With this season’s American Horror Story now in full swing, we’re really starting to get a feel for the topics that the show’s interested in exploring and some of its potential influences. Aside from the creators’ clear political motivations and overt horror nods, after this week’s episode we began to notice some familiar framing and thematic threads from one of the most seminal episodes of the OG spooky anthology show, The Twilight Zone.
“The Monsters Are Due On Maple Street” is arguably one of the most lauded and discussed episodes of Rod Serling’s dark and delirious anthology show. The Twilight Zone had numerous incredible conceits, yet there’s something about this intimate exploration of neighborly suspicion that truly grabbed the imagination of the public, including–we suspect–Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk.
Originally aired in 1960, the 22nd episode of the first season tells the story of a small suburban street that tears itself apart during a blackout. If you’ve been keeping up with American Horror Story then this may already sound familiar to you. Over the last two episodes the creators have borrowed heavily from this Twilight Zone classic, introducing an (apparently) statewide blackout that led to Ally becoming increasingly paranoid, saw Winter turn on her, the Harrisons arm her, and ended with Ally murdering the chef from her restaurant, Pedro, in a fit of paranoid fear. A death that plays similarly to the hysteria fueled murder of a neighbor in the Twilight Zone episode, who’s also shot during a blackout in a case of mistaken identity.
This exploration of the simmering tensions of a small street boiled over into this week’s episode “Neighbors From Hell,” with most of the hour being focused on Ally and Ivy’s house and the claustrophobic idea of being trapped where you live. The small, perfectly kept street becoming a prison for the people who live on it. Murphy and Falchuk leaned heavily into themes of invasion too, with the newly arrived Wilton’s turning on Ally and threatening her, demanding that she leave the street to which she exclaimed, “We were here first!”
If you’ve seen “The Monsters Are Due On Maple Street”, you’ll know that the story is driven by the idea of invasion, as the residents of Maple Street descend into a rabid group hysteria focused on the one family who haven’t left their house during the blackout. In the Twilight Zone episode, the invaders are thought to be aliens. Though a radical end stage reveal proves the residents are *almost* right–outside intergalactic influence is there–as the title suggests, the real monsters are the ones who already inhabit the titular street.
Manipulation through fear is one of the strongest threads of AHS: Cult. It’s clearly the driver of Kai’s actions as he works to manipulate Ally, a woman who’s basically being controlled at every step by her phobias and his aim to use political instability and fear as a means to gain absolute control have been clear from his first appearance. “The Monsters Are Due On Maple Street” utilized the influence of fear in a much more subtle way, truly leaving the residents of the street to tear themselves apart. We suspect that the creators of American Horror Story have taken this simple conceit and run riot with it, making Kai the puppet master, and lending modern fuel to the fire with heavy handed references to our current political climate and social struggles.
Will you be checking out this classic Twilight Zone episode? Do you see the similarities between these anthology installments? Would you love to see a Murphy and Falchuk Twilight Zone? Let us know in the comments!
Images: FOX, CBS