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‘American Horror Story: Delicate’ is a Timely Story without a Voice of its Own

"American Horror Story: Delicate" premiered October 26 on Hulu.
"American Horror Story: Delicate" premiered October 26 on Hulu. By Nayeli Cardozo
By J.J. Moore, Crimson Staff Writer

“American Horror Story: Delicate,” similar to the 11 seasons that have preceded it, is ambitious. The premiere dances across a tightrope, threatening to disappoint while simultaneously tantalizing viewers with glimpses of potential.

It is no secret that “American Horror Story” has had a difficult time providing audiences with a captivating story for the past few years. Since 2018’s “Apocalypse,” fans have been left unsatisfied — the beloved anthology has not had the same watchability and originality that garnered respect for its earlier seasons. Ryan Murphy has stepped down to let Halley Feiffer take control of the series, giving season 12 a different perspective and voice than previous seasons. With the premiere of “Delicate” the show is clearly trying to discuss societal pressures regarding pregnancy and maternity care. With Halley Feiffer spearheading the project, the series has an opportunity to create a work that is not only timely, but memorable well into the future.

Based on Danielle Valentine’s novel “Delicate Condition,” “American Horror Story”’s 12th season is the first one to feature an adapted book. The show details the pregnancy of actress Anna Alcott (Emma Roberts), as she grows more paranoid that someone is going to great lengths to stop her from getting pregnant. Anna is supported by her gaslighting husband, Dexter (Matt Czuchry) — he is also very clearly not over his ex-wife and possibly cheating on Anna — and her close friend and publicist, Siobhan (Kim Kardashian). The plot itself ties nicely with past seasons of “American Horror Story” and it has potential to bring audiences back to the show because of the topic itself. Pregnancy and abortion rights have been constantly in the media, and the plot directly tackles this matter.

Although the new season is an adaptation, it closely echoes the premise of cult-classic horror film “Rosemary’s Baby” (1968). In the original film, there is a similar narrative of a woman whose maternal instincts tell her that somebody is trying to hurt her unborn baby, yet nobody — especially her husband — believes her. In the film, her husband even goes so far as to gaslight her into thinking that nothing is wrong. Mother figures have oftentimes been a source of fascination in horror projects. Just in recent years, there has been “Mother!” (2017), “The Babadook” (2014), “We Need to Talk about Kevin” (2011), and “Umma” (2022), and so many more. However, no film has been able to put to screen the fear and anxiety of motherhood quite like “Rosemary’s Baby.” It is only fitting that the book “Delicate Condition” and now “American Horror Story” pay homage to the beloved classic due to their thematic similarities.

With that said, “Rosemary’s Baby” is not the only classic being recalled in this series. Recently, David Cronenberg’s “Dead Ringers” (1988) was transformed to episodic format, with the same title, this past year. “Dead Ringers” (2023) is a psychological thriller about two twin sisters trying to make their dream of a safe birthing clinic come true. Similar to “Delicate,” IVF is involved and the characters are desperate for a child, no matter the cost. The first episode of “Delicate” details Anna's attempts to become pregnant while also promoting her new show. The most vivid and memorable scene of the episode is towards the end as Anna is put under anesthesia for her surgery and the images directly replicate that of “Dead Ringers” remake released earlier this year. Doctors in red gowns swarm a pristine white room as they prepare Anna. Her vision goes blurry and the screen turns to black, the audiences are left wondering — just like Anna — if the surgery went as planned. The usually interesting cinematography and framing feels cheap because it is too similar to this year’s “Dead Ringers.” This climactic scene is ultimately a copy of a copy of a copy — it is unoriginal rather than commemorative and feels boring amongst the rest of the story’s somewhat unique plot.

Despite the show’s intriguing themes and story, the acting can best be described as sterile. Emma Roberts leaves no passion or depth beating at the heart of the main character; Anna reads as flat and lethargic. Roberts has proved herself time and time again to be a fantastic actress, especially in the horror genre; it is unfortunate that her character here is underwhelming amidst the chaos of the plot. On the other hand, Kim Kardashian has received praise from audiences in her supporting role. Kardashian was a perfect choice for the role of Siobhan because the billionaire and fashionista has a similar background in the limelight, giving her excellent preparation for the role as a celebrity publicist. Kardashian’s acting feels empathetic and genuine amongst her quippy and lewd one-liners. Siobhan’s entertaining first line, although sassy and salacious, was a criticism of the beloved, Academy Award Winning duo, The Daniels. As Anna confides in Siobhan, Kardashian’s acting and guidance feels real and that may be due to the fact that she has lived a similar experience as the character Anna: They had their homes broken into, they are both criticized and praised in the spotlight, and Kardashian has also dealt with her fair share of stalkers. Based on Kardashian’s vulgar lines alone, it is abundantly clear that she will make this season worth the watch.

“Delicate” has the chance to be truly thought-provoking. So far, it seems that Feiffer is embracing the challenge of taking over this season as the showrunner. The acting and the show’s attempts to honor the horror classics that have come before seem to be holding this story back from executing its promise. Rather than trying to imitate films that touch on similar topics, “American Horror Story: Delicate” should learn to find its own voice. The story itself will resonate with audiences due to the timeliness of its content. It is no secret that as the season kicks off, people will tune in. The question is will the show be worth the watch?

—Staff writer J.J. Moore can be reached at

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