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DVD Review

DVD cover

American Horror Story
Season 6


Starring: Kathy Bates, Sarah Paulson, Cuba Gooding Jr., Lily Rabe and André Holland
Distributor: Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment
5 039036 081153
Certificate: 18
Release Date: 11 September 2017

When Matt Miller is punched unconscious by a stranger as a prank, the stress caused by his time in hospital causes his wife Shelby to lose her baby. Together they decide to move away and start a new life in North Carolina. They purchase a secluded 17th Century farmhouse with all their savings and shrug off reports that it might be haunted. Sightings of a girl ghost, a swine-head, and other paranormal occurrences are just the start of their worries. Matt’s sister arrives with her daughter, and the girl soon disappears. A hunt and the help of a clairvoyant uncovers a dark past for the property and a confrontation with a terrifying figure called The Butcher...

Having never followed the popular An American Horror series, when I received this Series 6 set I fully expected to have no idea what was going on. Fortunately, Roanoke is a stand-alone one-story season. Well, sort of. This has been scripted in a True Crime format which is so popular with American audiences. It switches from the re-enactment of events to on-camera comments or reactions from the person in question – except, because this is fictional, they are played by the same actors. This style of dramatisation is taken from the long-running A Haunting series, which told individual supposedly true stories that, whether or not you believe them, rarely failed to entertain. The only difference being in the case of A Haunting the on-camera comments came from a couple of the individuals who became victims, so to speak. Roanoke is very well produced, giving the overall effect of a project well-planned and even better financed.

The acting on the whole is pretty top-notch; Sarah Paulson and Cuba Gooding Jr’s characters Shelby and Matt Miller are very sympathetic. You feel for their plight. I do think that their reactions to a multitude of horrific and potentially fatal plights is somewhat subdued. However, if they whinged and shrieked and flapped at every happening I (and probably everybody else watching) would soon become irritated. Kathy Bates, perhaps best known for her Oscar-winning role in Misery, again creates for herself a memorable villain as The Butcher. What makes this work so well is the pacing. We are never permitted to be bored by a lull in the proceedings. From the moment a hailstorm on the house is found to be falling teeth, the progress (or regress – however you want to interpret the downward spiral) is relentless. All of the seemingly isolated events are creative. I particularly like the swine-head. The events cleverly unfold layer by layer so that there is constantly a new reveal.

I was starting to wonder how this could be sustained for three discs of episodes. Thankfully, it doesn’t outstay its welcome. After five episodes it ends and instead we get Return to Roanoke, a sort of reality scenario. Within a fictional world we have the events treated as real, which means the director brings everyone back to the house at the time of the Blood Moon – including the ‘real’ people the actors are supposed to be characterising. Cameras are set up, conflicts are brought out in the open and the killings begin again. There are some nice ideas here, like Kathy Bates playing the actor who starts to believe she really is The Butcher. They should have stayed with this idea and turned the second segment into a serial killer plot. Staying with the ghosts from the past simply turns this into a re-tread with diminishing returns.

Extras include a Q & A with Cast and Crew from PaleyFest 2017, and a collection of Roanoke promos. I think the first segment deserves a 9, the second a 6 or 7 – so I’ll go with 8. A very pleasant surprise. I do love a good ghost story.


Ty Power

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