In true horrific fashion American Horror Story returns with a new story of terror, lust and insanity. While also managing to keep sight of its characters and undeniably creepy plotlines…
Welcome to the nuthouse!
Bringing forth an all-new season and account of horror, Ryan Murphy and his team deliver, literally covering all cylinders and ultimately creating a compelling, layered and exciting gothic tale. Not only is this premiere a better one than what was presented in Season 1, but it is also the best episode of American Horror Story to date! It is surely a vast improvement over the darkly enjoyable, but rather flawed first season. Yes, there is still blood, sex, hysteria and more interesting deviance that occurs in true AHS-fashion. However, this is a fresher, textured kind of horror. And Briarcliff Manor, the centric insane asylum, is quite a place of horror. The 1960s is also quite the time setting for our new, carefully fleshed-out characters and their respective storylines. Oh yes, American Horror Story: Asylum truly horrifies, in the best ways!
Within the first five minutes of the premiere, there is terror, sex, and violence. It doesn’t take long for the hour to kick off as Leo (Adam Levine) and Teresa (Jenna Dewan-Tatum), a sexy, freshly-married couple, venture into the old, abandoned asylum on their Haunted Honeymoon Tour. A spooky honeymoon in which the two commemorate their marriage by getting it on in as many creepy destinations as possible. However, they picked the wrong place this go around, and by the time the wonderfully creepy new opening credits roll, poor Leo loses an arm. From there, we take a look at the many goings on of Briarcliff Manor in its dark past, all taking place in 1964, where racism, sexism, and other dark -isms fester. Oh, the horror…
This is where we set eyes on Kit Walker (Evan Peters), a simple young man with a not so simple secret, considering the time. Kit’s adoring dalliances with his black lover is a secret that leaves them both victims of racism and public scrutiny. Of course, any interracial interaction was considered scandalous during this time. Still, Kit’s problems become much more terrifying when he falls into a world of unknowns, of which leave him wrongly-imprisoned at Briarcliff Manor and marked as a vicious serial killer named, Bloody Face. At the moment, Kit is definitely the one to root for. Him and curious journalist/writer, Lana Winters (Sarah Paulson), as they have both fallen into this world of insanity by pure unfortunate circumstance. In fact, I’m not sure who to feel worse for. Kit, for mysteriously losing his wife and being labeled as her murderer, or Lana; for her curiosity surely shed light of the corrupt evils that lurk in the halls of this dark institution. After all, Lana’s lover is forced into signing her away like diseased cattle. A harsh scene of which might have been the most devastating to watch.
What is so great about Kit and Lana is that these are two characters we are made to care about. Unlike in the first season, of which ultimately starred the mostly unbearable and dim-witted Harmon family. They were not entirely likeable, if we’re being honest. However, in this premiere, the characters are so well-fleshed out and compelling that one cannot help but feel sorry for them and their plights. It’s a nice change to actually care for characters in today’s horror exploits. I mean, there is nothing easy about a mad doctor cutting into you. Said mad doctor, Dr. Arthur Arden (James Cromwell) is surely a madman of the dark persuasion, who harbors a secret sadistic agenda. And what is lurking in those woods? Whilst he does not helm a considerable amount of screentime, Dr. Arden makes a defining impression as a big scary bad set to clash with the matriarch in charge, Sister Jude (Jessica Lange), a strict nun struggling to control her own desires.
I’m so glad Ryan Murphy had the gusto to keep a fine chunk of his superb cast and have them play different characters, highlighting their range within an entirely different story. Jessica Lange is just as much of a tour de force as she was in the first season, as Constance Langdon. Here, she even manages to be more compelling than ever. I smell another Emmy for this genius actress. Other characters worth mentioning, that creep in the asylum’s shadows is Shelly (Chloe Sevigny), a supposed erratic nymphomaniac. There is also, Sister Jude’s pathetically self-loathing and groveling assistant, Sister Mary Eunice (Lily Rabe), the apple of Sister Jude’s eye and of her affection, Monsignor Timothy Howard (Joseph Fiennes), as well as Kit’s new friend and watchful guide, Grace (Lizzie Brochere) of whom was also falsely imprisoned in the asylum. There is an entire circus of insane patients that inhabit Briarcliff Manor, most of which we are certain to meet as the season transpires.
“Mental illness is the fashionable explanation for sin”, insists Sister Jude. A statement that sets the tone of the entire season. We will undeniably be delving into the psychologically dark this season. Discovering what is insanity and how many variations of insanity there are. In fact, it seems every main character on screen helms their own dark ray of insanity vs. truth. It will be intriguing to see how the series tackles such controversial concerns of sanity, religion, ethics, morals, power, evil, sexuality and science. Maybe even some science-fiction tied in there considering an oddly compelling and ominous side to Kit’s entire storyline. What makes this premiere already worlds better than the first season is that there is substance layered in the horror and insanity. There is an established storyline for every main character and the terror follows organically, just in the way that it’s supposed to.
I like to think of American Horror Story as a wonderful little horror book series. And we’re onto book two, where the first tantalizing chapter is “Welcome to Briarcliff”. Just one hour in and fans are already screaming, gasping, and now waiting for another chapter to indulge in. But what a first chapter! We even got to see Evan Peter’s butt. Nice! So many questions, so many scares, so many intriguing characters, themes and storylines. It’s a juicy bite of horror and you don’t care about the calories that come with it! Oh, Bloody Face, this season is going to be one hell of a creepy ride. And just in time for the Halloween season. The premiere of American Horror Story: Asylum gets a horrifyingly terrific 5 out of 5 stars!
Remember to tune in, every Wednesday for all-new episodes of this terrifying tale of insanity and horror, only on FX at 9 p.m. in the Tennessee Valley!
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