Review: ‘American Horror Stories: Aura’

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American Horror Stories: Aura dropped this past Thursday bringing a whole new story to Hulu with its own spooks and chills. While the flagship series focuses on one continuous story for an entire season, American Horror Stories is unique in its structure by telling a complete scary story in about three-quarters of an hour. Such a short time frame means that the story has to move quickly, introducing audiences to a cast of characters along with the problems that are bound to happen.

Manny Coto, who wrote the season premiere of American Horror Stories, returns to write this follow-up, which explores an interesting question. What happens when technology and spirits mix? Especially when those spirits might not be happy with those still living.

American Horror Stories: Aura might be one of the best episodes from the series yet, so follow along as we explore everything this episode has to offer. If you haven’t watched the season premiere yet, check out my review of American Horror Story: Dollhouse!

American Horror Stories-Dollhouse

[Warning: Spoilers from American Horror Story: Aura are below!]

Security doorbells and terrifying encounters

The story opens with Jaslyn Taylor (Gabourey Sidibe) standing by herself in a store, debating the purchase of a small doorbell. Similar to Ring, this brand is called Aura, which she ends up purchasing for the new house that she and her husband Bryce (Max Greenfield) just moved into. Bryce finds the purchase unnecessary, however, an intruder during the night from Jaslyn’s childhood has caused significant trauma and the need to feel safe.

Bryce, who presents as incredibly happy while also being extremely dismissive of his wife, indicates that with the purchase of the new house in a gated community, a two-hundred-dollar doorbell wasn’t a smart choice.

Humoring his wife, he attaches the aura before heading off for a late-night meeting at work. Later that night, while working on her jewelry business, an alarm goes off on her phone, indicating there’s someone at her front door.

American Horror Stories: Aura
An old man (Joel Swetow) appears in Jaslyn’s Aura. American Horror Stories: Aura. (FX/Hulu)

Opening the app, Jaslyn sees an old, creepy man (Joel Swetow), who is similar in appearance to Filch from the Harry Potter films, asking for Jaslyn by name. He begs her to open the door, shaking it as he becomes increasingly more agitated. Calling the police, the old man disappears, that is if he was ever actually on Jaslyn’s front porch. Looking through the neighbor’s footage, it appears that the old man was never truly there. With both the police and Bryce thinking she has cracked, Jaslyn sets out to find answers to what is happening.

A technologically spirited connection and a surprise twist

A few more encounters with the old man occur, one that even Bryce is present for, however every time the man disappears without a trace. Bryce believes that it’s a prank, resulting from someone hacking into the Aura’s system, however, Jaslyn isn’t as easily convinced. Finding others on the internet who have experienced similar events, she believes that there is more going on than meets the eye.

Eventually recognizing the man as a janitor from her high school, Dayle Hendricks, Jaslyn travels to speak with his sister. The sister indicates that the janitor had lived in the house with her until recently when he disappeared. Returning home, Jaslyn encounters Mr. Hendricks in her Aura once again but decides to do something about it.

Mr. Hendricks pleads for Jaslyn to open the door and this time she does. He appeared inside the house, confronting Jaslyn about their shared history. In a surprise, I wasn’t expecting, Dayle apologizes for making Jaslyn feel uncomfortable in high school, with Jaslyn saying she was sorry that she and her friends made fun of him. With the completed circle of forgiveness, Dayle bleeds from his eyes and turns to dust. Seems like he was finally able to move on.

American Horror Stories Aura
LtR Jaslyn (Gabourey Sidibe) and woman in the Aura (Lily Rohren). American Horror Stories: Aura (FX/Hulu).

Audiences and Jaslyn alike believed that the problems with spirits and aura are finally over when a woman (Lily Rohren) appears on the camera. However, she isn’t looking for Jaslyn but instead wants to talk to Bryce.

What came next in the episode was something I didn’t see coming, a mark of a good story seeing that I can figure out most twists pretty early on. The ending was both shocking and enjoyable to watch unfold. The last ten minutes were easily the best part of an already fantastic episode.

The good and the bad of American Horror Story: Aura

Gabourey Sidibe was exceptional in this role as scared and bold Jaslyn Taylor. Sidibe has appeared and returned a few times to the universe of American Horror Story. Every appearance is just as amazing as the next, so let’s hope there’s another return for her in the future. Fingers crossed that the next appearance is a return to Coven once again.

The biggest shock for me during this episode was how fantastic Max Greenfield was as Bryce Taylor. Having seen him act in quite a few shows, including my all-time favorite show Veronica Mars, it seems like Greenfield has become typecast in recent years in stupid/goofy roles in comedy shows. However, he was incredible in this role, especially near the ending of the episode. I would love to see him more in the AHS universe where he seems to be able to more expansive characters.

One of the problems that seem to be a reoccurring issue with American Horror Stories is that I find myself enjoying the individual stories so much, that I want more. I would love to see more ghostly encounters through the Aura bells. It seems like the stories and ghosts’ possibilities are endless in such a situation.

Overall impressions of AHS: Aura

This episode may be my favorite episode of the anthology series to date. I enjoyed that it wasn’t a typical jump scare, blood, and gore type of episode. It balanced a fantastic mystery with a creative ghost story. Aura felt more like a psychological thriller, which made the hairs on my arm stand up, without making me hide behind my fingers. If you’re looking for something to watch, check out the second episode of American Horror Stories, only on Hulu!

Have you watched American Horror Stories: Aura? What did you think? Let us know on Twitter!

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