Every Major Horror Movie Reference On American Horror Story – Imitation or Inspiration?

Ben Mueller | Oct 1, 2013

Prepare to get all your spooks out October 9th with the super-sexy, super-scary premiere of American Horror Story: Coven. Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk–the minds behind both AHS and Glee–are devout horror fans who make a game out of referencing classic tropes from the genre’s past. Although they tamed their inspirations for Season 2–and upped the alien abductions and ax murders–do they continually pay homage where homage is due, or pilfer from horror classics for new fans who don’t know any better? You be the judge as we relive all the ghastly fun below.

Season 1 Episode 1

Creepy Twins – The Shining (1980)

You can’t put twins in horror without echoing the iconic creepy girls from The Shining, who drew striking resemblance to that one Diane Arbus photo anyway.

AHS 1

Season 1 Episode 1

Bone Mobile – The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)

Here’s a subtle one, but the bone mobile found in the first episode hearkens back to the bone room of Leatherface’s goodies in Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

AHS 2

Season 1 Episode 1

Tarantino Music for School Shooting – Kill Bill (2003)

You can’t hear “Twisted Nerve” without picturing Daryl Hannah in all her eyepatched glory. No dice on this one guys: Tarantino has it claimed, even though it was composed by Bernard Herrmann for the 1968 feature Twisted Nerve.

AHS 3

Season 1 Episode 2

Hitchcock’s Scores in the Nurse Stabbing Scene - Psycho (1960)

Two iconic Hitchcock scores–both featured in Psycho–play during the episode’s opening scene. They were again composed by our buddy Bernard Herrmann!

AHS 5

Season 1 Episode 2

Three Masked Intruders – The Strangers (2008)

Certainly not the only film to scare by means of home invasion, 2008′s The Strangers stars three masked spooks who break in and terrorize a home. Deja vu, no?

AHS 6

Season 1 Episode 3

Camera Pan Reveals Ghosty Head Wound – The Sixth Sense (1999)

When the ghost of Nora (Lily Rabe)–wife to the crazed Dr. Montogomery–pays a visit to Vivien (Connie Britton), the camera pans behind her head to reveal a ghastly wound. It’s a classic reveal M. Night Shyamalan utilized over and over again.

AHS 7

Season 1 Episode 4

Creepy Baby – Rosemary’s Baby (1968)

The “ungodly” child Dr. Montgomery (Matt Ross) creates from his dead baby prompts Nora’s response, “What have you done to our child?!” It’s a nod to the unseen monster in Roman Polanski’s classic. To be true, fingerprints of the flick are all over Seasons 1 and 2.

AHS 8

Season 1 Episode 5

Writing on the Mirror – I Know What You Did Last Summer (1997)

Hayden (Kate Mara), Ben’s fling, writes a message on the bathroom mirror to Vivien. We’re reminded of the concluding scene in the 90s slasher.

AHS 9

Season 1 Episode 6

Piggy Man – Saw (2004)

Jigsaw’s iconic pig mask in Saw ruined bacon for all of us, so American Horror Story went ahead and tried to ruin ham with the pig mask of urban legend Piggy Man. The imagery here is so incredibly similar, it’s a direct swipe.

AHS 10

Season 1 Episode 6

Organ Meat Feast – The Silence of the Lambs (1991)

You can’t copyright cannibalism, but among the parade of organ meats Moira (Frances Conroy) feeds Vivian is a red number that Hannibal Lecter would love for his latest recipe.

AHS 11

Season 1 Episode 7

Teethy Dismemberment – Teeth (2007)

Moira (Alexandra Breckenridge) kills the man planning on destroying the Murder House by… let’s just say she robs him of his manhood. Her method is similar to a scene in 2007′s horror comedy Teeth, where another boy’s prized possession meets a similar fate.

AHS 12

Season 1 Episode 9

Smile Wound – The Dark Knight (2008)

The Dark Night isn’t horror, but Heath Ledger’s Joker certainly is. The smile carved on the woman’s face by Dr. Montgomery borrows from the villain’s makeup.

(Brownie Points!: In Season 2 Episode 13, journalist Lana Winters calls the reputation of serial killer Bloody Face that of a “Heath Ledger Hollywood movie star villain.”)

AHS 13

Season 1 Episode 12

Devil Spawn – The Omen (1976)

Constance’s grandson is an Antichrist child, and he concludes the series by murdering his nanny. Yep, never seen a murderous devil child before…

AHS 14

Season 2 Intro

Spider Walk – The Exorcist (1973)

The glimpse of the girl crawling up the stairs in the Season 2 intro is a straight-up imitation of Linda Blair’s restored “spider walk” scene.

AHS 15

Season 2 Episode 1

Bloody Face – The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)

The trope of a pervy killer wearing the skin of his victims goes back forever, most notably with Leatherface from Texas Chainsaw. The real-life inspiration has always been serial killer Ed Gein, also the model for Norman Bates in Psycho.

AHS 16

Season 2 Episode 1

Foul Toss – Silence of the Lambs (1991)

When journalist Lana Winters (Sarah Paulson) passes by several patients’ cells, one man throws a certain bodily fluid at her. You’ll remember the same filthy scenario happening to Clarice (Jodi Foster) in Silence of the Lambs.

AHS 17

Season 2 Episode 2

Brutal Electroshock Treatment – One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975)

Lana receives electroshock therapy in this episode, and the camera angles and jerking aftereffects call upon Jack Nicholson’s painful portrayal of the very same.

AHS 18

Season 2 Episode 3

Scissor Stab – Dial M For Murder (1954)

Sister Mary (Lily Rabe) stabs the Mexican patient with a pair of scissors, the same stabbing weapon synonymous with the Hitchcock classic.

AHS 19

Season 2 Episode 4

Pukey Aversion Therapy – A Clockwork Orange (1971)

Dr. Oliver Thredson (Zachary Quinto) tries to cure Lana of her homosexuality by inducing vomiting via apomorphine while she watches images of scantily clad women. It’s identical to Alex trying to be cured of the old ultra violence.

AHS 20

Season 2 Episode 5

Like An Enormous Bathroom – Saw (2004)

Dr. Thredson’s basement workroom is not unlike Jigsaw’s tiled hellhole in Saw.

AHS 21

Season 2 Episode 11

Amorphous Alien Organ Imagery – Eraserhead (1977)

Grace (Lizzie Brochere) recounts her alien abduction to Kit as bizarre, organic imagery floats and ripples on the screen. David Lynch is stoked.

AHS 22

Are these great homages or big ripoffs? Share your thoughts below!

Find Ben on Google+


Get Our Newsletter


Loading Disqus Comments ...
Loading Facebook Comments ...