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American Horror Story Review Seasons 6-11

Updated: Feb 1

Please proceed with caution, this is the only specific content warning in the article and the topics covered range from the bizarre to the downright evil.


All American Horror Story season posters put together

American Horror Story, an FX anthology show created by Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuck premiered in 2011. The co-creators began work on AHS before their hit show, Glee, began and stated they both had an interest in the horror genre. Since its inception the show has taken viewers to various locations and time periods to explore fear, the bizarre, and the grotesque-both visually and conceptually. The eleven and a half season show has won awards and garnered respect and acclaim alike over the course of it's tenure on TV. I'll dive into more about the season's history and foundational information in the part two article which will be my focus in February 2024.


AMERICAN HORROR STORY MARATHON REVIEW


The AHS series belongs to the bigger American Story franchise that includes an AHS spinoff titled American Horror Stories also loosely inspired by real life events and an entirely separate show called American Crime Story. This article and the following two parts will go over each season of American Horror Story briefly including a review after recently rewatching. This first article will go over seasons 6-11 and the next will go over 1-5.


American Horror Story S6 up next header

Rather than start on a high note with the widely agreed upon "best" seasons, those being 1-5, and then slowly go down the weird, windy path of later seasons this starts with seasons 6-11. Since season 12, Delicate, is currently not finished premiering that will be the last portion posted to social media and combined with my ranking before rewatching and then my ranking after this rewatch.


NOTICE: from this point on the video will contain spoilers for season 6-Roanoke, 7-Cult, 8-Apocalypse, 9-1984, 10-Double Feature, and 11-NYC.


American Horror Story S6-11 spoilers ahead image

NOTICE: from this point on the video will contain spoilers for season 6-Roanoke 7-Cult, 8-Apocalypse, 9-1984, 10-Double Feature, and 11-NYC.


The sixth season premiered in 2016 and maintains a 57% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes of over 1K reviews. Following the media coverage of Hotel’s glitz, glamor, and star studded appeal, FX and the creators warned of a completely different direction. Not even confirming an official cast list or theme even the location gave no hints as it is the first and only time an entire set was built from scratch just for the season.


American Horror Story S6 promo campaigns

After dropping multiple teaser trailers that all hinted at wildly different themes teasing that only one would be the actual theme, fans went into a frenzy on social media apps like Tumblr and Twitter to dissect and theorize.  Unfortunately for fans and FX alike, TMZ leaked photos from the set that included features that made the new season’s theme very obvious, the word ‘Croatoan’ carved into a tree and time period specific items. 


This leak in addition to the Lost Colony of Roanoke being featured in season one and mentioned by the creators as a possibility in the past made the secret theme a poorly kept one.


American Horror Story S6 set leaks

Suspicions quickly got confirmed with the season focusing on the colony but more specifically the house and land occupied atop the land which the colony had been suspected of disappearing from. 


Now haunted by ghosts from multiple generations who died at the hands of both the Butcher and her ghost colony, the house’s history is revealed throughout key plot points during the season.


American Horror Story S6 Roanoke house history

SOME KEY POINTS IN THAT TIMELINE ARE:

  1. 1500s to 1585 the Roanoke Colony led by John White settles in North Carolina 

  2. John White’s wife Thomasin is left in charge while he travels back to homeland 

  3. Fast forward and after the colony moves inland it falls apart post animal sacrifices to a witch Scáthatch and the Butcher kills everyone and binds the ghosts to the land during the Blood Moon

  4. Every year during the Blood Moon they roam and make a sacrifice

  5. Their assumed disappearance is mentioned in season one also as an example of ghosts successfully banished

  6. 1792 Edward Phillipe Mott, ancestor of season 4 characters Gloria and Dandy Mott, purchases the remote land and builds the home on it

  7. He is killed by the Butcher and her colony during the Blood Moon

  8. 2014 Shelby and Matt, who we open the season with, purchase the home and believe the worst thing about it is the potentially racist Polk family of hillbillies nearby


American Horror Story S6 characters

The first part of the show we’re following is a reality-based TV show about a couple who moved to the house after a violent attack in LA only to discover the house is haunted. We also meet Lee, Matt’s sister and her daughter Flora who stays at times. 


