Finn Wittrock channeled The Shining for his American Horror Story: Double Feature role
Red Tide is the first of two terrifying tales coming this season, with this one starring Finn Wittrock as a screenwriter who moves his family to Provincetown in an attempt to cure his writer's block. The destination is said to offer residents the inspiration they desperately crave, but this inspiration has a price. Like, you know, scary things involving monsters with sharp teeth.
That premise alone gives Red Tide some major Shining vibes. Then there's the footage of Wittrock seemingly losing his mind while pounding away on his laptop. The actor confirms to EW that the classic Stanley Kubrick film, based on the Stephen King novel, certainly influenced his portrayal of his character.
"The Shining is one of my favorite movies of all time, so it's never far off my mind," he says. "I don't think I gave it a specific rewatch for this, but it was definitely in my thoughts as I was working on [the season]. The type of fear that The Shining induces is the type of fear we're going for, which is, I guess, fear of the unknown."
Elaborating further, he adds that this season offers a psychological kind of horror. Unlike a typical round of American Horror Story, which tracks an elaborate arc through multiple perspectives over a season (to varying effects), Wittrock says the bite-size Red Tide is "tighter" and more "straightforward."
"There's monsters outside and then there's monsters inside. Which one is scarier?" he says. "It's a good question."
Wittrock describes his on-screen alter ego as the most "normal" one he's played on American Horror Story to date, though he makes a point of using air quotes every time he says "normal." Having previously played killer clown protégé Dandy Mott in American Horror Story: Freak Show, two characters in Hotel, backwoods savage Jether Polk in Roanoke, and the son of serial killer Benjamin Richter in 1984, he says this character is an all-around "nice guy" with a "real job." Until, he says, "things go in a different direction." See, Shining vibes again!
Joining Wittrock for Red Tide are Lily Rabe as his pregnant wife and Ryan Kiera Armstrong as his violinist daughter, to whom there is more than meets the eye. "You will never see it coming," Wittrock says of Armstrong's performance because the young actress is "so nice and so sweet" off camera. Meanwhile, Evan Peters portrays a composer opposite Frances Conroy, who flaunts another fun wiggy transformation. Wittrock teases he has "a lot" of scenes with them. He also hints that Sarah Paulson plays a "completely insane" character this season, while newcomer Macaulay Culkin brings an "effervescence" to the ensemble.
Because of the pandemic, Wittrock was able to really sit with the role. He spoke with executive producer Ryan Murphy, whom he says is "a genius at selling you on this amazing part." After production for season 10 was put on hold for about a year, he had plenty of time to unpack the story inside and out.
An element of the script he found particularly intriguing is what it had to say about being an artist in today's world. "I think once it's out, people will start talking about what its implications are for the artistic process, what it means to commit your life to being creative, for better and for worse," he says. "There's some very dark interpretations of human creativity in this show, the sacrifices you have to make to really, actually be an artist. Is it worth it?"
American Horror Story: Double Feature premieres this Wednesday on FX at 10 p.m. ET/PT. Episodes will be available the next day on FX on Hulu.
The second story, Death Valley, will start airing at a later date.