Saturday, October 11, 2014

Review - American Horror Story: Freak Show


Just in time for Halloween, the latest incarnation of FX's American Horror Story saga has premiered, and man, whoever thinks this anthology series can get any more twisted, cross any more lines of insane freakiness or just get any more f**ked up doesn't know this show's pedigree ... or penchant for addictive viewing.


Like its predecessors,  American Horror Story: Freak Show focuses on a specific group of people in a particular place and time (well, actually Asylum covered two time period, but some of the same characters in each, but I digress).  Here it's 1952 in the sleepy hamlet of Jupiter, Florida.  We're taken into the world of a small time carnival, run by Elsa Mars (Jessica Lange) and its assorted attraction of "curiosities", including a two-headed woman (Sarah Paulson), a three-breasted woman (Angela Bassett), a bearded lady (Kathy Bates), a strong man (Michael Chiklis, The Shield, No Ordinary Family), and others.  Their arrival in town coincides with the strange emergence of a dark entity that savagely threatens the lives of townsfolk and freaks alike, embarking them on a desperate journey of survival amidst the dying world of the American carny experience. 

With each of the AHS series, one thing I've always loved - and envied - is that the same actors get to return each time to play entirely new characters.  It's an actors dream, like a nationally televised community theatre troupe.  And those actors are among some of the best, embracing full force whatever is thrown at them.  I mean, do you think Paulson would ever have imagined she'd play a woman with two heads?  But I have no doubt these folks are having a blast.  This season is rumored to be Lange's last, but how can she walk away from a show that allows her to be such a broad array of characters - it's seriously never the same show twice ... except in its aforementioned twisted sicky goodness.

Additionally returning for another round are AHS first string players Evan Peters, Frances Conroy (Six Feet Under) and Emma Roberts, with others who could pop up unexpectedly.  


And joining the Freak Show cast - appropriately so - is 20-year-old Indian actress Jyoti Amge, who is the world's shortest woman, standing a mere 2'6" tall.  

From moment one Paulson's dual-headed character says it all:

"Dear Diary:  it was a Saturday, the third of September that the world as I had known was forever doomed.  The shadows that had sheltered me were banished by the blinding light of scrutiny.  I knew I was about to enter the gates of Hell, but like the inescapable pull of gravity, there was nothing I could do about it." 

*insert shudder here* 

I really liked the original AHS, didn't care for the second, Asylum, and my favorite was the last, Coven.  I both know what and what not to expect from the series, and so far I'm intrigued by Freak Show, especially watching the actors embrace their respective oddities, which so far are created masterfully by both make-up and CGI.   The cinematography is very Kubrick-esque, which definitely works for the genre.  I particularly like how a split-screen is used to differentiate which Paulson sister we're focusing on, and Paulson's brilliance at making them so distinct in their differing personalities (but it looks like it was rather uncomfortable for her, having to slant her head to the side much to accommodate the addition of a second head ... even writing that is so WTF!)  

As always, you can count on the opening title sequence to be unsettling, and this gets that job done in spades.  The score is equally chilling and includes a lot of maddening, taunting versions of carnival music.  And naturally you have to have a killer clown.  A creepy, dirty, horrifying, disturbing, frightening, did I mention creepy? clown.  I hate clowns, and now I really, REALLY hate them.  This guy is terrifying and I am so very very glad he's not chasing me (though he might be tonight in my nightmares).

*insert really big shudder here*

I'm not going to say more ... this show definitely can speak for itself and frankly, I don't have the words.  All I can say is, it's wicked creepy good viewing - with the lights completely on!

BOTTOM LINEBe afraid, be very afraid ... of missing this show!

 American Horror Story: Freak Show airs Wednesdays at 10pm on FX.

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