American Horror Story's Main Titles Ranked

Ranking American Horror Story’s Title Sequences

[Note: This post was originally written in October 2017 and at that time only ranked American Horror Story Seasons 1–7, since then it has been updated to include the title sequence from 2018’s Apocalypse, and later 2019’s 1984.]

I have a love/hate relationship with American Horror Story. On the one hand, it has legitimized horror and has helped bring the genre to the small screen. But, on the other hand, I’ve tried watching it a few times, and it hasn’t yet drawn me in. So, while I’m not a ravenous fan, I do appreciate its existence, and I dig its style. Especially, its title sequences.

If you follow me on Twitter, you know I am a fan of title sequences. For years, I’ve been a Patreon supporter of Art of the Title—a site dedicated to the art form. (They do good work, and you should support them.) So, it will come as no surprise that I unabashedly love AHS main title sequence. Part of its draw is that it changes. It’s different each season. There are connections between each, most notably the amazing AHS theme music—the heavy notes remain constant as do the harsh buzzes that rasp as players get introduced. As a set, they’re remarkable, and a few stand out as truly great. Since it’s the month of Halloween, I figured it would be fun to rank the American Horror Story title sequences. Let’s start at the bottom.

9. Roanoke (Season 6)

Of course, this will be rated dead last. Roanoke had no title sequence. In her piece American Horror Story: 7 Seasons of Title Design for Art of the Title, Alexandra West asks AHS Executive Producer Alexis Martin Woodall and Title Designer Kyle Cooper why it was missing. (Go read the article. It’s good.) Their answer is interesting and valid, but since this is a list ranking sequences, Roanoke will remain an aberration and at the bottom of the list.

8. 1984 (Season 9)

Nostalgia packs a wallop—the right song, the right visual, the right “hey, I remember that” can be a significant driver of interest. These days, horror is in love with the 80s (It, Stranger Things, Mandy), and you can see that reflected here as well. The title sequence for 1984 wants to be included in that conversation. It’s desperate for it. But, in the end, this feels like pandering—nostalgia as marketing, the product of focus groups, not a vision with something to say. It’s evident in the titles. The synth-pop rendition of the theme doesn’t carry menace and becomes clownish. The visuals are weak. The points of nostalgia are mere thin. Regan! Breakdancing! Roller skates! Remember tapes!? Whereas Cult mixed the metaphor of politics with horror with 1984 we see only nostalgic clips, an occasional slasher-flick mimic, and blood dropping across the screen. I’m a child of the 80s, I’m a sucker for the VHS effect, but in the neon-soaked 80s-nostalgia race that is 2019, this comes across as tired. There’s no intent. It’s forgettable. But, hey… at least those credit cards are nice.

7. Hotel (Season 5)

Hotel lacks subtlety. It’s brash and over the top. It comes across as silly, and to me, it doesn’t set the mood the way other sequences do. The heavy-handed neon Ten Commandments do not help, although they are a neat visual juxtaposition. However, it’s the repeated thing-in-the-mattress motif that loses me. It’s creepy at first, but its impact falters after the third, fourth, or fifth flash. And it doesn’t stop; it’s used at least nine times.

6. Cult (Season 7)

In 2017 AHS returned with Cult, and it doesn’t improve on Hotel’s failings. Americana interplays with odd and sometimes violent scenes that are common in the series. This, however, is less horror and more gore. Modern political instability is channeled and rightly so, and the classic AHS music mixes with a fife and drum sound that is reminiscent of national anthems. It’s a nice touch, which lifts it higher than Hotel.

5. Asylum (Season 2)

Building off the success of the first season, Asylum took the style from Murder House and turned it up a notch. It’s darker, it’s grittier, but it’s less nuanced. Some of the impacts from Season 1 are lost, and it feels a little samey. Murder House works so well because it was unexpected. Especially for television. Horror isn’t about the “thing”; it’s the emotions and the anticipation, and I had anticipated Asylum’s title sequence well in advance.

4. Freakshow (Season 4)

The stop-motion stylization was a nice change of pace, and I think it sets the tone well for a series involving an evil circus. There is an evocation of a corrupted childhood at play here, toys behaving in a way that is unexpected which puts the viewer on edge. It’s was an excellent choice to move in a different direction, and it helped Freakshow stand out.