Actors who later become characters as themselves, Audrey, Monet, Agnes, Dominic, and Rory portray the family’s story and how they barely escaped from the land in a reality show called My Roanoke Nightmare. 


American Horror Story S6 show in a show

This transitions into the present day following a producer’s efforts to get all of the actors and the “real” characters back to the house to film a season two after the first’s success. 


American Horror Story S6 other media

Most of the season follows the real events as they unfold through cameras set up in the house by the show’s crew and handheld cameras given to the cast. Other video footage is also included to provide additional context like news coverage, trial footage, and even season 2 character Lana Winter’s TV interview of Lee.


American Horror Story S7 next up all covers


Despite its experimental shortcomings the core story isn’t bad and Adina Porter gives her all to her portrayal of Lee and Sarah Paulson’s screams and British accent are memorable. 


Taking a completely different turn from the middle of nowhere haunted 18th century home experimental nesting doll format we step into the real world, almost literally, to the first and only season without supernatural elements.


American Horror Story S7 article section header

INTRODUCTION


Cult is the seventh installment of AHS, premiering in September 2017 opted for a spin on the outcome of the 2016 US Presidential Election where Donald Trump lost the popular vote but won the Electoral College vote and thus presidency. With an audience rating of 52% on Rotten Tomatoes it could be considered a season with mixed reviews. 


The plot follows the events directly after the election in a fictional small town called Brookesfield, Michigan. Most of the episodes take place in the character’s homes and main town areas like the opening couple’s restaurant on Main St. 


American Horror Story S7 Cult setting

We start by following Ally and Ivy Mayfair-Richards, a politically involved lesbian couple with a young son named Oz. From the night of the election their personal worlds plunge into chaos along with their town as a mysterious group of clowns begin terrorizing the residents. 


Parallel to their story we follow Kai and Winter Anderson on election night, a brother who wanted Trump to win and a sister who put her education on hold to campaign for Hilary Clinton. Both feeling rage about the current events in the country seek to channel that rage into what feels like a productive endeavor. 


American Horror Story S7 characters

We’re introduced to a multitude of other characters as the show goes on including Gary Longstreet a MAGA supporter who cuts off their arm to pledge fealty to their political cult leader with a vote and Bebe Babbitt, an extremist feminist who will go to great lengths to seize power and control, especially creating cults to induce a “feminine rage” takeover to illustrate the two extreme ends of the spectrum on display. 


American Horror Story S7 clown cult 1

Fear is Truth is the name of the clown cult that the main characters are a part of led by Kai. This cult’s goal and purpose is to make everyone afraid and to use that fear for political gain, so essentially what current everyday politics boils down to when we examine the most corrupt. 


Donning clown masks and costumes the group: Triple Dick, Ballgag, Pentagram, Puzzle Face, Holes, Kooks, Brainiac, and Elephant (Wo)man commit gruesome and symbolic murders leaving a bloody, clown smiley face at each scene with the goal of capturing media attention.


American Horror Story S7 clown cult 2

Murdering clown cults, extreme manipulation, and conspiracy theories reveal themselves slowly with red herring distractions that allow them to fly even more so under the radar. The paranoia is well built in the beginning of the season, even making you as a watcher paranoid characters are lying to you. 


The season’s ending reminds of the theories of the Illuminati but with the spin of relatively powerless solo actors in the shadows pulling the puppet strings rather than the most famous celebrities and politicians. 


From the promotion campaign to the finale the season fulfills the promise of its title and theme: cults. We see how Kai, Winter, and Beverly take advantage of people’s fears in order to manipulate them and attempt to control them. The eventual outcomes of the attempts to control end as many other cults tend to: by imploding. 

American Horror Story S7 real cults image

Kai even explains the demise of real world cults like The Manson Family, Heaven’s Gate, and David Koresh; which are definitely not the kinds of cults you want your cult leader to reference in relation to you. 


Ultimately the season is really on the nose, clown pun intended, but accomplishes one of my favorite things about horror: holding a mirror up to society and showing us our fears.  


