Wednesday, October 17, 2012
Review - American Horror Story Asylum
Though it falls under the title American Horror Story, this is not a continuation of last season. Creators Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk (Glee, The New Normal) intend to have every season be a self-contained entity, casting many of the same actors - including Jessica Lange, Evan Peters, Sarah Paulson and Zachary Quinto - but in completely new roles with no connection to the previous season. Think of it as a repertory theater company, but for television.
Minor Spoilers Ahead
Leaving season one's haunted house behind, we now are taken to and within a 60s era mental institution, Briarcliff Manor, run by righteous disciplinarian Sister Jude (Lange), a nun with a troubled past. Inside this locked down facility, danger lurks around every corner. From Nazis and serial killers, to mutants and aliens, no one is safe inside these walls. Lurking in the shadows of this "sanctuary of healing" are terrifying evils that blur the boundaries between reality and insanity.
Briarcliff is also home to the notorious, deranged serial killer Bloody Face (Peters), a.k.a. Kit Walker, a young man accused of viciously killing dozens of women. Thing is, he may be innocent of the crime. See, when we first meet him, he's a simple service station worker secretly but happily married. He and his wife then appear to fall victim to an alien abduction - the whole nine: flashing lights, high-pitched sounds, pinning to the ceiling, etc. That's the story he defends himself with when he is brought to Briarcliff and subjected to the horrors within (during his "treatments," we are shown snippets of what appear to be flashbacks to Kit's abduction - probe table, experiments, everything you expect from the typical abduction scenario).
Heading up Briarcliff is Monsignor Timothy Howard (Joseph Fiennes, Flash Forward), for whom Sister Jude lusts after, and "treatments" - which include shock therapy and something liken to A Clockwork Orange - are conducted by Dr. Arthur Arden (James Cromwell, 24, Six Feet Under). Inmates ... sorry, residents? ... so far include Shelley (Chloe Sevigny, Big Love) and Spivey (Mark Consuelos, a.k.a. Mr. Kelly Ripa) and, unwittingly, writer Lana Winters (Paulson, Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip), who came to get the exclusive on Bloody Face but who apparently is not meant to ever leave.
I've never personally seen a mental institution first hand, but I have yet to see a depiction of one on TV or in the movies that isn't a chamber of unbridled crazy with the most deranged and disturbed individuals roaming around freely, taunting each other and frequently lashing out with violence. AHS Asylum ratches up this typical environment even higher, as you'd expect it to, being the show that this is. Some may deem it doing so simply for the shock value, and that may indeed be so, but that level of disturbedness worked really well in season one. I thoroughly cringed all throughout that one
This time around, I did less so. Oh, the show still pushes the envelope with the violence and horrific imagery, rapt with "boo!" and "gotcha!" moments, but I didn't flinch as much this time around. I wasn't as freaked out. We'll have to see if Bloody Face ends up being as menacing a figure as the rubber-clad man was, and I'm sure the twisted goodness is just getting started. But so far, doesn't have me in it's deranged clutches like last time. We'll see if that changes.
Props to the show's great promo imagery:
Bottom Line: Not yet committed to Asylum, but gonna keep watching.
American Horror Story Asylum airs Wednesdays at 10 p.m. on FX.