In general, American Horror Story does well when it mixes grounded drama with the supernatural aspects of horror. This can be traced back all the way to its first season, when the dynamic of a broken family trying to stay together was uprooted by a haunted house. Likewise, its spinoff series, American Horror Stories, fairs as much the same way. It’s most recent episode, titled “Aura” after it’s video doorbell star, tries to mimic this formula while implementing a sci-fi/technology angle to the story.
The episode follows a couple who recently moved into a new gated community due to the wife’s (Gabourey Sidibe) post-traumatic stress from a childhood break-in. In order to further guarantee their safety, she buys a security doorbell named Aura, which can actually summon spirits from beyond the grave. After dealing with her own ghosts, things take a turn for the worst when the husband (Max Greenfield) has to deal with his. The story is filled with red herrings and some surprising twists that make for a wonky plot and characterization. Although, the surprises and moments filled with tension still create an entertaining episode even though it falls short of its potential.
By all accounts, there’s a lot here to ensure the American Horror Story formula succeeds. It has past trauma made worse by present drama — exacerbated further by sci-fi and supernatural horror. But the story never meets the American Horror Story standard, which is actually pretty high. Overall, it seems as if this episode was an improvement over the last one, which fumbled to find its footing with a dated premise then never quite hit its mark. This episode mainly ranks in the middle of the pack as far as American Horror Story tales, and within this spinoff specifically. But the fact that it returned to the formula that American Horror Story excels at brings hope for the remainder of the season.
American Horror Stories streams Thursdays on Hulu.