Dylan McDermott Dylan McDermott

THERE'S NO PLACE LIKE A HAUNTED HOME: To hell with Casper. The ghosts are decidedly unfriendly these days. Not content to go "Boo!" in the night, the malevolent spirits that haunt FX's terminally twisted American Horror Story (10/9c) have a tendency to get under the skin, playing sexually charged and violent mind games with their victims.

But how frightening is this haunted-house creep show? Depends on whether you're of the "less is more" or "more is more" school of terror. Horror Story errs on the side of overkill, reminding us of the perilously thin line between what's scary and just plain silly. From Ryan Murphy (Glee) in his garishly gothic psychosexual Nip/Tuck mode of wretched excess, this is so overstuffed and disjointed in its reckless piling on of nasty shocks-for-shock's-sake, it often feels as if it were edited with a Cuisinart on "chain saw" setting.

Still, I defy you not to get goose bumps anytime a character descends into the Cellar Where Disgusting Evil Lurks, starting with the classic prologue — set in 1978, the year Halloween premiered, and that's surely no accident — in which two repulsive twins are lured to their doom while a little neighbor girl with Down syndrome chants, "You're gonna regret it."

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