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The hauntings that shouldn’t be compared: ‘Hill House’ and ‘American Horror Story’

Last Friday, Netflix released “The Haunting of Bly Manor,” the unrelated sequel of the supernatural horror drama series “The Haunting of Hill House.” The majority of the adult cast from “Hill House” returned in “Bly,” causing many viewers to draw comparisons to the ongoing series “American Horror Story.”

The two TV programs are, without a doubt, highly similar. Both are horror programs that change from season to season, where the same actresses and actors are often recast.

But is there really a basis for comparison on their merit?

In both of the show’s two seasons, “Hill House” follows seemingly sane families as they deal with the insane hauntings of the houses they live in. The acting is incredible, and the actors and actresses have highly realistic responses to the horrors around them. It’s easy to relate to these characters and establish a strong bond with them. We root for them and cheer them on when they find love and overcome adversity, and we are devastated by their deaths and traumatic experiences.

Season to season, though, the plot doesn’t change much. Certainly, a new story and a new haunting are tackled, but the premise is basically the same.

Victoria Pedretti, who plays Nell in “Hill House” and Dani in “Bly,” gives a performance that is practically indistinguishable between the two seasons. Sure, she plays a new character with a different voice and a different background, but she’s still playing a neurotic individual who slowly loses her grasp on reality as the haunting consumes her.

I commend Pedretti and the rest of the cast for their impeccable acting and devotion to their characters, but their characters are, in essence, still responding to the same stimuli and situations across seasons.

“American Horror Story,” on the other hand, crafts original plots from season to season, causing the actors and actresses to adopt entirely different personas for each. Sarah Paulson, for example, plays a psychic, a gay reporter, a pair of conjoined twins, the supreme of a coven, a drug dealer and a British actress in separate seasons.

The plots of “AHS” seasons aren’t even remotely comparable. Aside from the actors and actresses and the shared universe, there isn’t a lot of overlap.

“AHS” also kills off characters like it’s nobody’s business. While character deaths in “Hill House” leave me sobbing, it would be difficult for me to muster more than an “aww” at deaths in “AHS.”

Although both shows have similar episode lengths and amounts of episodes per season, their goals are entirely different. “Hill House” wants us to become invested in its complex stories, cinematography, characters and end catharsis. “AHS,” on the other hand, is focused on comedic content, social commentary and an exploration of each season’s individual concepts.

Trying to compare the two shows on merit would be like trying to compare a pay-to-enter Halloween haunted house with a genuinely haunted house. Sure there’s a bit of a scare/macabre factor in both, but you go to each for entirely different reasons, even though their audience may be the same.

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