Series / American Horror Story
"Murder. Madness. Magic. Misfits. Mayhem… Mystery?"
Season 6 "Anthology" Promo Description

American Horror Story is a Horror anthology series created by Ryan Murphy (creator of Nip/Tuck) and Brad Falchuk (who are also two of the Glee co-creators) for FX.

The series is known as a "movie buff's delight", as its plots, soundtrack and visual style thrive on numerous classic movies and horror stories (including, but not limited to, The Shining, Frankenstein, Bram Stoker's Dracula, The Sixth Sense, Twisted Nerve, Taxi Driver, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, and Carrie, with some elements of Supernatural Soap Opera series such as Twin Peaks) as well as pay homages to American urban legends and folklore.

The seasons of American Horror Story to date have been:

General tropes

  • Abusive Parents: Every season has at least one.
  • American Title: The entire series in general.
  • And Starring: Jessica Lange in the first four seasons, though she's usually preceded by someone with the "With" citation that varies depending on season(s).note 
  • Anyone Can Die: Well, this is a horror show...
  • Big Bad Ensemble: The shows usually have multiple antagonists.
  • Black and Gray Morality: Seems to be a default setting to the series. The protagonist(s) is/are usually Anti Heroes, with the unambiguously good character(s) characters either get themselves killed off immediately or not being the driving force of the story.
  • Body Horror: Mutilations are common in the shows.
  • Break the Cutie: Too many to list.
  • Camp: When you've got a horror show brought to you by the creator of Glee, what else would you expect?
  • Celebrity Paradox: Coven loves doing Harry Potter Shout Outs. The Real Life brother of Joseph Fiennes, one of the main leads of Asylum, plays that film series' Big Bad. Granted, Asylum was set in 1964, two years after the birth of said actor, but still...
  • Continuity Creep:
    • Freak Show has several connections with Asylum (the circumstances behind Pepper's institutionalization as well as Elsa's past history with Hans Gruper).
    • Hotel is directly connected to Murder House (Marcy the realtor and Billie Dean Howard reappear, along with Dr. Charles Montgomery in the Countess's backstory) and Coven (Queenie reappears).
    • Roanoke is tied into Murder House (the references to Roanoke colony's disappearance are expanded upon), Freak Show (Gloria and Dandy's ancestor Edward Philippe Mott is mentioned), and Coven (a witch appears).
  • Crossover Cosmology: The series has accumulated an eclectic assortment of higher beings. To wit:
    • Michael Langdon, an evil ghost/human hybrid whose birth in 2011 is predicted to “usher in the end of times.”
    • An unnamed demon who possesses people to create chaos. This entity was destroyed by Shachath in 1965.
    • Shachath, a benevolent Psychopomp who can be summoned by the dying to ease their passage with a kiss.
    • Papa Legba, the guardian of the spirit world. He is a collector of souls and has the power to banish a soul to its own personal hell.
    • Edward Mordrake’s demon face. He bound himself to a 19th century nobleman at birth and drove him to suicide. Whenever a “freak” performs on Halloween, the demon and his host are summoned and must collect a soul, which joins their coterie. He also has the power to send a soul to its own personal heaven.
    • The Addiction Demon, a malevolent entity summoned to the Hotel Cortez in 1993. It punishes people for their addictions by raping them.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: If you can survive to the final ten minutes of a season, you have a chance of getting this.
  • Event Title: Technically Freak Show.
  • Fake Guest Star: Played with. Some actors/actresses appear in guest/recurring capacity but as different characters, and are nonetheless "mainstays". Most of them are Promoted to Opening Titles below.
  • Fantasy Kitchen Sink: The world of American Horror Story is home to ghosts, Frankenstein-esque monsters, psychics, aliens, demons, angels, witches (of the classic, Voodoo and Druid varieties), zombies, loa, and vampires.
