Making Sense Of American Horror Story’s Newest Twist: The Double Feature

Photo: John Shearer/Getty Images.
Since its 2011 premiere, American Horror Story has gone pretty much everywhere: To date, seasoned fans have stomached everything from cannibalism to necrophilia to killer Santas. But the horror anthology series’ tenth installment, Double Feature, has something completely new — and no, it’s not just Macaulay Culkin. For the first time, we’re getting two AHS seasons in one. (A double feature, if you will.)
According to Deadline, the first six episodes of Double Feature will tell one story; the next four episodes will tell another. “One set by the sea. A second by the sand,” AHS mastermind Ryan Murphy wrote in an Instagram comment. Part one, Red Tide, tells the story of struggling writer Harry Gardner (Finn Wittrock), who moves his family to a Massachusetts beach town with the hope of conquering his writer’s block and finding a little inspiration. This is AHS, so naturally, that inspiration comes at a gory, creepy, and very bloody cost.
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Some of AHS mastermind Ryan Murphy’s storylines are based on real events, and others clearly draw inspiration from horror classics like The Amityville Horror and The Blair Witch Project. Between the off-season, small town setting, writer protagonist, and hints of psychological horror, the Red Tide trailer and plot seem to pay homage to The Shining — but the similarities could end there. Murphy definitely knows how to subvert a classic story.
In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Wittrock teased that the first batch of episodes will explore how far artists are willing to go for their craft. “There's some very dark interpretations of human creativity in this show, the sacrifices you have to make to really, actually be an artist,” he said. “Is it worth it?” Red Tide also features AHS mainstay Lily Rabe as Harry’s wife, Ryan Kiera Armstrong as his daughter, and Evan Peters and Frances Conroy as mysterious locals.
Aside from the desert setting and very vague fact that aliens will be involved, much less is known about Death Valley — there isn’t even an official cast list yet. But Sarah Paulson confirmed via Twitter that in addition to playing Karen Tuberculosis in the first half, she'll play a new character in the second half of the season, and AHS newcomer Kaia Gerber is also expected to play a prominent role. The biggest mystery, though, is how — or even if — these two stories will relate to one another. 
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With multiple COVID-related production delays, it’s possible that two mini-seasons were just easier to film. But with the season billed as “a collision of terror,” fans are already bracing themselves for an eerie crossover. What’s more, Double Feature key art shows what appears to be a Red Tide siren and a Death Valley alien with the same distinctive, razor-sharp teeth. Some people suspect the finale, slated to air right before Halloween on October 27, could tie the two stories together in a shocking, mind-bending twist; other theorists on Reddit think Death Valley could be the story we watch Wittrock’s character write in Red Tide.
It’s been nearly two years since the curtain closed on American Horror Story: 1984. At the time, Murphy told Deadline that season 10 might be the show’s last, but it’s since been renewed for three more seasons. He’s even hinted at future plot ideas on Twitter, but after the real-life American horror story that’s been the past year and half, I’m just hoping AHS: The Plague gets nixed.
American Horror Story: Double Feature will premiere August 25 on FX.

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