‘American Horror Story’ Unveils A Roanoke Theme, Sort Of


The much-anticipated sixth season of American Horror Story kicked off with its premiere episode, viewers eager to learn this year’s theme. And, well, they did. Or did they? The title is My Roanoke Nightmare, but last night we saw very little that had an obvious connection to the real-life mystery about the disappearance of over 100 colonists from a North Carolina settlement back in the late 1500s. The American Horror Story Season 6 premiere had a couple of frightening scenes, but the overall fear factor was fairly low. The Hollywood Reporter called it “easily the most restrained AHS season-opener… perhaps ever?” Viewers who have watched previous seasons know that each year’s premiere episode is typically heavy on the scare factor, or at least the freaky/weird/creepy factor. Not so with American Horror Story Season 6.

The disappearing colony of Roanoke was frequently discussed as a strong possibility for the theme of American Horror Story Season 6. Much of the support for this theory was the result of some photos posted by TMZ that showed shots of a set where filming was taking place. The homes in the photos were described as possibly those of American colonists, a possibility that became stronger given the photo of a tree with CROATOAN carved into its bark. Further supporting this theory was an indication from Ryan Murphy himself that there were hints at this season’s theme all the way back in the first season of American Horror Story. The disappearing colonists and some history about the word Croatoan were mentioned a few times that season. Once when psychic Bille Dean (played by Sarah Paulson who, it seems, will be a major character this year) told the story of the real-life mystery. Here’s what she said.

“It’s difficult to banish a spirit, but not impossible. The most successful attempt I know of happened when America was known as the new world…In 1590, on the coast of what we now know as North Carolina, the entire colony of Roanoke—all 117 men, women, and children—died inexplicably. It became known as the ghost colony because the spirits remained. They haunted the native tribes living in the surrounding areas. Killing indiscriminately. The elder knew he had to act. He cast a banishment curse. First he collected the personal belongings of all the dead colonists. Then they burned them. The ghosts appeared, summoned by their talismans. But before the spirits could cause them any more harm, the elder completed the curse that would banish the ghosts forever. By uttering a single word. The same word found carved on a post at the abandoned colony: ‘Croatoan.'”

Another reference in Season 1 was when Violet tried to use the word to banish the spirit of Chad from Murder House. It didn’t work.

The first episode of American Horror Story Season 6 was a mockumentary with Lily Rabe and Andre Holland describing their experience as Sarah Paulson and Cuba Gooding, Jr. acting them out. It’s not known if the season will continue with this format or not. And we got to see Angela Bassett! She’s in a role as Gooding’s sister who was fired from her job as a police officer due to her struggle with alcohol and prescription pain meds.

These were the main characters last night’s American Horror Story premiere, but we also got a glimpse of Kathy Bates as a woman Sarah Paulson hit with her car as Bates crossed the road at night.

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Of course, Paulson got out the car to catch up with the woman and see if she was okay. She follows her into the woods, and when she reaches a clearing she finds a bunch of straw dolls hanging from the trees. It was reminiscent of the teaser video titled The Harvest.

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There were other frightening moments in this year’s premiere episode of American Horror Story. Sarah Paulson’s character was pushed under the water in a hot tub and held there as she struggled to free herself. It was a very panicked moment. And it wasn’t completely void of disturbing images — among them a video that the three main characters watched that included human-sized pigs that behaved like humans and a bloody pig that was left on the steps of the farmhouse owned by Paulson and Gooding. And there was a rather creepy shower of human teeth.

By and large though, the premiere of the most hush-hush American Horror Story season yet fell far short of the make-my-skin-crawl moments that AHS fans have become used to. And it didn’t give us a strong feeling about the theme. Vulture echoed this sentiment. It began with describing the intro to last night’s episode of American Horror Story.

“[Ryan Murphy] says, ‘Tonight, we answer the question that has been haunting everyone… Just what the hell is this season of AHS all about?’ Well, we didn’t get many answers tonight. I figured for sure that the end credits would reveal a title like American Horror Story: Rednecks or American Horror Story: TLC Specials, or American Horror Story: P.M. Dawn Reunion Tour. Something. But we got nothing. Guess we’ll have to keep speculating.”

Yes, we’ll have to keep speculating and watching. Maybe things will become more clear with next week’s episode.

[Featured image by FX]

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