American Horror Story S8 up next header

Without a doubt the early seasons, Murder House, Asylum, and Coven are the most popular seasons. Not necessarily the best all around or most acclaimed they are usually the most known outside of the fandom and the earlier seasons of the show saw increases in viewership from one season to the next as opposed to declines after Roanoke. 


Apocalypse is an extremely intelligent way to magnetize viewers back to the franchise and give the people what they’ve been asking for: bring back the faves and if possible the queen herself, Jessica Lange. 


xAmerican Horror Story S8 section header

Without a doubt the early seasons, Murder House, Asylum, and Coven are the most popular seasons. Not necessarily the best all around or most acclaimed they are usually the most known outside of the fandom and the earlier seasons of the show saw increases in viewership from one season to the next as opposed to declines after Roanoke. 


Apocalypse is an extremely intelligent way to magnetize viewers back to the franchise and give the people what they’ve been asking for: bring back the faves and if possible the queen herself, Jessica Lange. 


American Horror Story S8 settings

In September 2018 the eighth installment premiered and is still widely regarded as a considerable improvement in comparison to Roanoke and Cult, boasting an audience score of 75% on Rotten Tomatoes, close to Coven’s audience score of 76% on the same site


Season 8 also marks the return of an original show runner from seasons 1-4, Jessica Lange, who reprises her role of Constance Langdon from Murder House.


American Horror Story S8 characters

The first episode hits the ground running with an Apocalypse as guaranteed, nuclear armageddon takes over the planet and only the mega wealthy and the genetically matched live in underground bunkers called “Outposts” to protect against the radiation. Murder House in Los Angeles, Miss Robichaux’s in New Orleans, and various personal Hells are all settings during the season. 


American Horror Story S8 comeback characters 1

Cody Fern joins American Horror Story for the first time as Michael Langdon, the Antichrist who is the driving force behind the apocalypse. We get two performances from Sarah Paulson AND a directorial debut on episode 6. We’re introduced to male academies for magic and the headmasters like John Henry Moore and Behold Chablis that build upon the universe from Coven


We’re also given endings and continuations on stories from seasons 1 and 3 regarding characters like the Langdon and Harmon families trapped in the Murder House and the witches from Coven, both burned at the stake and still alive. Madison Montgomery, one my favorite characters of the franchise, also makes a comeback and redeems herself. 


American Horror Story S8 character comebacks 2


Both Murder House and Coven are simply iconic, and Apocalypse is a welcome revisit . As promised the 8th season captured the essence and vibe of the earlier seasons like Asylum and Coven extremely well.


The ending does need to be addressed however, it undoes the entire series of events. Essentially nothing that happened during the season with Outpost 3, and Miss Mead, and the Satanists, and the witches' sacrifices and bonding on the path to save the world saving the world, just didn’t happen. In order to save the world Mallory, the Billie Lourd played badass, has to go back in time and take Michael out when he’s still weak enough to do so. 


American Horror Story S8 the ending type

Unfortunately for those of us who felt satisfied with the tied up ends to staple stories none of it mattered anyways. This season is a non-season season and I often think of it as a side quest for my favorite characters rather than a whole, standalone installment to the franchise.


American Horror Story S9 article section header

The ninth season got approved at the same time as the 8th and it’s been said to be influenced by slasher horror films of the 80’s, which makes sense with the title of course. Originally meant to be ten episodes, this is the shortest season of AHS coming in at 9 episodes. 


Right alongside season 8 this season has a 76% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes is critically acclaimed. Emma Roberts returned but some of the go-to actors from previous seasons like Peters and Paulson sat the season out. The season is a great homage to 80’s slasher horror, from the promo campaigns to the set and costume style to the writing to the acting is just plain good. 


American Horror Story S9 setting

The setting is Camp Redwood, a place that has seen a weirdly high number of murders and massacres on the property. Surrounding a lake set back in the California woods the camp is stereotypical in the best ways with a wooden dock and creaky cabin doors. 


