Confusingly titled 'American Horror Stories' (which feels much too similar to the series it is based on, 'American Horror Story'), we're given seven self-contained episodes which are aiming to present to us a selection of horror-inducing standalone stories. But once you remember what series this is based off of, you quickly realise you're probably going to sleep pretty soundly once you turn off the series and roll into bed.
No, before you ask, this isn't the tenth season of 'American Horror Story'. 'American Horror Stories' is Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk's spin-off whereby they attempt to squeeze more horror out of the popular franchise which has been running since 2011. Does it work? Not from what we've seen (but a second season is already on the way).
The problem we have with the series is that of the three preview episodes shown to us, two of them told one narrative over the course of two episodes (entitled 'Rubber (Wo)Man'). The subject matter was a different take on the goings-on within 'AHS' season one's 'Murder House', which for a trip back to the iconic house, overstayed its welcome. The only terrifying part of the two-parter was the galling level of acting we witnessed.
When you create a seven-episode series promising each episode to be its own standalone horror-inducing story, you'd hope that you're about to watch something which delivers on its promise. However, when the first two episodes are split into a two-parter episode, inspired by a series you've already seen, you begin to question the filmmaker's choices. Why bother? Why not give us something newer, fresher, and ideally with less whiny teenagers? It baffles.
Had this two-parter be left until the last two episodes (and we had not seen them), this review could have turned out very differently, because the third episode ('Drive In') did actually deliver on something original. Sure, it was yet again a bunch of sexually charged teens running around causing a ruckus, but the acting was less stiff and the subject matter more engrossing. This should have been the series opener, and the jumping-off point the rest of the episodes should take inspiration from.
One positive thing to come out of the series, however, is the inclusion of some of the previous 'AHS' cast. Matt Bomer, John Carroll Lynch, Billie Lourd and Dylan McDermott all make appearances in the franchise once again, showing these young and upcoming actors how to get the job done.
Essentially, it feels like the series was created as something just to tide fans over until the arrival of season ten of the main series, 'AHS: Double Feature', which arrives later this October. It would explain the serious lack of actors who can give a convincing performance - who manage to make cheesy lines of dialogue even cheesier - and also the over-reliance on the already established 'AHS' franchise. We know Ryan Murphy loves a cross-over event, but for a spin-off series to really work it needs to carve out its own identity. This one does not.
The first episode of 'American Horror Stories' is available via Star on Disney+ now, with a new episode arriving every Wednesday.