Ryan Murphy’s spooky meme-fest
returns for its ninth season tonight, this time American Horror Story traveling back to the ’80s for a sendup of that decade’s slasher movies. As always, we can expect lots of blood, guts, sex, and—naturally—contentious plot twists, but the series is also known for pulling off eye-popping onscreen transformations that are shocking in their own right. Over the course of nine seasons, the FX anthology has won a handful of Emmys for prosthetic makeup, costuming, and hairstyling, and has been nominated for many others. The series often features actors over multiple seasons in a variety of roles, which demands some stylistic differentiation, and, of course, all that scary stuff requires some chilling SFX makeup. Whether it’s turning Evan Peters into Jesus or aging Jessica Lange by a few decades, here are some of the biggest onscreen transformations from the show’s history.
Sarah Paulson as Wilhemina Venable (
Sarah Paulson, the show’s most frequent star, has rocked just about every hairstyle under the sun throughout her run (even getting to model two at one time for her conjoined twin role in
Freak Show). While she usually plays more sympathetic characters, her red-headed transformation into a stern Wilhemina Venable for Apocalypse certainly stands out. Seriously, the eyebrows alone… Photos courtesy of Getty Images and IMDB.
Billy Eichner as Brock (
Poor Billy Eichner spent a good part of
Apocalypse running around as a tattered survivor of the nuclear fallout. Photos courtesy of Getty Images and IMDB.
We don’t even know the names of most of the
1984 characters yet, but we do know most of the cast had to endure some serious hairspray, with Billie Lourd getting a particularly severe spritz. Photos courtesy of Getty Images and @mrrpmurphy.
Naomi Grossman as Pepper (
Naomi Grossman’s transformation into recurring character Pepper is one of the series’ most notable. Photos courtesy of Getty Images and IMDB.
Evan Peters as Andy Warhol (
Evan Peters mostly fills the role of “confused young man” in the series, but he got to stretch his skills in
Cult for a segment in which he played Warhol. Photos courtesy of Getty Images and IMDB.
Evan Peters as Jesus Christ (
Though, maybe that wasn’t as drastic as his appearance as Christ himself. Photos courtesy of Getty Images and IMDB.
Grace Gummer as Astounding Lizard Girl (
Yes, the show even turned Meryl Streep’s daughter into a freak show performer once. Photos courtesy of Getty Images and Everett Collection.
Lady Gaga as Scáthach (
Gaga maintained her glamour in
Hotel, but went full on swamp witch for her smaller role in this season. Photos courtesy of Getty Images and Everett Collection.
Patti LaBelle as Dora Ross (
Patti LaBelle is showbiz glamor personified, but she underwent a pretty drastic makeover for her role in
Freak Show. Photos courtesy of Getty Images and IMDB.
Joan Collins as Bubbles McGee (
Perhaps regretting killing off her original character too early, Ryan Murphy brought Joan Collins back for a second character later in the season and fitted the famous brunette with a white wig. Photos courtesy of Getty Images and IMDB.
Jessica Lange as Fiona Goode (
Jessica Lange usually gets to retain a bit of glamour for her roles, but certain scenes in
Coven required her to portray the dying witch as, well, a dying witch. Photos courtesy of Getty Images and FX.
Kathy Bates as Ethel Darling (
Perhaps less notable than her accent from this season, but a beard on Kathy Bates is still a beard on Kathy Bates. Photos courtesy of Getty Images and Everett Collection.
Mena Suvari as
The Black Dahlia ( Murder House)
Joker who? Photos courtesy of Getty Images and IMDB.
Lena Dunham as Valarie Solanas (
Lena Dunham has only appeared on one season, but even she required a makeover. Photos courtesy of Getty Images and IMDB.
Frances Conroy as Myrtle Snow (
France Conroy’s most famous roles are usually more low key, which made her transformation into full-fledged fashionista Myrtle Snow all the more exciting. Photos courtesy of Getty Images and Everett Collection.