A classic, quirky TV show that will mess with your mind.
The creators of American Horror Story, Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk are without doubt among the most inventive writers in the business, and are behind some very popular TV shows, like Nip/Tuck, Glee and even the old but interesting Earth: Final Conflict, but for this show they went for the Gothic horror feel. Writing about a movie or TV show is normally straightforward but American Horror Story is far from normal fare, and while giving a quick synopsis can give you the basics, it's a show that is all about the 'feel' and the way it tries to mess with your mind. The use of certain songs is very effective, and is a mix of strange but popular 60's tracks, like the one used by Tarantino in Kill Bill, 'The Whistle Song,' which is very typical of the type used throughout this amazing series.
Watch the latest trailer for Coven to the right of the review.
As for the cast, they were definitely an eclectic and highly talented bunch of thespians, from rookies to the well known, but each suited to their individually odd characters. Dylan McDermott played psychiatrist Ben Harmon, who has been caught having extramarital sex by his wife Vivien (Connie Britton). Vivian has also recently miscarried, hence the new start in LA. Their daughter Violet is played by the wonderful Taissa Farmiga (Middleton, The Bling Ring) in only her second ever role. She was perfect as the self-harming, angst-ridden teenager, who befriends one of her fathers patients, Tate Langdon. Tate is performed well by another good actor Evan Peters (Kick-Ass), and when he and Violet first sit and talk properly, we learn that they have a similar outlook on life and death, he's a fan of Kurt Cobain and she, Morrissey, reflecting their strange, dark attraction to one another.
Playing the very odd neighbor was the multi-Oscar-winning Jessica Lange, who gave another award-winning performance as Constance, mother to a Downs Syndrome girl, referred to as "the Mongoloid," and again, reflecting the strangeness of the whole series. Lange won the Golden Globe, Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role, for her portrayal and deservedly so. Kate Mara and Denis O'Hare were very strong too, but one of my favorite characters was Moira O'Hara, a grim faced elderly looking house cleaner, who when seen by women looked haggard with a dull eye, but when men looked at her, they seen a highly sensual beautiful young woman who gave off sexual energy, making her extremely desirable. Moira O'Hara was played by both Frances Conroy and Alexandra Breckenridge. The hugely talented Zachary Quinto (Star Trek Into Darkness) was the previous joint house-owner Chad Warwick, who died in the house with his gay partner.
While the first season was about the Harmon family, having just moved into a haunted house, dealing with some very sick ghosts and wacky neighbors, the second, Asylum, saw the return of some of the cast, but in a different setting. It went back in time by a few decades and was set almost entirely in an insane asylum, where strange experiments were being carried out on the patients by Dr. Arthur Arden, played by Oscar nominee James Cromwell. At one point a woman claiming to be Anne Frank accuses Arden of being a former Auschwitz doctor, Hans Gruber. In charge of the place was Monsignor Timothy Howard (Joseph Fiennes), who was blissfully unaware of all the goings on by his underlings. Jessica Lange once again brought her acting chops to another great role as the cruel Sister Jude Martin.
The Sister was a drunk and maneater in a former life and is still dealing with womanly needs, but takes her frustration out on her charges. A reporter finds herself illegally locked up after being caught snooping around, and ends up as part of some experiment. She was looking into the capture and confinement of a supposed murderer and skinner of women, Kit Walker (Evan Peters). Kit has tried to explain to anyone who'll listen what actually happened, and what he saw, but no one will believe a word he tells them, but what he does say he witnessed sounds suspiciously like extraterrestrials.
American Horror Story is one of those shows you either love or hate, and isn't a show you could enjoy like others, but if horror is your thing or were a fan of Twin Peaks then this show should appeal to you, but everyone should at least try watching one episode, in fact you should know within 20 minutes if you'll like it or not. I found it most rewarding once I understood the way it jumped back and forth in time, with graphic horror imagery and Gothic style. It isn't one of those jump-with-fright horrors but it tries to unsettle the audience, and I found it rather successful at doing just that.
TV Roundup by Ed Blackadder, Lead Entertainment Writer
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