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American Horror Story's Anatomy

All the inspirations behind the cult series

American Horror Story's Anatomy All the inspirations behind the cult series

During these weeks Roanoke, sixth chapter of American Horror Story, is dominating the nightmares of millions viewers who like to be scared by the series created by Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk.

The pair of authors, already known for tv masterpieces as Nip/Tuck, Glee and American Crime Story (which triumphed at the Grammys this year), stage the horror genre by relying on the most common fears, secrets, sins hidden in the more dark corners of the soul between exorcisms, ghosts, serial killers, witches and bloody murders.

This show is an anthology series with a different story in every season, new characters, but recurring actors, among which Jessica Lange, Evan Peters, Sarah Paulson and Kathy Bates.

Among actual events coexist a haunted house, a '60s madhouse, the witches of Salem, a circus of freaks, a hotel where mysterious murders take place and a mockumentary that reconstructs the story of a couple struggling with a forest populated by vengeful ghosts.AHS is a gallery of

AHS is a gallery of colourful images of violence, sarcasm and beauty. A disturbing beauty which makes you feel uncomfortable and frightened.

Words are not enough to describe this Fox series, you have to see it.

A curiosity? Ryan Murphy revealed that in the 9th episode of every season, the opening credits are hiding a secret message for viewers.

FEEL LIKE: Diane Arbus, Lisette Model

Diane Arbus is the artist who best represented the freaks, the misfits, the invisible ones, those "freaks", suffering from physical or mental deformity or scorned by society for behaviour and attitudes.

Better yet has enlightened them with her flash, giving them dignity, elevating them to real aristocrats, so much to have said: "Most people go through life dreading they'll have a traumatic experience. Freaks were born with their trauma. They've already passed their test in life. They're aristocrats. I work from awkwardness. By that I mean I don't like to arrange things. If I stand in front of something, instead of arranging it, I arrange myself."

That 's what AHS does. It transforms our fears, the horror, what terrifies us into images, forcing us to watch TV, but also the darkness that everyone hides inside himself.

Physical and psychological deformity become art, beauty. This is teh horror series' power, the same of Arbus and also of Lisette Model, the American photographer who has been a teacher and mentor.

DRESS LIKE: Yohji Yamamoto, Saint Laurent, Rochas

American Horror Story is an anthology series and, as such stories, characters, sets and times change each season. The same thing happens to clothes and their style.

If in Murder House and Asylum the most iconic garments are latex suit and a nun habit, the subsequent chapters reserve true fashion gems, all by costume designer Lou Eyrich.

In Hotels Lady Gaga, with her constant changes of look, obscures other interesting figures, like the grunge toxic Sally McKenna and Liz Taylor, bartender-trans obsessed by famous actress enough to copy her clothes. The Blood Countess played by the pop star shows off one after the other pieces of fashion history: a red Yohji Yamamoto from winter 1996, the stunning Alexander McQueen of "The Girl Who Lived in the Tree" collection, from Jean Paul Gaultier to Vivienne Westwood. And the famous "murder" glove? It's an original work by Michael Schmidt.

The inspiration for Freak Show's costumes? 50s movies, technicolour. For Jessica Lange-Elsa Mars the reference is Marlene Dietrich, but her cult moment is when she sings David Bowie's Life on Mars, from which she also takes her surname, wearing a light blue suit as the White Duke.

We arrive at Coven, a style treatise on witches and their iconography. "This season [series creator Ryan Murphy] wanted each character to have an iconic look" the costume designer Lou Eyrich told to EW, "Then again, Coven proves that you can have so many different kinds of witches—like Nan in her pilgrim chic or Queenie in her badass jeans and fedora or Taissa Farmiga in her Comme des Garcons look".

If as you might guess black is the dominant color declined by Givenchy, Gucci, Lanvin, Chanel, Prada e Saint Laurent, the exception are Angela Bassett-Marie Laveau and her voodoo style, but especially Frances Conroy-Myrtle Snow.
She is, with fire- haired, reminiscent of Grace Coddington  and with the voice modulated to that of the legendary Vogue editor Diana Vreeland, the true fashionista.

Her caustic jokes about fashion world stack in memory, such as this: “Egon von Furstenberg. He dumped me, but everything worked out all right in the end. You know why? Because he went on to marry the divine Diane. And without Egon's support, Diane von Furstenberg never would have created the greatest invention of the century: The wrap dress!

And the stake scene? It was filmed like a fashion editorial with Snow in a crimson dress and a huge parasol, followed by a crowd of witches dressed in black. According to Eyrich "[The choice of the dress] was a big deal because in the script she says, 'Balenciaga,' so we thought it had to be Balenciaga. We started researching and realized we can't afford Balenciaga because we have a small budget, so Ryan says, 'It's not literal. She's just saying it as a crazy Myrtle thing—a Myrtle-ism.' Then we were able to broaden. We started searching around [New Orleans], but nothing was eccentric enough for Myrtle. So then we hit online, and it was the perfect thing. It's a Carolina Herrera.

Anyway, “Any last words? Balenciagaaaaa!


Many different stories coexist in American Horror Story, so much that someone called the show a "post-modern cartography of the Gothic."

Serial killers, vengeful ghosts, asylums, witches, freaks, infest  every episode, are lost among homages to horror movies, real news stories and legends.

Although there is a real inspirational book of the series, there are many possible readings.

You can read the story of the children with special powers of Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs, in 2016 turned into film by Tim Burton, or that of the Lutz family and strange supernatural phenomena that occurred in their home, in Jay Ansel's The Amityville Horror.

If Freak Show is your favorite season you'll love Something wicked this way comes by Ray Bradbury and you will be fascinated by two thirteen friends defeating the forces of evil and redeeming the souls of the entire community devastated by a mysterious circus.
Finally, there is House of Leaves, rare book written by Mark Danielewski with the married couple who moves into a house in Virginia. There is a door in the corridor, once opened this leads to other corridors with new doors and so on, within space and unknown worlds.



American Horror Story's original soundtrack is composed by Charlie Clouser (from Nine Inch Nails), but the most interesting and iconic musical moments are interpreted by others and are all in Freak Show. There are Jimmy Darling aka Evan Peters singing Come as you are by Nirvana and Sarah Paulson Siamese twins with Criminal by Fiona Apple, but above all there is Elsa Mars. The character of Jessica Lange, the queen of freaks, lives on stage her broken dream of becoming a world star, reinterpreting Gods & Monsters by Lana Del Rey and Life On Mars, David Bowie's 1973 classic.


TASTE LIKE: Brains, Cat "patè" or Pink Cupcakes

LOVE LIKE: Jessica Lange

The real reason of Fox series' success? We love to be scared. And from lobster boy to Siamese twins Bette and Dot, from demonic Sister Mary Eunice to Lana Winters, from the voodoo queen Marie Laveau to iconic Myrtle Snow, each American Horror Story's character is a little gem of weakness and guilt, impulses and fears. The brightest diamond, however, remains Jessica Lange who has left the series after the fourth season, but not our hearts. Her masterful interpretations won her two Emmy Awards, but she probably deserved more.

Hard to choose just one performance. Elsa Mars in David Bowie's style? Fiona the Supreme witch? Sister Jude?