Homages to Horror in American Horror Story

Jennifer RodriguezTV2 Comments

Greetings, fellow horror lovers! In my last blog, I outlined some of the many reasons why American Horror Story is such an amazing show, but I left out a crucial category: homages to the horror genre. Creators Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk are huge fans of the genre and as any horror aficionado can tell you, AHS is riddled with references to and inspiration from beloved horror films. By incorporating snippets from iconic scenes and movies, AHS creates the perfect combination of tradition and originality. There are A LOT of these references and to name them all would take quite some time, so I will keep to the ones that (in my opinion) are the most obvious/important.

Troy and Bryan, the creepy twins, are inspired by the equally creepy Grady twins in The Shining.
Moira is a combination of Mrs. Mills from The Others and the woman in the bathtub from The Shining. Like the former, she is a dead housekeeper who knows more than she lets on. Like the latter, she can appear as both a sexy young seductress and a ghastly old woman.

In “Pilot,” Addy modifies a line from Poltergeist II when she warns the twins, “You are going to die in there.” The original line as spoken by Kane in the sequel to the horror classic is, “You’re all gonna die in there.” Billie Dean’s character is modeled after Poltergeist’s medium, Tangina.

Constance is comparable to Minnie from Rosemary’s Baby: she is a nosy, intrusive neighbor who knows more than she tells and brings poisoned dessert to her neighbors (Minnie gives drugged chocolate mousse to Rosemary and Guy; Constance gives the Harmons ipecac-laced cupcakes for Violet). Vivien is akin to Rosemary in the sense that she is impregnated as the result of (demonic?) rape and consumes raw organs (brains in her case, liver in Rosemary’s).

The basis of the first season screams The Amityville Horror. Like the Lutzes, the Harmons pour everything they have into their dream house, only to find that the house is haunted and they cannot leave due to financial distress. Ben’s temporary madness as a result of living in the house echoes George’s descent into insanity.
The plot of AHS is set against the backstory of a miscarriage and an unfaithful husband – a possible reference to Orphan.

The home invaders in (you guessed it!) “Home Invasion” bear striking similarity to the killers in The Strangers. In the same episode, the stabbing murder of Maria is set to the theme of Psycho, evoking memories of the famous shower scene.

While we’re on the topic of soundtracks, scores from What Lies Beneath and Vertigo are featured in “Pilot.” The song played during the Montgomery flashbacks is from Dracula (1992). Bernard Herrmann’s “Twisted Nerve” (from the film Twisted Nerve) is played during Tate’s fantasy/recollection of the Westfield High School murders. In addition to bearing similarity to Martin, the film’s main character, Tate is akin to Elle Driver from Kill Bill Vol.1: with homicidal intent, both Tate and Elle walk down a hallway to the tune of “Twisted Nerve” (I realize that Kill Bill is not a horror film, but as a huge fan of the movie and Quentin Tarantino, it seemed like a fun mention.) Last, but not least, the opening sequence was inspired by that of (one of my favorite movies!) Seven.

The horror references in Asylum will be featured in a sequel to this blog. There are far too many homages to cover in one sitting, so if you noticed/know of any references not mentioned here, feel free to chime in in the comments section!

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