Miniseries keeps bringing the thrills
Posted October 30, 2012 at 10:20 pm in Lifestyle
Horror can take on many different forms. It involves everything from the creaking sounds of an old, abandoned mansion to ghost girls hiding in dark corners, from the haunting footsteps of a serial killer to the unshakable feeling of claustrophobia. American Horror Story, the hit miniseries drama that returned this month to FX, tackles all these tropes.
The supernatural show caught audiences‚Äô eye last year when its creator, Ryan Murphy (the same mind behind Glee), brought a new perspective to a genre that, until now, was largely thought unfit for television shows.
With a perfect mix of supernatural and psychological horror, engaging storylines, compelling characters and very disturbing imagery to accompany it all, audiences fell in love with the show, and so did critics. During the last Emmy Awards, American Horror Story earned the most nominations ‚ÄĒ 17 total.
But the story of the Harmons, the family that moved into ‚ÄúMurder House‚ÄĚ in season one, is closed. The mystery of the now-iconic Rubber Man has been solved, and season two (which premiered Oct. 17) now brings a whole new and entirely different set of characters, settings and plotlines to share sleepless nights with.
American Horror Story: Asylum is set at Briarcliff, a mental institution for the criminally insane during the 1960s, and revolves around the horrors and abominations that happen inside. If the first season was about ghosts and other supernatural apparitions, season two promises to go deeper inside the human mind and its fears.
Murphy and Brad Falchuk, the co-creators of the show, have stated that the main question Asylum raises is ‚ÄúWhat would happen if you couldn‚Äôt distinguish who is more insane in a mental institution ‚ÄĒ the patients or the people who run it?‚ÄĚ
Being set in a strict Catholic institution, viewers can also expect a fight between the eternal foes of faith and science. All these themes take form as schizophrenic patients, power-mad scientists and clergymen, demonic possessions and even hints of an alien abduction.
After the first couple episodes, audiences have now had the chance to become familiar with a majority of the main characters, their motivations, their illnesses, as well as their horrors. Most of the original cast from season one returns, though, this being an anthology series, they play different roles.
Emmy Award-winning Jessica Lange is Sister Judy, the mother superior who runs Briarcliff with unmovable strictness, verging on cruelty and inhumanity. For her, mental patients are nothing but sinners who are in need of repentance, and it‚Äôs her duty to bring them back onto the ‚Äúright‚ÄĚ track. She is opposed by Dr. Arden (James Cromwell), a man of science who views the inmates not as evil-doers but as experiments, and Dr. Thredson (Zachary Quinto), a moral psychiatrist who is genuinely concerned about the subhuman conditions of the asylum.
The rest of the ensemble is rounded out by Sister Mary Eunice (Lily Rabe), a malleable and fragile nun with no strength or willpower whatsoever, Kit Walker (Evan Peters), a young man wrongly accused (at least according to him) of being a notable killer of women, and Lana Winters (Sarah Paulson), a reporter who finds herself trapped in the asylum after learning its dark secrets, to name just a few characters.
The first two episodes that have already aired served, more than anything else, as an introduction to this diverse range of characters and what led them to be involved with the institution, not without its good doses of scares and freak-outs.
The series, as a whole, requires intelligence and attention, something that will seem either valuable and refreshing for some, or too sophisticated for the mindlessness that TV is supposed to offer for others. Also, it is advisable to watch each season from the start (there are online and on-demand options), and not halfway through, since the episodes are far from being stand-alone stories.
But once the viewer gets the hang of its style, there‚Äôs nothing left to do but sit back and enjoy the disturbing, creepy and endlessly fascinating nightmares Asylum has brought to life. The storylines‚Äô originality and brightness, as well as the visual design of the series, are things to greatly admire.
About a dozen episodes of Asylum still remain. If they continue the way they have been going, they will not disappoint. American Horror Story has managed to bring an air of true and original terror into a medium that was hardly well known for accomplishing that.
Horror fans cannot miss this show, as well as people who enjoy watching something highly different on their small screens every week. It is intriguing. It is smart. It is very, very scary. You will be committed.
American Horror Story: Asylum airs Wednesdays at 10 p.m. on FX.