3. Apocalypse (Season 8)

Many of the trappings are here (as well as some reused visuals) but the interplay between two similar but distinct themes works rather well. The combination of visuals from a Biblical Apocalypse featuring the expected woodcuts and iconography is woven through images of a nuclear apocalypse with gas masks, test footage, and mushroom clouds. It all works rather well. The melting candle motif might be important to the plot but it comes across a bit hamfisted. That said, Apocalypse is one of the stronger title sequences AHS has had for some time and it’s nice to see the series return to form.

2. Murder House (Season 1)

The first opening title sequence for AHS channels a raw homemade style that works perfectly. I’ve never had high hopes for television horror, but this was a welcome surprise. Cesar Davila-Irizarry’s theme music stunned me and instantly became one of the most memorable themes. The visuals hint at the underlying concepts of the show without revealing too much, and it really nailed the mood.

1. Coven (Season 3)

Mood and tone abound in the season three opener: gritty black and white shots, strangely animated woodcuts, weird stop-motion, and the creepy hooded figures! (Which yes, totally remind me of the gargoyles from my Bell Forging Cycle.) A good story doesn’t ignore tropes. Instead, it bends them in new and exciting ways. You see that at play in Coven’s title sequences: all the expected visuals are there, but things are unusually bent. The quick cuts to uncomfortably close shots introduce story elements in a way that adds to the sequence: the revelations only help to enhance instead of detracting. I will admit that my design sensibilities lean in a similar direction, and there is a bit of bias. But to me, Coven is the gold standard, the perfected AHS title sequence.

It’s great to see a series play so much with the opening title sequence and elevate the art. I know that the fans appreciate it, as well. (The reactions to Roanoke’s missing sequence were…uh, vocal.) So! Now that I’ve finished my list, why not tell me what you think? How would you rank the AHS title sequences? What did I get wrong? What did I get right? The comments are open! Let me know!

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Friday Link Pack 08/21/2015

Friday Link Pack 08/21/2015

Friday is here! As is today’s Friday Link Pack! Some of these links I’ve mentioned on Twitter, if you’re not already following me there, please do! Do you have a link I should feature in the upcoming link pack? Click here to email me and let me know! (Include a website so I can link to you as well.) Let’s get to it…


6 Unusual Habits Of Exceptionally Creative People
Sometimes a shift in our routine can help our creativity. In this article, Dr. Travis Bradberry examines six habits used by some pretty talented folks to boost their creativity.

Obsessively Detailed Map Of American Literature’s Most Epic Road Trips
If you have read my second book, Old Broken Road, it’ll come as no surprise to learn that I love a good road trip story. So I was pretty excited when my favorite blog, Atlas Obscura, put together this incredible post mapping out some of America’s greatest road trips.

Neil Gaiman’s 8 Rules of Writing
I have long been a fan of writer’s personal lists of rules. It’s always good to glean what you can apply to your own list (and yeah, we all have our own personal list.) Neil Gaiman is no exception. (Note #5.)

Map Of The Known Territories
This Monday, I released the official map for my Lovecraftian urban fantasy series: The Bell Forging Cycle. Hand annotated by Wal himself, the map gives readers a glimpse into the world of the Territories and covers everything up to the forthcoming Red Litten World. Check it out, I think you’ll dig it.


Banksy’s Dismaland
So, Banksy has a new art show. The work itself is solid, as always. But, the whole shtick of thinking you’re making some new revelation by calling out Disney as a purveyor of fantasy while true injustice flourishes in the world is tiresome and juvenile. To quote a friend of mine this is a: ‘bitter and angsty teenager dabbling in punk rock.’ Honestly, the New York show was more interesting. This lacks subtlety and nuance and the theme is played out. It’s Banksy, so it’s making waves, so I’d be remiss not to mention it. You can see more at the Instagram account.

The Title Sequence For The Dunwich Horror
My badass editor, Lola Landekic, put together this piece for the blog Art of the Title. Examining Daniel Haller’s 1970s Lovecraftian B-Movie The Dunwich Horror. The movie is not good, but Sandy Dvore’s titles combined with Les Baxter music is wonderful.


