I must say, it’s pretty great to have a quality horror television show currently running. Looking over the past 5 years or so, I see several things that were promised as the next great horror show, but none have followed through in the way I wanted. True Blood quickly became a pretty good soap opera, but only that. Masters of Horror and Fear Itself were enjoyable, but didn’t last long and were anthologies anyway. The River was just plain terrible, and Supernatural is more of a “badass” action comedy with, well, supernatural elements.
If you wanted good straight up horror you still had to go way back to stuff like The Twilight Zone, Tales From The Crypt, or at least American Gothic and Buffy. Until American Horror Story that is. Oddly enough it started as a pretty good soap opera and then as the first season went on became more overtly horrific, throwing its characters, themes, and premises around with reckless abandon, the only goal being to shock and frighten without regard for the status quo. “How were Ryan Murphy and company doing this?”, many thought. And the answer was that – secretly – it had been a 10 episode miniseries all along, a move I thought was just genius. So now with some of the same cast but all new characters, setting, and tone, we have American Horror Story: Asylum. And I still really like it.
It’s not the best show ever, but I think it’s fun and they’re trying to do things that no one else is on television (I felt the same way about Murphy’s breakout series Nip/Tuck, one of television history’s greatest guilty pleasures). Plus, while the idea of a haunted house in the middle of LA was intriguing, I’m much more excited by a period piece set at an East Coast insane asylum that – only in the first episode mind you – deals with serial killers (Bloody Face!), aliens, evil doctors, sexy nuns, monsters, and more! Plus Sarah Paulson getting dookie chucked at her.
The show is still way over the top (wait for the scene where a nun played by Lily Rabe pulls up her habit while crying and asking Jessica Lange to spank her with a riding crop), but with more experience comes more control, and Murphy seems to have figured out how to capture at least a little bit of lightning in a bottle for each episode. The show looks excellent, and the acting is pretty good (campy certainly, and some can’t hang with the Boston accent). For the most part they’ve chucked the cast members who were either lesser (McDermott!) or out of place (sorry Connie Britton), and replaced them with great choices like James Cromwell, Chloe Sevigny, and – not yet but soon – Ian McShane.
There are a lot of plot threads thrown up in the air here – Lange’s head nun wrestling with her emergent sexuality while facing off with the Nazi-vibing cromwell, Paulson’s chippy reporter looking for a good story and getting more than she bargained for, Evan Peters (Tate from season 1) maybe being a serial killer and definitely getting probed, Lily Rabe feeding monsters who live in the woods, and even a present day bit starring Adam Levine and Channing Tatum’s wife as erotic explorers (not a typo).
I wouldn’t want anything less. My only hope is that it can keep up the manic energy and ability to go gleefully (hey!) over the top without making it so ridiculous that you feel like you’re just watching colors flit across the screen. I think they can pull it off.- Whole Milk