what they can and cannot do in this context.
Rather than that being a negative, this could actually work heavily in AHS’s favor. I have written before about how AHS’s plotting often leaves much to be desired, however, having less access to the wild artsy and gore-filled abandon of previous seasons, the show’s writers will be forced into being much more concise in how they tell the story, making the overall narrative tighter and stronger as a standalone piece.
3. There’s Going To Be A Lot Of Creepy Found-Footage Horror
In this week’s episode we saw Cuba Gooding Jr’s character set up surveillance cameras all around the spooky house the story is set in. We’ve already begun to see a little bit of the found-footage horror via his smartphone, but most likely this is something viewers can expect a lot more of. With the constant threat of home-invading rednecks carrying torches and ready to commit all sorts of blasphemous pagan rituals, the story is ripe for some extremely tense moments viewable through cell phone camera’s and surveillance footage
Although this is possibly a marketing tactic being used to ride the success of found-footage horror in the wake of a Blair Witch sequel being announced, the grainy black and white images of our heroes running around their demonic property is going to be very intense and emotionally driving.
4. We Know Who Survives
Probably one of the more fascinating aspects of this new narrative convention is the use of character interviews. Throughout the episode, the real-life counterparts of the story’s characters sit in front of a camera periodically and narrate their experiences in full-blown interview style.
What this means is that we know Cuba Gooding Jr, Sarah Paulson and Angela Bassett most likely will survive at least long enough to tell their tale. While this seems to remove some of the suspense from the show, tonight’s episode was still surprisingly spooky and held a lot of suspense. It will be interesting to see how this plays out in the coming weeks.
5. A Meta Twist
Lastly, No. 5, which is a kind of caveat to No. 4, is that while we seem to know who’s going to survive, AHS is a show that has been known in the past to take a rather meta approach to their storytelling.
For the uninitiated, "meta" in this context refers to a creative work that is self-aware and will do things like refer back to itself, break narrative rules, and in general play around with and twist the status quo of its genre — be it a TV show, film, novel, or game.
We could potentially see a narrative shift midway through the season in which the real-life counterparts take center stage and find themselves hunted in real time while being filmed by the makers of My Roanoke Nightmare.
Being a literature student myself, I’m a huge fan of meta-fictive writing and the deconstruction of conventional storytelling, so AHS's take on this could be pretty fascinating.
So there you have it, my top five guess-timations for this upcoming season. It’s still early in the game, and much more will undoubtedly be uncovered, but for a show that I have such a love-hate relationship with, Episode 1 has been a solid edition to their portfolio and one that has raised a great amount of questions in my mind, which is always a good thing for a show to do.
How much do you know about the real-life serial killers that inspired American Horror Story? Check out the video below to see the chilling facts:
What do you think? Let me know in the comments below.