Ammassalik Wooden Maps
It’s no secret that I love maps. So when I saw these wooden maps carved by the Inuit in the late 1800s I was blown away. Rendering land in such a tactile way makes a lot of sense when you think about it, but we’ve been so programmed to view a map as a flat image that this comes across as foreign and strange. More reading on Wikipedia. [Thanks to Adam for sharing this with me.]

Realise Minas Tirith
So… this group in the UK wants to build Tolkien’s Minas Tirith… with crowd funding. And over the next 40 days they’re trying to raise $2,904,500,000. Yeah, nearly 3 billion dollars. A lofty goal for sure, but it’s still cheaper than most US military spending.

Underwater ‘Stonehenge’ Monolith Found Off Coast of Sicily
If the nightmare corpse-city of R’lyeh was Cthulhu’s home, perhaps this recently discovery near Italy is his summer vacation home?

Superheroes A ‘Cultural Catastrophe’, Says Comics Guru Alan Moore
As the part time crazy wizard and comics icon, Alan Moore, steps out of public life. He gave one last (???) interview to Pádraig Ó Méalóid at Slovobooks. In it discusses a variety of things from superheroes to defending his work from the accusations of violence, sexism, and racism in his work. It’s worth reading even if you’re not an Alan Moore fan. You can read the full interview here.


Bubbly Creek
“Bubbly Creek is the nickname given to the South Fork of the Chicago River’s South Branch, which runs entirely within the city of Chicago, Illinois, US. It marks the boundary between the Bridgeport and McKinley Park community areas of the city. The creek derives its name from the gases bubbling out of the riverbed from the decomposition of blood and entrails dumped into the river in the early 20th century by the local meatpacking businesses surrounding the Union Stock Yards directly south of the creek’s endpoint at Pershing Road. It was brought to notoriety by Upton Sinclair in his exposé on the American meat packing industry entitled The Jungle.”



The Challenge from Beyond
This isn’t a story from only H.P. Lovecraft. Each section was written by one of his contemporaries. The final story features sections written by C.L. Moore, A. Merritt, Lovecraft, Robert E.Howard, and Frank Belknap Long. The end result is, well… interesting.


space toast coast to coastThanks to Setsu for submitting today’s gif!

Friday Link Pack 05/23/2014


It’s time to share a few interesting links I have found throughout the week. Some of these I mention on Twitter, if you’re not already following me there, please do! Have a link I should feature in the upcoming link pack? Let me know!


New Edition Of The Strangest Book In The World: Codex Seraphinianus
This October publishing house Rizzoli plans to re-release Luigi Serafini’s strange Codex Seraphinianus. Take a gander at its weirdness. I can’t wait.

What would you say if you could read 500 words per minute, how about 700? What if you could finish a whole novel in 90-minutes. Well, Spritz—with the power of some smart technology—wants to help you do just that.

5 Common Problems I See In Your Stories
In classic PenMonkey style (aka nsfw), author Chuck Wendig offers five candid pieces of writing advice. There’s some good thoughts here no matter how long you’ve been at it.


Device 6 Title Sequence
One of my favorite sites—Art of the Title—featured the title sequence for one of my favorite games from last year: Device 6. I high recommend you check out this interview. It’s fantastic.

Typography…animated. This is the best thing I have seen all week.


Watch A Spectacular Supercell Take Form In Wyoming
Nature is amazing.

Spurious Correlations
What does the per capita consumption of cheese have to do with the number of people who died by becoming tangled in their bedsheets? You wouldn’t think there’s a correlation, but there sure seems to be something fishy going on.

Granny & Shady Lady
The most terrifying home-craft project you’ve ever seen.

How far can you walk/drive in 10 minutes?
Isoscope is built to help you figure that out. (It’s super cool.)

Lovecraft Story of the Week:

The Case of Charles Dexter Ward
Since it’s a long weekend, why not a longer read. Follow Charles Dexter Ward as he becomes engrossed in researching his dark family history.

Farewell Gif of the Week: