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American Horror Story: The Complete First Season Blu-ray Review

  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
  • Video Codec: AVC/MPEG-4
  • Resolution: 1080p/24 (23.976Hz)
  • Audio Codec: English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (48kHz/24-bit)
  • Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish
  • Subtitles Color: White
  • Region: A (Region-Locked)
  • Rating: Not Rated
  • Run Time: 532 Mins.
  • Discs: 3 (3 x Blu-ray)
  • Digital Copies: N/A
  • Studio: 20th Century Fox
  • Blu-ray Release Date: September 25, 2012
  • List Price: $59.99

Overall
[Rating:4/5]
The Series
[Rating:4.5/5]
Video Quality
[Rating:4.5/5]
Audio Quality
[Rating:4/5]
Supplemental Materials
[Rating:3/5]

Click thumbnails for high-resolution 1920X1080p screen captures

(All TheaterByte screen captures are lightly compressed with lossy JPEG at 100% quality setting and are meant as a general representation of the content. They do not fully reveal the capabilities of the Blu-ray format)

The Series

[Rating:4.5/5]

The haunted house genre has a long and venerated history in the annals of horror, which means that any attempts at re-imagining the genre can easily come off as copying or cliché. I’ve often noted the near plagiaristic similarities, for instance, between Alejandro Amenábar’s The Others and the 1960s classic featuring Deborah Kerr, The Innocents, itself based on the Henry James classic The Turn of the Screw. Surprisingly enough, American Horror Story takes all the classic elements of the genre and gives them a welcomed shot in the arm. While it borrows heavily from elements we have all become familiar with – how could we not equate the twin boys from American Horror Story with the twin girls from The Shining? – it never lapses into outright thievery, and its rather tongue-in-cheek, wink, wink, haunted house horror is filled with enough twists, anxiety, and mythos of it own to carry it straight through to what will ultimately be the only conclusion it could have come to.

The story follows Ben and Vivien Harmon (Dylan McDermott and Connie Britton), a couple whose marriage is on the rocks after she catches him having sex with one of his twenty-something students in their marital bed. Looking for a fresh start and trying to keep their family together, the couple pack up and leave Boston for Los Angeles with 16-year-old daughter Violet (Taissa Farmiga). They settle down in a stately old house they buy on the cheap knowing only that the previous owners both died in there. What they will soon come to find out is the long, bloody history of the “Murder House” and its malevolent, ghostly inhabitants that pose a risk to their lives.

Jessica Lange stars as the Harmon’s neighbor, Constance Langdon, a southern belle and longtime Los Angeles resident who has a deep connection to the house that she has been keeping hidden, while Lily Rabe and Alexandra Breckenridge share duties as the housemaid Moira who seems to appear to men as a hot young seductress (Breckenridge).

I can’t say that the series ever effectively had me scared out of my wits, but I’m not certain that’s what they were aiming for. There seemed to be more of a mystery that built up over the course of each episode as to what exactly was going on in the house and how it would all come to a close. On that count, I’d have to say, American Horror Story was a definite winner.

Video Quality

[Rating:4.5/5]

The series arrives on Blu-ray with a strong presentation of its 35mm source in an AVC/MPEG-4 1080p encodement that looks film-like while keeping the layer of grain fine and detail strong. Shadow detail, very important in a horror series like this, is nuanced while blacks are rather deep. Details are textured and dimensional and colors have nice pop, especially primaries like reds.

Audio Quality

[Rating:4/5]

I was disappointed somewhat in the audio mix for American Horror Story particularly after the opening title sequence and theme song which is grating, engaging, and evocative. After that, however, the lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (48kHz/24-bit) soundtrack becomes rather stagnant, doing very little with the surround channels. The audio engineers missed an opportunity here, in my opinion, because most people know that a lot of what makes effective horror is the atmosphere. This series could have been even scarier had the soundscape been more involving. Still, the mix does offer clean dialogue, a good amount of stereo panning, and a bit of low frequency extension to give it some weight.

Supplemental Materials

[Rating:3/5]

The featurettes offered up on here all give a brief glimpse into the production of the series. Additional series producer Ryan Murphy offers and audio commentary for the pilot.

The supplements:

  • Audio Commentary on “Pilot” by Ryan Murphy
  • The Murder House Presented by Eternal Darkness Tours of Hollywood (1.78:1; 1080p/24; 00:06:35)
  • Behind the Fright: The Making of American Horror Story (1.78:1; 1080p/24; 00:24:38)
  • Overture to Horror: Creating the Title Sequence (1.78:1; 1080p/24; 00:09:12)
  • Out of the Shadows: Meet the House Ghosts (1.78:1; 1080p/24; 00:15:10)

The Definitive Word

Overall:

[Rating:4/5]

American Horror Story is the new face of the haunted house genre. It will make a god mini-series to pull out for the October festivities for sure and will likely go down as one of the classics. Let’s hope they can continue this level of quality or improve upon it for the second season, American Horror Story: Asylum. Highly recommended.

Additional Screen Captures

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Purchase American Horror Story: Season 1 on Blu-ray at CD Universe

American Horror Story, Season 1 - American Horror Story

Shop for more Blu-ray titles at Amazon.com

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Purchase American Horror Story: Season 1 on Blu-ray at CD Universe

American Horror Story, Season 1 - American Horror Story

Shop for more Blu-ray titles at Amazon.com



Overall
[Rating:4/5]
The Series
[Rating:4.5/5]
Video Quality
[Rating:4.5/5]
Audio Quality
[Rating:4/5]
Supplemental Materials
[Rating:3/5]

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