American Horror Story, Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk's creation, has gone from strength to strength, with season three's premiere, Bitchcraft, a superb opener for fans of the show. The quirky edge of the previous two is still very much there in abundance, but this has a richer quality to it; an almost cinematic feel. I didn't sense the same type of cheap-looking camera trickery witnessed before, but, instead saw the style very much enhanced, and a better use of space. The pacing was also amazing, as we were introduced to the players of this latest season.
Most of the cast are back, better than ever, with Oscar-winner, Kathy Bates, being a great addition to an already brilliant ensemble. Bates' character, the fancifully named, Madame Delphine LaLaurie, is a society damme, using potions and blood, in an attempt to stave off the aging process. On her 1834 New Orleans grounds, she keeps a stable of tortured slaves locked up. One has his eyelids and lips sewn shut, and when he moans as she passes, she hisses "Hush up, or I'll rip your lips open and stuff more shit in there." She's just ordered the imprisonment of another slave, thanks to one of her daughters, and decides to turn him into her very own Minotaur.
After skipping season two, the talented Taissa Farmiga returns; she's Zoe Benson, a young woman with a previously unknown secret. When she has intercourse with a man, her lady-part causes the person's brain to burst, making them ooze copious amounts of blood, from their ears, eyes and mouth. She is told she is a witch, and bundled-off to the New Orleans' equivalent of Hogwarts; Miss Robichaux's Academy for Exceptional Young Ladies. She meets a small group of similarly gifted individuals.
Teaching at the academy is Cordelia Foxx (Sarah Paulson), daughter of Fiona Goode (played by double Oscar-winner Jessica Lange). These two have a love-hate relationship. Cordelia hates mother Fiona, and Fiona loves herself. Fiona is also the "Supreme," which means she's the most powerful witch of her generation. Fiona is very like Delphine in many respects, as staying young-looking is their main goal in life.
Another academy student is movie star Madison Montgomery, played by newcomer and welcome addition to the show, Emma Roberts. Madison's the stereotypical L.A. queen biatch, who thinks only of herself, and doesn't care who she hurts to get what she wants. She has the power to move things using her gift, and has badly injured people in the past. This is how she's ended up at the academy in the first place.
The two other students attending the academy are Oscar-nominated Gabourey Sidibe, who plays Queenie, and American Horror Story regular, Jamie Brewer, playing Nan. Evan Peters also returns, but is now Kyle Spencer, a college student on a scholarship. We have to wait until near the end before we get to meet him, and get to see how Peters and Farmiga might be destined to play lovers again. This time, though, she's the one with the secret. There are a few more returning from previous seasons, but so far, haven't much screen-time. This may change, but only time will tell.
The aptly titled Bitchcraft, sees the young witches learning about witchcraft, and each other, as we get introductory information. In Salem, a witch named Misty Day, played by Lily Rabe, has been burned to death, and Fiona wants Cordelia to allow her to help teach the young witches how to survive a perceived threat against their kind. After settling in, the four witches attend a frat-party, where one of them is brutally gang-raped. The rapists must face the consequences.
I thought this opener for season three quite brilliant, and seeing the old gang back in action, newly guised was also very good. Murphy and Falchuk have outdone themselves, as the writing was, without doubt, even better than before. They have a new set of characters to play with and a new subject-matter to mine from, and the combination has worked perfectly. The production-values appeared to be of a higher standard too, helping create a more polished-looking show, than we've seen in this excellent series.
Anyone coming to American Horror Story for the first time, should truly appreciate the look of everything, and, as previously mentioned, the cinematic feel of this season. It looks more mainstream too, which I certainly liked, but retained that off-tempo vibe we're accustomed to. I can't wait for the next episode, so, I think I may just watch this one again.
Review by Ed Blackadder, Lead Entertainment Writer
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