Daily Archives: November 27, 2012

American Bore-er Story: How The Spook’s Gone Flat (For Me)

American Horror Story

American Horror Story (Photo credit: matthewthecoolguy)

If you’ve yet to see this show in its entirety and are the sort to be miffed about spoilers, consider this your warning: for the duration of this post, ye’ll be treadin’ the waters of spoilerdom. None is safe! Walk the plank.

When American Horror Story began last season, I couldn’t wait for each episode. The plot picked up quick, and in the midst of really horrific moments and terrifying sequences that managed to actually instill fear into my mind and body, there were these messed up characters who I genuinely cared about.

Violet, who found out her boyfriend was dead and still had a thing for him. Vivien’s horrible pregnancy that wouldn’t let her leave the house — and the freakish, ghostly cause of it. Ben and his seriously messed up past with Hayden, his inability to see Moira as she really is. Constance, Tate, Chad, Nora — all of the one-time inhabitants of the house had me enthralled with the story.

Promotional poster of American Horror Story.

Promotional poster of American Horror Story. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I don’t remember the last time a television show legitimately frightened me. American Horror Story’s first season did that and more. Both Spouse and I couldn’t get enough, and when we heard it was returning for a second season, we were both excited.

And then Asylum started.

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Description unavailable (Photo credit: slowfade)

It’s interesting to see some of the same actors playing different roles. Zachary Quinto, Jessica Lange, and Evan Peters all pull off beautiful performances in the second season.

Even though the story is fraught with tension, none of it has the immediacy of the first season’s wrenching twists and turns. None of it strikes the same haunting chords of the first season’s ghosts. As a result, I’m noticing that this season’s episodes linger on our DVR as we opt instead to watch Dexter or The Walking Dead or any of the other shows that we watch during the course of a week.

I think what the writers chose wrongly in this season was the setting. Few of us can relate to an asylum with the same amount of intrigue and inexplicable pull that the idea of living in a haunted home generates. In the first season, part of what kept me coming back was that the Harmon family had bought a home, drained most of their accounts to do so, and were now stuck in a house with decades of spirits — some of which were malevolent and cruel. While Asylum still has that sense of “stuck,” it doesn’t “hit home” the way it does when horrors are happening in your basement — or your bedroom.

I also find a lot of the character development so far to be lacking in power. What in the cases of Ben, Vivien, Violet, Tate, and Constance was layer upon layer of history, psychological intrigue, and real danger is only existent in shadow form when it comes to Kit, Sister Jude, Lana, and Grace. The series antagonists during the second season are almost too evil. In the first season, they were real people who had been twisted. In the second season, they’re Nazis and serial killers with Mummy issues who skin their victims and have candy dishes fashioned of human skulls.

I think the writers tried to tease out too much in this season and created a very crowded table. Aliens? Okay. Insanity? You’re in an asylum, so fine. People being wrongly committed? Sure. A Nazi doctor experimenting on patients? Creepy, but it needs more. A recovering alcoholic nun who accidentally killed a kid? Getting warmer. A priest who covers up a Nazi’s work to save his own hide? This could be great — if we saw said priest for more than two minutes at a time. Creatures in the wood? Headdesk. A nun possessed by the devil? Now it just looks silly.

Too much, too soon. Not enough real conflict, not enough real conflictedness. They started the season with a handicap — the setting — and haven’t done enough to reconstruct the same senses of immediate fear and danger they created and exploited so well during the first season. I’ll keep watching, but my high hopes have dwindled.

I think they would have done well to stick with what worked. I doubt we’ll be seeing another 17 Emmy nods for AHS this year.

Do you watch American Horror Story? What do you think of these two, very disparate seasons? Do you feel that the current season inspires the same horror as the first did?



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