FX's horror (sometimes) anthology series American Horror Story recently concluded its fifth season with Hotel. The Lady Gaga-starring story was arguably the most lavish production in the series, eschewing Freak Show's striped tents, Florida crabgrass, and Jessica Lange singing David Bowie covers in a thick German accent for a contemporary Los Angeles setting within the labyrinthine hallways of the fictional Hotel Cortez. The sheer opulence on display made for an eye-catching 12 episodes, seemingly tailor-made to suit the unique aesthetic of its Golden Globe-winning star. But while the body of Hotel has barely had enough time to get cold, the rumor mill has begun churning out possible ideas of what season 6 might entail.
Details on the as-yet untitled sixth installment are still scant. The biggest story surrounding the upcoming season so far has involved the possibility of there being two separate seasons. But now, a recent rumor suggests one possible scenario will welcome an Internet horror icon into the upcoming storyline.
According to US Weekly, an unnamed "insider" has claimed Slender Man, the elongated stalker of children, will be the focus of the series' sixth season. Of course, Slender Man is the disproportionate yet oddly well-dressed thing of nightmares that started life as a meme just a few years ago. Since then, the faceless being has been the subject of his own video games as well as movies, and now it sounds as though Ryan Murphy is interested in bringing the unnervingly simple character into the world of AHS.
While the presence of Slender Man is potentially appealing for horror fans – right up to the point he's inevitably squandered – the more interesting takeaway from the rumor is where the idea to use the character apparently originated. According to the unnamed source:
"Someone else wrote the script, and AHS wants to adapt it to fit the show. They have to buy the rights. Then they’re going to figure out the cast from there."
Beyond the rigmarole of acquiring the rights to this alleged Slender Man script and the logistics of contorting and reshaping it to fit within the framework of a typical season of American Horror Story, the implications of the show's producers latching onto a concept and story that was not created in the AHS writers' room raises some interesting questions about the creative direction of the series moving forward. Reworking a previously existing script into an already established brand is nothing new, but for a show with a very specific – for better or worse – way of doing things to express interest in material presumably created with the intent of becoming its own distinct property leads one to wonder whether or not, after five seasons, AHS has depleted its artistic resources and if this might be an attempt to re-energize the show in a narrative sense, to go beyond lavish set decoration with the next story.
Despite being filled with serial killers, vampires (but not really), ghosts, and one very disturbing visual metaphor for addiction, one thing that was readily apparent in Hotel was a sense of repetition, as though all the trips to same creative well had exhausted more than the source of its inspiration. The series has undeniably begun to show its age, and with the possibility of American Horror Story increasing its production, it makes sense for the producers to look for ways to ease the burden of developing a concept from scratch by essentially piggybacking off a preexisting story or concept. Doing so may also have the advantage of bringing in new ideas and perspectives that could help reinvigorate the franchise.
Meanwhile, the addition of or focus on Slender Man does sound appealing, as the figure's mere presence creates an eerie atmosphere that could be a nice change of pace for the series. While subtlety is not exactly one of the series' strengths (let alone anything it is remotely interested in) the darker world normally associated with Slender Man is in keeping with Murphy's recent comments on the upcoming season.
"The next thing we’re crafting up is very, very different than [Hotel]. Not smaller. But just not opulent. More rogue and more dark."
At the moment this is all speculation, but it would be a welcome change to see AHS attempt its hand at a more focused storyline, something centered on one idea – instead of every idea at the same time. Concentrating on Slender Man could provide the show with the opportunity to do that. A straightforward approach to a horror entity – rather than a place or theme – might be just the ticket in terms of breathing new life into an aging series. Though with the untapped sensational potential of the Slender Man-inspired stabbings in Wisconsin in 2014, perhaps it is the lure of real-world horror that caught the eye of Murphy and his writers' room.
American Horror Story season 6 will premiere on FX in the fall of 2016.