If you’re like me and are trying to fill the big American Horror Story-shaped void in your life, now that it’s the middle of boring and horror-less January, fear not- because I have rewatched the entire series in its entirety, and decided to explain my rankings of each season, for no reason other than for the hell of it. For the record, after watching each season once more, I truly do love this series as a whole, and each season, even the ones that aren’t quite as good or as memorable as others, are still worth watching. I’ve even gained a better appreciation for each of the seven seasons, even the ones that I wasn’t too happy with after viewing the first time around. Ryan Murphy manages to bring lively, campy horror, gore and sex, and mix it with relevant, ballsy social commentary that we can talk about and analyze for ages, which is why we’ll continue to watch, analyze, and compare seasons 8 and 9 when they air fall of this year and fall of next year, respectively. FYI: There are a few spoilers, so read with caution, if you missed a season or two.
7. Hotel (Season 5, Gluttony Hell)
In all its lavishness, glamour, opulence, and gluttonous style, Hotel drowned itself and fell a tad short of quality in its central storyline. To be fair, Ryan Murphy (somewhat) confirmed the fan theory that each AHS season was created to represent Dante’s Inferno/ 9 Circles of Hell…and Hotel perfectly represents the Gluttony hell…but the main plot about Detective John trying to figure out who was committing the Ten Commandments murders relating to Hotel Cortez (when it was him the whole time *insert eyeroll emoji*) lost me about midway through, which is a damn shame, because I remember thinking that the premiere episode of Hotel was one of the craziest premieres of AHS I had seen yet, with Lady Gaga wearing an elegant red gown going out alongside her boy toy (Matt Bomer) to find another couple to have an orgy with, only to violently murder them and drink their blood post-sex, all while She Wants Revenge’s “Tear You Apart” plays coyly in the background. Not to say this was an awful season by any means, because it wasn’t- who could forget that amazing soundtrack, with The Cure, Depeche Mode, and Joy Division!- it’s just that, in the grand scheme of things, the story fell apart and was a bit of a snooze. Hotel felt like a never-ending (but stylish) music video- not the truest quality, horror show that it had potential to be. Lady Gaga gave an excellent performance as The Countess, especially with the big shoes to fill as AHS Queen Jessica Lange had left the series the season before, however, at times her massive star power overshadowed the talents of the AHS regulars we all know and love.
6. Freak Show (Season 4, Greed Hell)
This one still hurts. Freak Show had so much potential: it was set against the colorful backdrop of the sock-hopping 1950s; Evan Peters played the ever-charming Jimmy Darling (aka Lobster Boy) who hilariously gave fingering jobs to all the lonely housewives in the area with his huge, misshapen hands; the amazingly terrifying Twisty the clown was introduced, as an inspiration from real-life clown serial killer John Wayne Gacy; Jessica Lange performing “Life on Mars” in a lovably hideous powder blue pantsuit; and Sarah Paulson portraying a two-headed pair of freak sisters flawlessly. However, the heartbreaking Freak Show fell apart a bit the minute they killed off lovable murderer Twisty and gave his role to the psycho brat Dandy, who more or less ruined the lives of the freaks and the actual freak show itself. Aside from him, there were also about a hundred other villains that we were made to hate throughout the season: Edward Mordrake; douchey strongman named Dell; a guy named Stanley who wanted to kill the freaks so he could place their bodies in his museum; and the insane magician played by Neil Patrick Harris, who only added to even more unnecessary subplots. These poor freaks didn’t have a shot in hell, and sadly, neither did some aspects of this season.
5. Roanoke (Season 6, Anger Hell)
After all the mysterious marketing ploys building up to the premiere of 2016’s AHS season that essentially gave us absolutely NO idea as to what we were to expect, My Roanoke Nightmare, proved to be an interesting idea initially: we were introduced to what appears to be an ID channel-like dramatic “retelling” of one interracial couple’s experience in a haunted house that was built above the grounds of the mysterious real-life Roanoke colony in North Carolina…until the big twist was revealed midway through the season, that My Roanoke Nightmare was actually a just a show within the show, meaning, we get to see the “real” people and the actors that portray them on this dramatic reenactment My Roanoke Nightmare get together for yet ANOTHER sort of reality tv show, a reunion special that had everyone living in the apparent haunted house- that is until they start getting picked off one-by-one, by the same ghosts and monsters that were *supposedly* only created for the fake version of the dramatic reenactment…Confused yet? With golden performances from Kathy Bates as The Butcher, Evan Peters as Edward Mott, and Adina Porter as the “real” version of Lee, Roanoke did have its positives. I didn’t think Roanoke was as poor as some people considered it- I actually thought it was an interesting concept about America’s obsession with reality TV, and a slight improvement from Freak Show and Hotel, but it was a tad boring at times, and there are still way better seasons that deserve spots in front of this one.
