Dennis Cozzalio and I are going to recap American Horror Story's first season at our respective blogs. Each Monday, one of us will will start the discussion and we'll go back-and-forth on our respective blogs. I am posting my response to Dennis's second post here, but you can also follow along with our conversation at Sergio Leone and the Infield Fly Rule. Read on for Dennis's thoughts on the first episode of the show's first season.
Unfortunately, I have not see Whatever Happened to Aunt Alice? or many other psycho-biddy films. Almost all of the films of that peculiar sub-genre, including Alice, are however on a long-ass list of horror-y films I'd like to catch up with. So much to view, so little time, amirite? In any case, that's a really funny reading. I wonder what Ryan Murphy and Brad Fulchuk would think of it?
Generally speaking: yes, you're absolutely right, the use of music in "Pilot" did bug me a little. I thought the use of "Tonight You Belong To Me" was appropriately coy but the use of the Twisted Nerve theme was really irritating. I'm convinced that that song wouldn't be so fondly remembered without Kill Bill, a film that I really enjoy but also feel has also enabled some of the worse tendencies in genre filmmakers. Tarantino tends to have that effect: lesser filmmakers see that he can get away with things and they accordingly take that as permission to act on creative impulses that are usually more showy than they are thoughtful.
The use of the Twisted Nerve theme during the re-enactment of Tate's dream was just flat-out distracting. This particular song cue has a weird effect that many pomo genre films, TV shows, works of art, whatever, sometimes have, namely the ability to evoke something without really saying much with it. I understood and immediately felt the dreamy detachment and eerie calm-before-the-storm atmosphere that that music evokes. I also thought of how that music was previously recycled in Kill Bill.
There aren't that many other times in "Pilot" where Fulchuk and Murphy so nakedly draw attention to the fact that their story primarily incorporates archetypal images. But hey, it's right there in the show's title, isn't it? This is a self-fashioned hodge-podge of pre-existing generic elements. Still, I maintain that when those elements jut out, as they do during this song cue, I can't help but fail to suspend my disbelief. It's very distracting to be so casually nudged in the ribs and reminded that we're watching something that we've already seen many times before. The eternal cycle of horror tropes is the show's hook, but there are better ways to express that theme.
Generally speaking, I think I'm done talking about "Pilot," Dennis. But I really am looking forward to your last post in this episode. And I'll eagerly start watching AHS 1.2 presently!