Depraved and downright haunting, American Horror Story is a modern-day gem. Since 2011, Ryan Murphy’s anthology series has terrified, bewildered, and downright sickened audiences. Known for pushing television to its limits, AHS holds nothing back. From showing the dark, dank depths of an insane asylum to examining the inner workings of a witch's coven, the show is definitely not for the weak (or the squeamish); it goes out of its way to sensationalize gore for shock value. And it works. Coupled with powerful storytelling and rich characters, American Horror Story makes for a captivating watch. All these elements combined have contributed to the show’s continuing success because there’s nothing on TV like it. It’s a horrifying soup of grotesque, creepy stories working to make the viewer uncomfortable and unsettled for days on end.
The latest installment, American Horror Story: Delicate, sees the return of some of the show’s veteran actors alongside some new faces. Emma Roberts and Zachary Quinto are back with newcomers Kim Kardashian and Cara Delevingne. Based on the thriller novel Delicate Condition by Danielle Valentine, the story follows Anna Alcott, who is in want of starting a family. This marks the first time in AHS history that a season is using another form of media to jump-start it.
With the finale of American Horror Story’s 12th season soon upon us, we put together a list of the most disturbing episodes that range from gory to completely psychotic.
10. “Piggy Piggy” (Murder House)
In the lead-up to this episode, Tate (Evan Peters) and Violet (Taissa Farmiga) are haunted and taunted by a group of teenagers. They claim that Tate is responsible for their deaths while he seemingly has no memory of what they’re talking about. Flashback to 1994, to the halls of a high school and the sound of gunshots ripping through the air. Students and faculty alike are running for their lives. The shooter? None other than Tate himself. This reveal is still one of the most haunting moments in AHS history, as we’ve spent the better part of the season sympathizing with him and Violet.
9. “Welcome to Briarcliff” (Asylum)
While Murder House set the precedent for the show, Asylum set the tone. In 2012, Leo (Adam Levine) and Teresa (Jenna Dewan-Tatum) are newlyweds with a horror fetish. Deciding to spend their honeymoon in an abandoned sanitorium, they quickly find themselves in a sticky spot when the building isn’t as “abandoned” as it seems. Faced with a killer wearing a human-skin mask, Teresa is left to get help while her new husband bleeds. Panning over to 1964, up-and-coming journalist Lana Winters takes a solo trip to Briarcliff to discover all she can about an infamous serial killer who resides there. From the first few minutes of the episode, you know you’re in for something delightfully sadistic.
8. “The Replacements” (Coven)
This is where it starts to get weird(er). Bestiality is the name of this game in this episode. Marie Laveau (Angela Bassett) sends a minotaur to exact her own personal brand of revenge on ex-slave owner Madame LaLaurie (Kathy Bates). Fortunately for LaLaurie, the minotaur comes across Queenie (Gabourey Sidibe) instead. In one of AHS’ most shocking and graphic scenes, we see Queenie and the minotaur become “entangled.” Thankfully, the scene doesn’t last too long as it cuts away, leaving the viewer in a state of disbelief and asking themselves: What the fuck did I just watch?
7. “Checking In” (Hotel)
Meet Countess Elizabeth (Lady Gaga) and Donovan (Matt Bomer), the resident couple of the Hotel Cortez in sunny downtown Los Angeles. Marked as one of American Horror Story’s darker seasons, the first episode delves behind the depraved closed doors of the hotel's guests. Engaging in a foursome with a couple they pick up, the Countess and Donovan quickly slit their throats. The image of our titular couple bathing in their blood isn’t one we’ll soon forget.
6. “Monsters Among Us” (Freak Show)
If you have coulrophobia, a fear of clowns, we suggest sitting this one out. Bette and Dot Tattler (Sarah Paulson) are conjoined twins who attract the attention of the local freakshow after their mother is found brutally murdered. Elsa Mars (Jessica Lange), leader of the troupe, convinces the twins to join. Cut to Twisty the Clown, who lives up to his name. With the lower half of his face covered by a mask that’s mostly teeth, we see the clown go on a killing spree, leaving us to wonder how these two stories will intertwine.
5. “Camp Redwood” (1984)
The summer slasher trope is nothing new, but it’s still fun and compelling to watch. In 1970, a massacre takes place at Camp Redwood — it’s bloody, gruesome, and everything you’d expect out of a slasher flick. Jumping to 1984, the Night Stalker is causing terror around Los Angeles. Cut to Xavier (Cody Fern) and his friends deciding to head to Camp Redwood’s reopening to escape the chaos in the city. On their road trip, they come across a rest stop. The station attendant warns them that they’re all going to die if they head up to Redwood, but they ignore the advice. What we witness is a series of dominos falling into place as their car hits someone as they continue their (doomed) journey.
4. “Tricks and Treats” (Asylum)
It’s 1964, and homosexuality is a disease in need of being cured. Art very much reflects life as Lana Winters is committed to Briarcliff Manor to cure her of her lesbianism. Or rather, to keep her quiet. Under the guise of “treatment,” Lana is subjected to electroshock therapy. It’s a hard scene to watch knowing these practices happened in real life. It’s a stark reminder of how far we’ve come as a society and how much further we need to go.
3. “Bitchcraft” (Coven)
It’s no surprise that Coven is a fan favorite, and the series premiere does an excellent job of starting it off strong. While casually using human blood as part of her nighttime skin routine, Delphine LaLaurie discovers that her daughter had sex with one of her slaves. As punishment, Bastien (Ameer Baraka) is restrained, tortured, and fitted with a bull’s head over his own. Thus, the minotaur was created. Between the use of human blood and watching a man being turned (quite literally) into a beast, Coven continued to set the standard for what the season had in store.
2. “Smoldering Children” (Murder House)
Who doesn’t love a good plot twist? When Violet learns the truth about Tate in “Piggy Piggy,” she attempts suicide. Seemingly having survived, she distances herself from Tate, trying to flee the house but finds she can’t. Tate then shows Violet her own decomposing corpse in the attic. She was dead the whole time. The imagery of the flies in Violet’s mouth still gives us chills. And although the “they were dead the entire time” trope has also been done, it’s no less impactful here, giving us a good scare.
1. “The Coat Hanger” (Asylum)
Lana Winters is pregnant, and not by choice. Raped and nearly killed by Dr. Thredson (Zachary Quinto), we see the lengths she goes to in order to terminate the pregnancy. In what is arguably one of the most disturbing scenes in American Horror Story history, the audience is made to watch while Lana takes a coat hanger and attempts to abort the baby herself. Raw, grisly, and unnerving, we’re surprised this scene didn’t make the cutting room floor.