The last three/four months of the year are always my favourite. From late September to January I love reading ghost stories and watching horror from the comfort of my warm flat. These dark stories, they light up the long nights and I love them even more then. So my treat to myself this year is to revisit American Horror Story from the start (thank you Netflix).
Well, call me committed because I started two weeks ago (early, sue me) and I’m just about to finish Freak Show. My relationship with this show has been complicated in the past – when it first burst forth with its demented artistry – I loved it.
I gobbled up Murder House, Asylum and Coven without a second thought. But I ran out of steam when if came to Season 4 (Freak Show). I experienced the same with Hotel and Roanoke, and I’m not even sure why. I was enjoying myself and then, I must have got distracted.
Here are my thoughts on the first three seasons. *Minor spoilers*
The original but not the best in my eyes. Thoroughly enjoyable though – not least because it reintroduced us to the old school magic of Jessica Lange – who is the undoubted Queen of AHS. MH is a bit of a mess in the sense that it crams a hell of a lot into it – so many murders occur in that house it’s hard to keep up – but I really appreciate the set up.
The cast is great – Evan Peters, Lange, Frances Conroy, Connie Britton, Taissa Farmiga – and I really love some of the story threads. Including; Violet and Tate (love’s fucked-up dream), Moira O’Hara the maid trapped in perpetual purgatory, Dr. Charles Montgomery (illegal home abortionist and part-time Frankenstein), The Black Dahlia (#obsessed) and neighbour Constance Langdon’s own horrible arc.
I’m especially fond of Interior Designer Chad (Zachary Quinto) and his lover Patrick, cut down in the middle of a blazing row – and trapped together in the Murder House for all eternity.
Same criticism as above but more so with Asylum. So much going on and a lot of it doesn’t quite come to fruition – Nazi doctor story line, I am looking at you. But it is horrible and darker somehow (yes, even darker than gimp rape).
Lange’s Sister Jude grapples with her own personal guilt as she runs the show at Briarcliff, a home for the mentally incapacitated. She’s not a good woman and she’s delicious. Working alongside lovely Sister Mary Eunice (AHS regular Lily Rabe) and staff doctor (with an iffy past) Dr. Arthur Arden (James Cromwell), she tends to her patients with an iron first. Her wards include wrongly accused lady murderer Kit Walker (Peters) and lesbian journalist being kept against her will, Lana Winters (Paulson).
On staff also is kind Dr. Oliver Thredson (Quinto) who may or may not harbor a dark secret of his own – but don’t we all?
Asylum features some one-off story lines that kind of muddy the water for me. For instance Arthur Arden, like Charles Montgomery before him, is something of an experimental surgeon but I don’t feel as though they see that through. It fades out in favour of giving more minor characters their screen time. Plus, when he’s accused of being a Nazi doctor by Anne Frank (just go with it), I wanted that to come to something (although there is a passing reference to him in Freak Show).
Plus, there’s the UFO story running through the heart of Asylum that doesn’t really float my boat – though it works better than I thought it did the first time round. Maybe I’m just more tolerant in my old(er) age.
Definitely my favourite to date and you could argue that the format has tightened up for the third story. It definitely flows better – and for me, the witches of Salem make the very best subject matter. Plus, Stevie Nicks!
Emma Roberts, Angela Bassett, Kathy Bates and Gabourey Sidibe join the cast and add another bitchy layer to proceedings. They’re all magnificent and the young witches, including Taissa Farmiga and Jamie Brewer as Nan are dreamy. Especially when Stevie Nicks loving necromancer Misty Day (Lily Rabe) joins them from the swamp.
Set in New Orleans and focused around Miss Robichaux’s Academy for Exceptional Young Ladies, run by headmistress Cordelia Foxx (Paulson) we enjoy the company of witch hunters, axe-murderers, voodoo queens and ancient (racist) aristocracy.
As for Lange, I think this is her best work. She nails The Supreme Fiona Goode to the floor. As she goes against the long time truce made way back when with Voodoo priestess Marie Laveau (Bassett), she struggles with her own mortality and will stop at nothing to hold onto her crown. As for her life-long rival, Myrtle Snow (France Conroy), I know whose style I’m going to channel in 30 years time.
On Wednesdays we wear black, bitches.
Thoughts on Freak Show, Hotel and Roanoke to follow.