American Horror Story: My Roanoke Nightmare started off with one of the most unique episodes of the entire series.
Picture one of those ghost documentaries where a family recounts the terrors they experienced at a former (or current) home. This season of American Horror Story is a series within a series, with Lily Rabe and Andre Holland portraying the “real life” couple Shelby and Matt Miller while Sarah Paulson and Cuba Gooding Jr. portray the couple during the reenactments.
Happy couple Matt and Shelby Miller have the perfect life in Los Angeles. He’s a pharmaceutical rep and she’s a yoga instructor, and they fall in love, get married and get pregnant. One night their lives change when Matt is attacked during a gang initiation. He’s sucker punched while Shelby is pushed to the ground, and as he lies there motionless she cries for help. At the hospital, the doctors give Matt a grim prognosis along with his broken skull, but Shelby insists that she can help him pull through. Sure enough, he wakes up, but she loses the baby in a tragic miscarriage at the hospital.
Heartbroken, the couple leaves Los Angeles for the lush forests of North Carolina where Matt grew up, and where his sister still lives. They come across a stunning old house in the middle of the forest, and it just so happens that the house is for sale. During a public auction, Matt outbids the locals and wins the house. He gets a warning about building on his ten “protected” acres from the agent while he gets sneers and leers from the local folk. Shelby admits to the camera crew that she was really turned on when Matt bid for the house.
Matt felt immediately at ease in his new house, and he sensed that Shelby felt uneasy, but he blames it on the move from the city and the loss of the baby. One night as they have passionate sex, they’re interrupted by strange noises outside. Is it an animal grunting? The squeals turn into knocking, and when Matt goes to investigate the squeals continue until he goes outside to find the yard in shambles. A trash can comes hurtling toward him, and his immediate reaction is that the hillbilly neighbors are expressing their disdain at an interracial couple moving in.
The next morning, Shelby is trying to get right in the world because she fell asleep during yoga. It starts raining, with the sound of the rain pelting the glass loudly. She goes outside to find that it isn’t rain, but teeth. That’s right, teeth, falling from the sky. She waits for Matt to get home, but he insists that it was a hail storm, not human teeth. He blames the weather, and she tries to accept it.
Matt has to go to Raleigh to meet with the hospitals there. Hopefully he can land some local accounts so he doesn’t have to travel as far. Shelby assures him that she’ll be fine all alone. She tells the camera that she looked forward to being alone for a while because Matt was hovering too much. She spends her time doing yoga, telling the cameras that she’d miss him like crazy while he’s gone and then they have amazing sex when he gets back.
That night Shelby prepares dinner and pours herself some wine while she cooks. A storm is raging outside, and the house makes noises. She wanders through the house and sees what she thinks are twin girls walking down one of the long corridors. This house is huge, and not the kind of place you’d want to be alone in, especially in the middle of nowhere. She goes into the library, thinking to follow them, but finds that it was just her imagination. Later, she ventures outside to the hot tub, which is just a big vat in a wooden frame. She drinks her wine and sits back to float around. Suddenly, she’s pushed underwater by hands, and as she struggles she is held down even more.
Matt comes down the driveway to find the police at his house. The policeman tells him that there’s no evidence that anyone attacked her, even though she claims that they had costumes, pitch forks and torches. Matt tells him it was his neighbors, and the cop says that he’ll talk to them. Matt suspects that the cop won’t file a report, thinking that it’s due to their race.
Shelby insists that she was attacked and that she didn’t imagine anything. He swears he believes her. Shelby feels guilty that she didn’t tell Matt how much she wanted to leave the house.
That night, Matt awakens after he hears another squealing noise. This time he goes outside to find a dead pig on his porch. The poor creature had been ravaged. He sees it as proof that the hillbilly neighbors were trying to get rid of them. He sets up motion detection cameras around the yard that are synced to his phone so that he can watch over Shelby while he’s on his next trip. He also calls his sister, Lee, to come stay with Shelby.
Lee, played by Angela Bassett in the story, is not a fan of Shelby or her profession. Lee studied criminal psychology and was on her way to becoming a detective when a drug bust went bad and she was shot in the line of duty while attempting to rescue a baby in a drug house. That incident led her to develop an addiction to pain pills, and one fateful day she was high as a kite while on duty when a suspected serial rapist sped past her squad car and she went off in pursuit. “A serial rapist. A real asshole. I hate assholes,” she says. He killed himself before he could be captured, but one of the other officers finds her pain pills in the car and she is terminated from her job. Her husband divorces her after she hits rock bottom because of her addiction, and she lost custody of her daughter as a result. Lee becomes emotional at the end of her story and asks to stop for a moment.
Shelby takes a drink of wine and cuts vegetables, but she’s interrupted by a strange noise down the hall where she imagined seeing the two girls. She returns to the kitchen to find that her knife is gone, and it is now sticking up out of her roast on the stove. Shelby suspects Lee, who says she’s jumpy. They chit chat about cooking, but Lee gets distracted by the wine and admits she’s barely hanging onto her sobriety. Lee tells her she still has her gun.
Lee thought her brother was making things up, but she’s awakened in the middle of the night by the squealing sounds. As she gets up, the wine bottle rolls into her bedroom. Lee goes off to find Shelby, who is in the library. As they argue, Matt gets a notification from his phone that the alarms have been triggered and he sees people carrying torches into his yard. A woman with a bloody knife passes the library window where Lee and Shelby argue.
Matt watches as the mob approaches the house, and he can’t get the women to answer the phone. Shelby accuses Lee of not being there for her brother even though he was there when she needed him. That’s when the sound of a door opening distracts them. Lee slips into police officer mode and the duo go off in search of the sound. They find a television in the basement that is playing video of a man in the woods trying to capture the image of a monster. It’s some kind of creature, but they can’t see it. As they turn to run, the power goes out.
Matt sees the mob entering the house and he panics, thinking that the police won’t go to investigate anything.
Lee and Shelby hear the sound of multiple people upstairs above them. They’re down there for 20-30 minutes before Lee decides to go back upstairs. In the foyer they find a spider web of little figures hanging all over the atrium.
Matt arrives after the police left and he says the police called it vandalism but he calls it terrorism. Shelby tells Matt about the video and he wants to go watch it. He thinks the video is fake, and he sees it all as a way to get them to leave so the neighbors can buy the house cheap. Shelby says the cops aren’t going to do anything. Lee starts to take that remark personally, but even she knows this is a weird situation. Lee says they can’t let the neighbors run her from their home.
Shelby takes the car and leaves the house, needing a drive. She says that “humans respond to fear in two simple ways, fight or flight.” As she reaches to answer Matt’s call, she hits a woman in the street. The woman is knocked quite a way’s away, but she gets back up with his meat cleaver and walks into the forest. Shelby chases her, thinking that the woman needed medical treatment. She goes 50 feet into the forest, but she loses sight of the woman and gets herself turned around. She’s lost. She starts to hear noises in the forest, and then she runs into more of the dolls. She stumbles, and then the earth starts moving, looking like the rise and fall of someone’s chest. The trees are also moving. She runs again and finds herself surrounded by people with torches, including Wes Bentley and a man whose skull has been removed.
How was that for a first episode?