Few people I know seem to be aware of this little show known as American Horror Story. These people will often complain about not having a lot of things to watch on television during the Halloween season. Well, here’s one I recommend!
American Horror Story is an FX anthology series with some true smarts and guts. It is a well-crafted, well-acted and well-written gem of all sorts of disturbing and unnerving concepts. From frightening imagery to bizarre sex scenarios to devastatingly good performances, there is a lot to be enjoyed in American Horror Story.
Season 1 is Murder House and it focuses primarily on a family that resides in a mansion with a very colorful and itriguing history of murder and spirits of the victims of said murders haunting its corridors with often hostile intentions. Basically, it’s a haunted house story. The second season, Asylum, is a bit more complicated. While it’s mostly focusing on the various sickly patients and the equally sickly caretakers of a 1960’s mental institution known as Briarcliff Manor, it also involves demonic possesions, masked serial killers, mutated lab experiments, angels of Death, mad Nazi scientists and even alien abductions! How often do you see demons and aliens inhabit the same story I ask you? The current season is Coven, with the plot revolving around young, modern day witches and the occasional call-back to the Salem Witch Trials.
Throughout the series, several of the actors from one season are brought back to play a different set of main characters in the new season, which is a really great concept. The core actors are Jessica Lange, Evan Peters, Lily Rabe, Frances Conroy and Sarah Paulson, while other actors to make at least one return include Taissa Farmiga, Dylan McDermott, Zachary Quinto, Jamie Brewer, Dennis O’Hare and possibly several others I haven’t even noticed. On top of that, the cast is occasionally joined by greats such as Kathy Bates, James Cromwell, Joseph Fiennes and Mark Margolis. The list goes on!
The characters from one season, in spite of being performed by the same actors, have nothing to do with any of the characters from a previous one, unless you want to go and give it a Cloud Atlas-esque reincarnation interpretation. As it is, though, they’re not supposed to be related but there’s still a certain charm to seeing old favourites return. Jessica Lange is no doubt one of the biggest attractions in the series and her various disturbed characters are usually the highlight of the season. Another fan favourite is Evan Peters and even though I can easily decipher that its mostly due to teen girls – completely uninterested in anything having to do with story or creativity – finding him cute, surely it must partially be due to the fact that he is also an amazing actor. I’m also a fan of Jamie Brewer who does not let her Down Syndrome get in the way of her acting talents.
American Horror Story was – get this – created by Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk, previously famous for giving us Glee, that delightfully bright and bouncy show that provided us with multiple mediocre covers of various old songs. My guess is that they wanted to instead try to make something that’s cool, dark and original. They do however bring back some of their skills in crafting musical numbers in season 2 where something truly surreal takes place in Briar Ridge. I may not be a fan of Glee, but that was pretty brilliant.
I do have some complaints on a few things, though, and I cannot give too much detail on what they are as they usually have to do with how the different seasons end. The first season finale was alright, but it was somewhat different from the previous episodes and it did thus create this desire in me to see an entire season that had a structure more like the one in that particular episode. Not too bad, but I am a little disappointed in how most of the subplots in season 2 were resolved. With so many different monsters and scary concepts in one solitary season, I was eager to see all of it come to an epic, climactic close in the finale. Instead they got rid of the mad scientist and his mutant creations in one episode, the masked murderer in a completely other one and as for the aliens, well, they only really got one, brief final appearance in the finale without any explanation as to what they wanted or what their motives were. When they make season 4 I want it to be about the aliens.
In spite of this, though, season 2 is probably my favourite season so far and declaring that is easier for me to do than to pick out a favourite episode, although I will say that I am leaning towards Unholy Night. For my favourite character, I’m gonna have to go with James Cromwell’s truly disturbing Dr. Arden character. After being so kind and gentle in films like Babe and The Green Mile, his performance in Asylum was something impressive!
For some of these lackluster elements, I am a little hesitant to give American Horror Story a full on 5/5 rating so for now it’s a 4/5. However, it is still a fairly new show and it might just evolve and continue growing on me to the point where I boost my rating. I do declare, though, that it’s a well-made anthology series with a stupendous magnitude of wicked ideas and I am dying to see what further morbidity season 3 has in store for me and my fellow fans of the macabre. So far I’m loving it, at least mostly, and I have a feeling that I will continue to do so.
Here is the current opening sequence and my rating.