Starting with a very trope heavy OG killer, Mr. Jingles, we waste no time setting up the legend of this mass killer who collects ears and kills cabins full of campers in the 70’s. The majority of the season takes place in the 80’s and follows a group of young adults living in LA all pursuing their dreams and taking an aerobics class. The group leader Xavier invites everyone to spend the summer getting out of the city and being camp counselors at the reopening Camp Redwood. 


American Horror Story S9 characters

All of the characters have their own reasons for getting out, including running from the Night Stalker and hiding from a potential homicide investigation. Later it’s revealed that Margaret, the camp’s director who intends to reopen the camp, is a victim of the original Mr.Jingles massacre and she is also the real Mr. Jingles. 


Benjamin Richter, the man who is framed as Mr. Jingles and locked away in a mental hospital, ends up becoming a real serial killer when Donna Chambers, a psychiatrist who infiltrates the group encourages him to do his Mr. Jingle's thing so she can observe him in action for her research. 


American Horror Story S9 serial killers 1

This season also includes a portrayal of the Night Stalker serial killer from the same time period and general area. This character is inspired by the real killer, Richard Ramirez, a satanist who appears in season 5 at James March’s Halloween dinner. Some of the other serial killers featured are The Lady in White, revealed to be Richter’s mom who killed counselors at the same camp back in the 40’s after her son died in an accident by the dock. 


Bruce is a hitchhiker that Brooke and Donna are coerced into giving a ride to as they make their way back to Camp Redwood. He’s been described as a serial killer born into it who has the charm of Ted Bundy and a similar method of selecting victims of opportunity.


Donna Chamber’s interest in Mr. Jingles is due to another serial killer, her father who she believed she might’ve been able to help if not cure prior to his suicide. She catches him in his lair and it’s been theorized on Tumblr and in Subreddits that he is based on the Grim Sleeper, a serial killer who took the lives of ten innocent women.  


American Horror Story S9 serial killers 2

As previously mentioned the promotion campaign portrayed the style of the 80’s promotions and movie posters. This play into tropes is a theme of the season and that’s very clear when looking for character tropes. Ray is a token Black guy, Chet is a dumb, horny jock, Montana is a selfish baddie who is considered the “bad” girl who is opposite the “good” girl and/or final girl in Brooke and then later Donna. We have the hot couple and a woman who is portrayed as absolutely hysterical. 


American Horror Story S9 Promo campaign

Though the story sets up with the basic tropes once we get through the events that would probably correspond with a first movie in a slasher film franchise the characters have evolved. None of the characters are one dimensional, and similarly to in franchises we get different sides and performances from them when faced with different circumstances, and different serial killers with different motives. 

American Horror Story S9 eighties tropes 1

Similarly to Murder House this land traps and tethers souls to it, believed to be because of the string of horrific events taking place on the same property. If someone dies on the property they are stuck there forever, which is both beautiful and awful depending on which ghost you ask. 


American Horror Story S9 eighties tropes 2

In these regards the show features sequel-like stories with parallels and call backs, villains that all fit the slasher criteria, extreme violence against women, and not lacking in the gore department. I wish that the season had been ten episodes and that the ending we built up to in the 8th episode could’ve picked up right at the start of the season finale and see that story to its completion. 


Instead we get a time jump to present day 2019 Camp Redwood and Richter’s now adult son coming to the Camp for answers about his absent father. Aside from that critique it’s a really fun, campy, and endearing season that stands out whenever I think of American Horror Story.


American Horror Story S10 Up Next


Double Feature is…not my personal favorite, frankly many don’t love this season and it is the second lowest rated season by Rotten Tomatoes audience score of 51% and only 500-999 votes. The first part is perfectly fine with fairly typical critiques and reviews but that second part is something else entirely.


Season 10 premiered in 2021 following a delay in production due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Split into two parts the name and theme are a play on the days when movie theaters offered two showings for the price of one ticket, often horror films. I actually get mad when I watch Death Valley, and prior to this rewatch I hadn’t actually watched the entire thing due to being so confused and perturbed-not scared or entertained just perturbed. 


