It’s a new season for American Horror Story! Our beloved campy horror anthology series returns with another twist; the double feature! Double features appeared during the Great Depression as a way to boost ticket sales. The premise is simple: rather than show a single film to an audience you show two. Two full length features. As this applies to AHS Season 10, we get two distinct parts. While it’s unclear whether or not there will be any overlap (traditional double features are completely separate films) between the parts, we do know that some of the same cast will be coming back to different roles in Part 2. So, let’s crack into Episode 1, “Cape Fear”!
The episode begins with desolate and lonely shots of sand dunes and the ocean. The lighting is cold and flat. We’re given that this is not a beach goers paradise or even a cozy haven to escape to during the off season. A dark SUV drives down an empty road and we are introduced to our main characters. A family. White and upper middle-class by the look of the car and the clothes. In fact, it might as well be a nuclear family stereotype. We have the dashing husband, the blonde (and pregnant) wife and young daughter. The family is escaping life in the city -presumably NYC or possibly Boston – to find a quiet place for the husband Harry Gardner (played by Finn Wittrock) to find inspiration. Harry is a screenwriter and is under pressure to turn out a script to end all scripts. Harry’s wife, Doris Gardner (played by the amazing Lily Rabe), while unsure of the move, is supportive and is hoping that the move will help her interior decorating business get off the ground. Their daughter, Alma, has a disturbing habit of counting the number of roadkill that the car passes.
We find out that the family is temporarily moving to Provincetown, MA and it’s the winter months. Like most New England beach towns, the winter is the off season and we are again shown empty streets and boarded up houses; their owners having flocked to warmer climates in the south. As the family moves into their P-town house, we are led to believe that this house, like Murder House, Hotel and to a degree, Roanoke, is its own character. Time will tell if that pans out. But what we do see very quickly is that not all of the residents are as normal as they appear. There’s a distinctive “haves” and “have nots”. Throughout the episode, ideas on success, addiction and sacrifice are explored. There’s also something with red lights which I am interested to see more of.
As you would expect from AHS, we have fantastic acting. Aside from Finn Wittrock and Lily Rabe portraying a convincing husband and wife who are struggling to find success and recognition, we have some stellar performances. Sarah Paulson as the addict Karen has a great intro. I also want to call out the fantastic makeup done on her. I didn’t even recognize her at first. Evan Peters as the hot playwright Austin Sommers who also happens to have a great signing voice. Frances Conroy delivers another subtle but powerful performance as Sarah Cunningham, a writer with a great pseudonym. We even get great, if brief appearances by fellow AHS veterans Leslie Grossman and Adina Porter.
Episode 1 delivers a solid performance and setup for Part 1 of season 10.