4. Coven (Season 3, Treachery Hell)
After the very dark and ominous second season of Asylum, I think AHS fans needed a little witchcraft paired with dark humor in their third season of the horror anthology. Far from a perfect season, one of my main issues with Coven is that it was simply not scary enough. This season contained a predominantly female cast, filled with the lovable Angela Bassett, Kathy Bates, Gabourey Sidibe…and the obnoxious Emma Roberts, alongside the AHS regulars, but I have to whine and complain that this season needed more Evan Peters. (And as an Evan Peters lover, I could have skipped the visual of him and real-life fiancee Emma Roberts engaged in a sex scene.) I love me some witches, and especially a lovely Sarah Paulson as Cordelia Fox, ending up as a much-deserved Supreme, but in the end, I needed a little more from this season. Everyone could be brought back from the dead, thus spoiling the audience into getting used to having their favorite characters around, without feeling the impact of when they were gone. Good and fun, but not great, especially as a follow-up to Asylum. I could have used a bit more history about the Salem witch trials in my Coven episodes, or even just more episodes that took place in Salem in general, instead of taking place entirely in New Orleans. I still have a little hope that perhaps Salem will serve as a setting for a future season of AHS…perhaps in the upcoming Murder House-Coven crossover season??
3. Murder House (Season 1, Limbo Hell)
Arguably the most loved of all the AHS seasons, this season was just as addicting and enjoyable for me as well. While not as much a horror story as it was a dramatic tale of a broken family that is trying to heal from infidelity and grief, the original season of AHS introduced us to something we all needed, but never quite got from the other horror-drama shows on TV at that time. Iconic performances from the ensemble cast of Jessica Lange, Taissa Farminga, Evan Peters, Sarah Paulson (albeit brief), Zachary Quinto, Dylan McDermott, Connie Britton, Jamie Brewer, Denis O’Hare, Frances Conroy, etc., made everyone fall in love with this hip, edgy, violent, and lustful TV show that had just as big of a heart as it had blood loss. My only issue with the original season is that it gets a bit silly at certain points (which we would come to realize was American Horror Story’s MO): everyone who dies becomes a ghost, therefore you don’t feel the true impact of their demises, and some of the story lines and subplots got a little ridiculous. That being said, this season contained many heartbreaking twists, as well as complex character arcs that will forever be treasured by me and other diehard AHS fans.
2. Asylum (Season 2, Fraud Hell)
I put AHS‘s second season slightly ahead of its first because it was truly more terrifying and darker than its predecessor, at least for me anyway. Inspired by real-life story of Donna J. Stone’s expose on the Willowbrook Asylum, Asylum contained some of the best performances on the show to date from Jessica Lange, Sarah Paulson, James Cromwell, Evan Peters…and who could forget Lily Rabe as the iconic sweet-gone-sour nun Sister Mary Eunice? Or the chilling performance from Zachary Quinto as the seemingly only sane one in that God forsaken place…only to later reveal himself as the real Bloody Face?! Asylum had a beautiful, vintage, 1960s feel to it, as we watch these poor characters get thrown into this hell known as Briarcliff Asylum, being extricated from society unfairly, while Paulson’s Lana Winters navigates her escape and, ultimately, the shutdown of Briarcliff. I love a good journalist-saves-the-day story, and my heart broke for these characters depicted that are often cast out from society- gays/lesbians, interracial couples, people who question religion, and sexually-active women- and are treated like shit even more by the same institutions that try to contain them. But I still have to wonder…what was up with the aliens??
1. Cult (Season 7, Heresy Hell)
The most recent installment of AHS proved to effectively tackle one of the scariest stories yet: the 2016 presidential election. With a stellar performance from Evan Peters as the charismatic, intelligent, manipulative, diabolical cult leader (and Trump equivalent) Kai Anderson, AHS finally gave our beloved Evan the villainous psycho role he was born to play. I found Cult to be the most compelling yet, mainly because the characters were so rich and the story was so streamlined (for once in the AHS world). Finally, we had one central, streamlined story, (instead of 100 mini-stories tied together into a mess) about this particular cult: who was involved, their motivations, how it began, how it rose to a bit of power, its leader, and ultimately, its unravel. After the last few seasons of AHS had been problematic, Cult pulled me right back in. While Cult was most definitely not a perfect season, as I noticed the occasional plot holes, as well as a predictable season finale, but for me, this season was by far the scariest because it felt REAL. The fantastical aspects of American Horror Story are very fun to watch and entertaining when done right- however, I prefer when the seasons feel like they are set in universes that are tangible: Kai Anderson was a monster in the flesh, who easily could have been a guy that lives down the street from you or me- and that is what I need more of in my Horror Story seasons. The things that have happened in our country within this last year were portrayed so darkly hilariously and chillingly that I found myself snarking and cringing, and ironically being distracted from the real news that was going on at the time. Some people agree with me about Cult, and others do not, but I identified with Cult more than any other season, and that’s why I put it as my number 1.
I’ll be sure to post here any news that is released about the upcoming season 8 that will take place in the future (!). Feel free to comment and let me know your #1-7 rankings of AHS.