  • Final Girl: The Lead ingenue played by Sarah Paulson is typically more sensible, introverted, and unpromiscuous. They usually live till the end. Subverted in Hotel, where her character is killed in a flashback in the first episode, though she is not actually dead as she is a ghost. Paulson also reprises her role as Billie Dean Howard, an unrelated character from the first season, and survives her ordeal.
  • Flash Forward: All the seasons have ended the season finale on a flash forward epilogue to wrap things up and finish any loose ends.
  • Gorn: The violence in the show gets pretty messy and visceral.
  • Historical-Domain Character: Every season has had some, either in the flesh or as a ghost.
    • Murder House: Elizabeth Short (AKA "The Black Dahlia")
    • Asylum: Anne Frank (which is subverted, as she turns out to be an obsessed imposter)
    • Coven: Marie Laveau, Delphine LaLaurie, and The Axeman of New Orleans
    • Freak Show: Edward Mordrake
    • Hotel: Aileen Wuornos, John Wayne Gacy, Jeffrey Dahmer, Richard Ramirez, Gordon Northcott, the Zodiac Killer, Bernie Madoff, Rudolph Valentino, Natascha Rambova, and F.W. Murnau
  • Humans Are the Real Monsters: The realistic, sometimes even mundane acts of evil perpetrated by human beings tend to be far scarier than any supernatural horrors. In the words of Sister Jude, "all monsters are human." This theme shows up in all seasons, though it is most prominent in Freak Show.
  • Jump Scare: Again, it's a show with a blatant horror story in its title.
  • Kill the Cutie: In a series where Anyone Can Die, the likable and adorable ones are usually the most likely to go first.
  • Ms. Fanservice: Anytime Emma Roberts or/and Alexandra Breckenridge appear on screen. That being said, they are not the only ones who offer at the table.
  • Mr. Fanservice: Shirtless Scenes and male butt shots are especially common.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: Invoked by the promos for Season 6. It's the first season where viewers have been left completely in the dark about what the theme is going to be before it airs.
  • The Place: Murder House, Asylum, Freak Show (technically), Hotel, and Roanoke.
  • Rape as Drama: Pretty much every season has a graphic rape scene.
  • Ripped from the Headlines: In Asylum, present day Lana mentions having had an interview with an imprisoned Bernie Madoff. Hotel reveals that the Countess was among his many victims, and regaining her wealth is a major motivation throughout the season.
  • Serial Killer: Very common on this show.
    • Murder House: R. Franklin
    • Aslyum: Bloody Face, Bloody Face II, Jenny Reynolds, Leigh Emerson
    • Coven: Delphine LaLaurie, the Axeman
    • Freak Show: Twisty the Clown, Dandy Mott
    • Hotel: The Ten Commandments Killer, James Patrick March, Richard Ramirez, Aileen Wuornos, John Wayne Gacy, Jeffrey Dahmer, the Zodiac Killer, Gordon Northcott
    • Roanoke: Miranda and Bridget Jane
  • Shared Universe:
    • Asylum and Freak Show, though Word of God says it applies to all seasons of the show.
    • Hotel features Marcy the estate agent, Dr. Montgomery and Billie Dean Howard from Murder House, and Queenie from Coven.
  • Promotion to Opening Titles: While this is an anthology series, some actors/actresses usually get upgraded to main.
  • Team Title: Coven and technically Freak Show.
  • You All Look Familiar:
    • Given that Word of God said that the entire show has a Shared Universe, one might wonder why exactly certain characters looked alike. Pepper in particular encountered two characters played by Jessica Lange and Evan Peters each in the timeline, and three played by Sarah Paulson.
    • Finn Wittrock, Sarah Paulson and Lily Rabe each appeared as two different characters in Hotel (though one of Rabe's was just a photo). The resemblance between Tristan Duffy and Rudolf Valentino was a plot point, but no one who sees both Hypodermic Sally and Billie Dean Howard says boo or bah. For that matter, Queenie doesn't comment on any similarity between Iris and Delphine LaLaurie or Ramona Royale and Marie Laveu.