In some ways it is quite hard to describe the fifth season of American Horror Story and it took me a good few episodes to even orientate myself. It starts off as a paranormal documentary portraying the allegedly true experiences of a couple, Shelby (Lily Rabe/Sarah Paulson) and Matt Miller (Andre Holland/Cuba Gooding Jr) who buy a house in a remote farmstead in North Carolina.
The documentary involves a reinactment of the couple as well as Matt’s sister, Lee Harris (Adina Porter/Angela Bassett) being terrorised by a series of murderous supernatural apparaitions, lead by the Butcher (Kathy Bates). This means that there are two actors playing all the lead roles, this is once again disorienting when the second half of the series switches to a follow up show that places the original cast and real life counterparts back in the house.
To a large extent the plot of the actual haunting is incidental because that isn’t really what Roanoke is about. Instead this is an examination of modern society’s obsession with reality TV and filming everything that happens. The show’s produced, Sidney (Cheyenne Jackson) has no regard for the safety of the cast and crew of the show as long as he makes money and the way that everyone continues to film what is happening no matter how horribly wrong things go wrong is what is truly horrific. This goes alongside how every character is attempting to use the show and the happenings to further their own image and the public’s perception of them.
There is a sense that everyone is being exploited and simultaenously exploiting everyone around them. The idea that the second series would even air after what happened is sickening, however it doesn’t seem beyond the bounds of possibility. I was also fascinated by the fact that the character’s often refuse to believe what is in front of their eyes because they are so used to “reality” being manipulated and recut.
This season is certainly not going to be for everyone. It’s a real thinker and it takes a lot of getting into, but I really loved it. When it comes to the cast, Adina Porter is an absolute stand out, while Sarah Paulson is back on form. Kathy Bates has a great time with the Butcher and shows she’s excellent at playing totally deranged characters.
Without question one of my favourite seasons.