American Horror Story S10 Double Feature Section Header

This review will be divided into two sections covering episodes 1-6 first, all part of the story Red Tide. Both parts focus heavily on their locations, part one takes place in present day Provincetown, Massachusetts, an eastern coastal town that shuts down in the winter. 


The cold, haunting environment that is sparsely populated met the needs of filming this season in light of the 2020 shutdowns and restrictions. The beach weathered town is a naturally eerie setting, wide shots used throughout the episodes to capture the essence. 


American Horror Story S10 Red Tide Setting

The house and neighborhood that the Gardener's move into is part of a small community of locals that all seem to know something is afoot, lighting red lights at night and shuttering doors and windows. The local bar and a few other character’s houses serve as the places that action happens, bringing characters together and subtly informing with great attention to detail. 


Fans are treated to a surprising but good performance from Macaulay Culkin who plays a male of the night alongside his dear friend Tuberculosis Karen, another aspiring artist down on their luck. The family that is the focus of the story, the Gardeners, consists of pregnant mom Doris, struggling TV writer Harry, and aspiring violinist Alma taking a break from New York City. We meet two artists who also stay in Provincetown to create each winter, Austin Sommers a playwright, and Belle Noire a romance novelist. 


American Horror Story S10 Red Tide characters

Both Belle and Austin recruit Harry to try a drug that supposedly opens up your abilities to create masterpieces but only if you are naturally talented. The Chemist, a former military scientist who now manufactures and studies the very drug the artists are on, The Muse, turns Provincetown upside down. Artists who are not talented become “Flesh Phantoms” roaming the streets like twitchy zombies hungry for fresh blood. 


An entire drug operation is formed around The Muse, taking down anyone that stands in the way. Ursula, Harry’s talent agent, gets involved at one point and cuts out Harry the middle man while building a talent empire with The Chemist. 


American Horror Story S10 red tide stories

I really like this part of Double Feature, from Belle Noir and Austin Sommers in general to the dynamics in the Gardener family as each tries to manipulate the situation to their benefit at the detriment of Doris. I like that it becomes a drug organization focused on talent and creativity, and especially the attention to detail. 


Everything about the Flesh Phantoms is explained and in a reasonably understandable way–the teeth are a product of a dentist turned tattoo artist taking the drug who also provides vintage clothes, i.e. the shoulder padded trench coats they wear, and even their hair loss and behavior. Genuinely would’ve preferred a more drawn out Part One with 8-10 episodes as opposed to part two, Death Valley that is episodes 7-10 this season.


American Horror Story S10 red tide fan

Death Valley is the most on the nose of all of the American Horror Story seasons in a way that is not campy, fun, or good. It felt confusing and discombobulated from start to finish when it’s actually watchable. The actors do the best they can with the story but the story itself is hollow and comes off like a high school horror story project and not AHS season 10 part two with a second go at aliens as a theme.


American Horror Story S10 death valley section header

The setting is as basic as it gets, Area 51 and the Death Valley dessert that it’s located in including a moon landing soundstage, LA of course, and the White House. The story is really obvious, a group of attractive young adults (with the spin that everyone is gay so of course the already impossible pregnancies are impossible) goes camping and then returns all pregnant. 


American Horror Story S10 death valley setting

They end up in Area 51 after going to the ER following a speed run through gestation. The care and creativity used with historical figures in other seasons goes out the window when President Dwight Eisenhower and his wife Mamie are revealed to be main characters this season. Having Neil McDonough should’ve been exciting but instead it was bizarre solely due to the character and story. 


American Horror Story S10 Death valley not a fan


It’s all around kinda lame, the story is obvious and the stakes that Eisenhower sells out the American people to the invading aliens are laughably low. There’s a weird Mamie Eisenhower affair that also made no sense, just nothing about this made sense as far as why it was worth it to make. I hope to never watch this again for any reason unless I can watch it at 2X speed and I’m glad it didn’t completely kill the franchise.


