You Should Be Watching American Horror Story: Asylum
(if you aren’t already)
With the season almost halfway finished, American Horror Story: Asylum is one of the nastiest, morbid, disgusting, gruesome, and most horror-filled shows currently on television , and you should totally be watching it!
For those of you who have not heard of a little show called American Horror Story, it is crazy. Full of gore and suspense, it has easily become one of (if not the best) horror show currently on TV and with its second season, American Horror Story: Asylum, already almost halfway finished, I thought I’d bring attention to some of the many things about this show that make it so wonderful for those who haven’t been watching or are on the fence about it.
Everybody knows the typical setting of a horror story: an abandoned _____. And a creepy asylum is one of those staple locations. Unlike a lot of thrillers, where the location and setting are simply a placeholder, the asylum in AHS:A seems like another character in its own right (such as in one of my favorite ghost movies Grave Encounters).
Every door and cranny has its own personality thanks to creators Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk. That gives it a macabre atmosphere, which perpetuates the fear the inmates constantly feel. Just from the look of it, the audience knows that some messed up shit has happened there. The current inmates are only a small part of what has happened inside this crumbling masterpiece of a set. Also, the time period that it is set plays a major part in what truly adds to the horrifying elements of the show. It shows the sort of dehumanizing acts that littered the time period, such as electric-shock therapy, and the idea that homosexuality was a mental disease. The list of atrocities continue.
Music is a very essential part of any horror movie. Most popular films of the genre incorporate a theme song (such as that of John Carpenter’s Halloween) in their series, or they’ll do the occasional loud noise or shriek, and AHS:A is no exception. However, rather than degrading the quality of the show by using such staples, it perfectly captures the essence of what the show basically is: a tribute and continuation of the horror genre that still pays homage to the classics while doing its own thing. When the violins begin humming and rumbling, slowly intensifying, it catches your attention. The sudden shriek that sounds like a cat dying gets me every time. It truly is effective and adds a lot to the show.
What makes or breaks a television show besides the story, setting, etc. is the acting. If the acting fails, then the credibility and realism of the show falls apart. Luckily, and thankfully, the acting in AHS:A is incredible. It makes us, the audience, feel either great sympathy or hatred for the characters on the show. The clear standouts are James Cromwell as the sadistic mad Dr. Arthur Arden, and Jessica Lange as Sister Jude. Zachary Quinto is easily becoming one of my favorites, but for reasons that cannot be said to those who haven’t watched yet.
James Cromwell is especially amazing, he takes the idea of the mad scientist and twists it up into an even more mangled, disgusting, horrifying version that is just truly mesmerizing as he continues to threaten everybody in the asylum. I haven’t hated a character this much since Jack Gleeson (King Joffrey) from Game of Thrones and that is a testament to the caliber of the acting on this show.
Jessica Lange also breaks out in the show as the cruel, yet sympathetic Sister Jude. A character that starts out as a cold hearted bitch has grown into a character I feel sorry for. Her worries and troubles begin to wear down her rough exterior, revealing a complex, disheveled and tormented character. The other actors also do a great job, particularly Sarah Paulson as lesbian reporter Lana Winters and Lily Rabe as Sister Mary Eunice (who does a sort of role reversal that is actually one of the more interesting parts of the show). They never seem to reach into the emotional and creative depths of those previously mentioned, but still, a standout cast indeed.
That being said, there are some problems with the show: the biggest one is probably the pacing of the plot. AHS:A is juggling a lot of different things. Something mentioned in the first episode is barely mentioned again until a much later episode. I was watching I said “Oh yeah, I forgot they were even in here.”
Also, the first three episodes sort of build up slowly and may seem to be a little boring or too clichéd (especially the second episode which is probably the worst out of all).
But overall, AHS:A is one of the greatest shows currently on television and is definitely something that you should be checking out, especially if you are into horror. It is not for the faint of heart though, as there are some things in the show that test the limits of what should be allowed on basic television. Some of the acts committed are nightmare inducing (especially a part involving Zachary Quinto and Sarah Paulson). So be prepared to occasionally watch between your fingers as your cover your eyes in fear.