by Steve Desroches
Top Image: Leslie Grossman and Macaulay Culkin in the 10th season of American Horror Story. Photo: Instagram / Ryan Murphy
In the opening scene of American Horror Story: Asylum two newlyweds, an interracial couple in 1964, prepare dinner. The second season of the hit horror franchise was set in Massachusetts, and when Kit, portrayed by Evan Peters, says to his wife Alma, played by Britne Oldford, that he wants to tell everyone of their recent clandestine marriage, she expresses hesitation. He responds, “Oh come on, we didn’t commit a crime. We drove to Provincetown and got married.” Fans in Provincetown perked up at the mention, wondering if producer and co-creator as well as part-time resident Ryan Murphy was going to make the town part of the story line.
But nine years later, he did, when it was announced season 10 would begin filming in Provincetown. The extra quiet of a pandemic winter got a shake when crews arrived in March, at times lighting up the dark night sky working until the wee hours on the latest tale of terror. Premiering on August 25, from the opening shot it was clear that Provincetown was not just the setting, but also a central part of the storyline of the first part, titled Red Tide, of American Horror Story: Double Feature.
From the opening credits with the frequent and varied imagery of the Pilgrim Monument to sweeping drone shots of Provincetown in the winter, the steely serenity and beauty of the town in the off-season is given a sinister and a wonderfully campy veneer. Now, four episodes into the series, the show is a fun spooky campfire introduction to the town and for those that live here, it’s an entertaining Easter-egg hunt to interpret in local vernacular.
It is, of course, a work of fiction, as we don’t have freakish vampire humanoids roaming the streets…yet. But if you are familiar with the eccentricities of a Provincetown winter, you’ll love the tongue-in-cheek treatment it receives, whether it’s the karaoke rendition of “Islands in the Stream” at the Muse (with the Mews façade featured prominently) or being on the receiving end of an out-of-the-blue unintelligible, yet strangely compelling shouted rant from a stranger passing by.
In addition to giving a huge visual platform to the town by featuring iconic images and creating new ones, the house at 103 Commercial Street has quickly eclipsed the West End house with the large American flag as the most photographed home in town shifting hashtags on Instagram. But above all else, the most enjoyable aspect of the show is interpreting and imagining the local influence on the storyline. Murphy and co-creator Brad Falchuk make many of their inspirations obvious as they incorporate them into various seasons. As this story continues to unfold things looks familiar. Are the demons haunting the town in the show derived from the legend of the Black Flash? Will the Lady of the Dunes make an appearance or will other true crime stories of the Outer Cape make their way in? There’s even a hint of the 1990 locally made cult classic film Johnny in Monsterland to it all. Murphy’s productions are notoriously tight-lipped about most everything so as not to ruin any element of surprise, but it’s definitely worth watching to find out and decide for yourself.
American Horror Story: Double Feature airs on Wednesdays at 10 p.m. on FX and is available for streaming the next day on Hulu. The ten-episode season concludes on October 20.