American Horror Story S11 up next graphic

Season 11 comes off as two separate stories with totally different objectives edited together. As two standalone shows they are both great but mashed up as one season it’s not cohesive or consistent. Now, this next season is a little more confusing to me as a viewer and fan. Premiering in 2022 season 11, NYC, is the lowest rated season with 41% as an Audience Score on Rotten Tomatoes


The first episode in particular set the season off on the wrong foot, not playing into any of the expectations for American Horror Story seasons. The pacing is completely off and upon first watch it’s easy to forget you’re watching American Horror Story based on the first episode.


American Horror Story S11 section header

The 1st episode and a 1/2 and then the last 2 episodes are focused on the AIDs epidemic that began in 1981. This is mostly focused on the stark impacts to individuals' health as well as the emotional toll. A visually striking and emotionally horrifying tale unfolds as the epidemic spreads, ominous warnings from tarot cards and characters to one another. This part of the story is one of resiliency in the face of an inescapable reality as the world turned their backs on the suffering.


The setting is as promised by the theme New York City, and we find out from the start that we are in the 1980’s again. As the epidemic begins our characters are forced to question their realities and personal biases in the face of a growing threat. 


American Horror Story S11 Setting

The story in the center of the season has tendrils reaching into the other episodes but is more straight up AHS horror. This great story gets somewhat buried in a focus on the more emotional rather than horror. We get an extremely creepy but interesting serial killer named Whitely portrayed by Jeff Hiller, sparkle deer models, Fire Island parties, bondage gone wrong, and leather bars.


Rather than focusing on the perspective of Whitely or Sam, the BDSM obsessed art collector, or even Hannah Wells the pregnant scientist who is discovering the AIDs virus as it spreads, we follow the two least interesting characters Gino and Patrick. 


American Horror Story season 11 characters

They are in a toxic relationship by any standards and I often found myself bored with their lagging behind on catching on. We as the viewer are aware of the AIDs epidemic so I think some of the build up would’ve been better spent exploring the more interesting characters and aspects of the community. The ending is good but doesn’t feel like the ending to the story we’d been building but rather like a time jump from the first episode and the beginnings of the epidemic meeting the eventual devastation of it.


At this point in the franchise with many spin-offs the more high level commentary of the story might have been better portrayed as a separate project and the focus of AHS: NYC better spent on the horror elements so that both shined as much as they could have.


American Horror Story 11 mystery serial killers

There are two main antagonists of the season, and as mentioned they are the AIDs virus represented by Big Daddy and the Mai Tai Killer, who we find out is Whitely. 


1. Mai Tai Killer - Whitely is a Vietnam veteran who kills gay men around NYC, using clubs as hunting grounds. is a nurse as well as working to help dispose of bodies for a criminal org. Using Mai Tai drinks as an in he then abducts and murders men in order to use their body parts to create what he calls “the sentinel” during the upcoming pride parade we never get to see


2. Big Daddy - Never unmasked as a character or attributed to a specific character. He ominously stalks and haunts people that are infected with the virus, getting closer as they get closer to succumbing. He is a manifestation of the illness and the illness claiming lives that is often used as a tool to foreshadow, sometimes lazily, of a character’s outcome. 


American Horror Story season 11 reveal serial killers

The more interesting aspects and story here are definitely the relations within the gay community of that time that we touch on but don’t quite finish exploring. There’s a parallel that goes on between what the biased cops at the NYC think about the community and the outcasted members of the community that I got excited to see play out only for it to be the background story.


AHS 11 Two story lines

The ending drags on and becomes more of an emotional reminder that we shouldn’t forget the devastation to the gay community by the AIDs epidemic rather than the ending to a horror show. 


At this point in the franchise with a spin-off the more high level commentary of the story might have been better portrayed as a separate project and the focus of American Horror Story: NYC better spent on the horror elements so that both shined as much as they could have.



As of finishing this part one article January 31, 2024 I’m watching American Horror Story seasons 1-5 and working on the next part of the video linked above and embedded below. I'll be posting each season as I review them on my other social media accounts as I watch starting with season 1 sometime this week. 


This review marathon, which is planned to be one point five other videos, and two additional articles here on my site being updated as I watch. This project and goal for January and February exists for no other reason than wanting to rewatch the show after binge watching season five last month. 


AHS Article thank you image

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