ByPeter Flynn, writer at
An advocate for understanding the phenomenological wonder of the moving image. Also Tremors is the best.
Peter Flynn

Can American Horror Story really surprise anyone anymore? The show has established itself as one of the most weirdly aggressive, and to a degree, experimental things on TV. I see a dutch angle? Sure. I see some horrific violence that leads into tonal dissonance that another show wouldn't even attempt? Yeah ok. This is American Horror Story's bread and butter! With the approach of American Horror Story Season 5: Hotel, it's worth asking what American Horror Story has left to scare us! As I've already mentioned, the addition of Lady Gaga could be an effort to freshen things up, but lets take a look at what else American Horror Story: Hotel could do to surprise us.

Go realist

I understand that this is very nearly a crazy suggestion. American Horror Story is perhaps the least subtle thing on television, and suggesting it takes a measured, realistic and washed out approach sounds like an attempt to rob the show of its very identity. Yet, wouldn't that be kind of scary?

More of this look?
More of this look?

We've constantly been taught that this show has a crazy frenetic tone, and suddenly taking it away leaves us with perhaps the most frightening emotion of all; uncertainty. Movies like Ben Wheatley's Kill List are terrifying, for they present an emptiness that the audience infers their own fears on to. Now, the likelihood that we'll see this in any form in American Horror Story is very slim, but it's still a cool suggestion.

Go Surrealist

American Horror Story is weird, and sure as hell doesn't care about established convention, yet it's still a comprehensible narrative product. Now if Ryan Murphy really wants to freak us out, he should start to take away the pieces of logic that hold together the last of the show's sanity. Cues from the much beloved Twin Peaks wouldn't go amiss in Season 5, given that fans of American Horror Story seem to embrace their own weirdness. Imagine Hotel depicting a world where time and space broke down, death didn't matter, and bizarre and frightening images pervaded for literally no reason!

Kill off Lady Gaga

She'll be neat for a while...
She'll be neat for a while...

This is a very small suggestion, but it would be a neat way to throw fans a curve ball right away. The casting of Lady Gaga appeared to be the show reasserting the norm it abided by after the loss of Jessica Lange. What if that's all a ruse, and the stunt casting is only to set up a bigger shock when Gaga is killed off in the pilot. I won't go all the way and suggest that Jessica Lange should be brought back, but it's interesting to speculate upon the effect killing off such a huge star would have on the fandom.

American Horror Story was never about Scares

Admit it, when I offhandedly suggested that American Horror Story wasn't scary, you mentally shrugged and went "yeah okay". Sure, the show is chock full of horror elements; it's in the title! But you can tell that the show isn't actually about scares by how jovial and happy the fandom generally is. They're clearly used to horror as a genre, and American Horror Story plays to this knowledge. The show doesn't throw scariness at you; it celebrates it with you! If season 5 decides to continue enjoying horror rather than exhibiting it, this show can last on as long as the genre itself.


Is American Horror Story still scary?


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