S02E02—“Tricks and Treats”
Warning: Contains spoilers for this episode. And naked butts.
According to available sources, American Horror Story executive producers Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk are both in their 40s. James Wong, who wrote "Tricks and Treats"—this second episode of American Horror Story: Asylum—is in his 50s. Jessica Lange and James Cromwell are both veteran actors, in their 60s and 70s, respectively, and—with the exception of some trick-or-treaters, and the little girl that Sister Jude once turned into a reluctant hood ornament—I have to assume the rest of the cast are all grown-ups as well.
So here's my question: why does nearly every episode of American Horror Story feel like it was made by a bunch of horny and hyperactive teen-age boys? Continue reading
S02E01—"Welcome to Briarcliff"
Warning: Contains spoilers
Oh, American Horror Story, I wish I knew how to quit you. Continue reading
After a season full of tree-hating ginger twins, elderly demon babies, slutty ghost maids, burned men, home invasions, shovel bludgeonings, rubbermen, school massacres, pig men, brain-eating, pope boxes, and the promise of the antichrist, the season finale should have blown the doors off American Horror Story.
Instead, we're left with a staggeringly dull episode that feels like an afterthought, a sappy and unearned resolution to the dysfunctional family storyline, and a tacit admission that the show has absolutely no idea what it will be in Season Two. Continue reading
In my very first post on American Horror Story—it feels like years ago now—I suggested that the worst thing that could happen to this show would be for it to get a little better. A slight improvement, I worried, would mean that the show would risk "losing all of its unintentional comedy and becoming simply a turgid horror anthology with pretensions."
I think that's exactly what's happened, for me at least, over the last couple of episodes: American Horror Story has gotten a little better. Not a lot better, mind you—not enough to be considered great television—but just enough so that it isn't quite so much fun to tear apart. Continue reading
I know, I know, I'm running a couple of days late with this review. I could tell you that this is because I've been overburdened by outside commitments, and that would be true. (I have a day job, and it was a busy week.) However, in the interest of full disclosure, I have to admit that there is another factor at work here: I'm just tired of talking about this show. Continue reading
"Spooky Little Girl"
Okay, I've been putting this off, but I think it's time. We're nine episodes into the season, and—though this is a sobering calculation that makes me sincerely question the choices I've made in my life—I've already written something like 13,000 words on American Horror Story. I've been mostly critical, and we've all had fun poking this shambling, patchwork monstrosity of a show with a very sharp stick: good times. But, so far, we've largely avoided talking about one of the most troubling aspects of this most troubling show, and I just can't keep ignoring the obnoxious elephant in the room any longer.
Let's talk about the women. Continue reading
Sometimes I feel like I'm simply expecting too much from American Horror Story. Yes, it would be nice if the show could manage to follow some kind of internal logic, or to maintain a consistent tone, or to remember who its characters are from week to week. It would be a pleasant surprise to have story revelations make sense with everything that has come before, or to have emotional climaxes feel both understandable and earned. If I could actually care about the characters, or be swept up in the plot, that would be an added bonus.
American Horror Story, alas, is just not that kind of show. What it is, on the other hand, is a show where one of our major characters can—with a totally straight face, and just a hint of impatience—say the following line to another:
"Fine, let's discuss the brain eating." Continue reading
When I try to explain to myself why I keep watching American Horror Story, I am reminded of the explanation given by a character in John Irving's The World According to Garp, when asked why she finished reading a book she hated. With most books, she explains, you know nothing is going to happen, so you don't have to read those. With other books, she says, you know exactly what is going to happen, so you don't have to read those either. "But this book," she says, of a novel by T.S. Garp, "this book's so sick you know somethin's gonna happen, but you can't imagine what. You gotta be sick yourself to imagine what happens in this book."
That's pretty much how I feel about American Horror Story. Continue reading
I don't know, maybe it's me. Maybe I've just gotten overstimulated by American Horror Story and its never-ending whirligig of horrors, howlers, and things that make you go Huh? I mean, when I cast my mind back to my younger, more innocent days—just six short weeks ago—I can vaguely remember when my pure, virginal soul would have at least reacted to certain things in tonight's episode. A grimly realistic school massacre? A pig-headed man lurking in the shower? A cloven-hoofed fetus? What does it mean that I now accept these things with a bored shrug? To paraphrase the Marquise de Merteuil in Dangerous Liaisons, I guess the shock is like the shame: you only feel it once. Now I find myself jaded, desensitized, and almost totally shock-proof, able to calmly sit and eat my own dinner while watching the lovely Connie Britton chow down on a whole raw brain of unspecified origin.
I guess it was inevitable. When you start a show at the absolute border of tastelessness, believability, and cable network standards, it's hard to keep upping the ante week after week. Yeah, yeah, raw brain. What have you done for me lately, American Horror Story? Continue reading
"Halloween, Part 2"
Apologies for the delay in posting: my day job interfered with my more important responsibilities this week, like watching and discussing this delightfully undisciplined bughouse of a show.
Every week, when I sit down to unpack the overloaded insanity that is American Horror Story, the first thing I do is make a list of everything that happened in the show. Then I stare at the list, and despair about how I am ever, ever going to cover everything that happened in all its glory. This week, as I stared at it, the list seemed to acquire a sort of madcap poetry of its own; with a little rearrangement, I began to hear music behind it.
Sometimes, I simply have to amuse myself in order to keep my spirits up. So here—with apologies for the sloppy rhyme scheme, and with apologies to Bob Dylan and his seminal "Subterranean Homesick Blues"—is a recap in song. Continue reading
"Halloween, Part 1"
I'm going to try to keep this week's entry a little shorter than my normal reviews; this is partially due to the extra duty I'm doing writing up our Halloween movie marathon this week, and partially due to the fact that American Horror Story was not quite as batshit crazy as usual.
For the record—and lest you think I'm losing my fondness for this ridiculous show—it should be noted that even a slightly less insane episode of American Horror Story still includes: two gay ghosts; two ginger ghosts; two appearances by a homicidal Rubberman; one ex-mistress returned from the grave; one dead woman euthanizing her elderly mama; one woman with Down's syndrome getting struck by a car while wearing a "pretty-girl" costume; one burned man pounding on the door; one doctor sewing his dismembered baby back together with animal parts; and a sonogram so frightening it makes medical professionals faint.
What can I say? It was a slow week at the old Murder House. Continue reading
And here I was concerned that American Horror Story might get better, or find some restraint, and lose its hilarious charm. Silly me. As it turns out, I don't think we need to worry about this show getting better or more restrained any time soon. Continue reading
In “First Look/Last Look,” I am doing quick reviews of selected new fall shows, panning for gold in the fetid riverbed of the 2011-2012 network television season. While I hope this experiment yields at least one new show that I will want to add to my regular viewing—if not reviewing—schedule, I’m not holding my breath. Call me pessimistic, but, in most cases, I expect my first look to also be my last.
Warning: Contains spoilers.
At the moment, I'm categorizing this review as part of my "First Look/Last Look" series, meaning American Horror Story (Wednesdays, 10PM EST on FX) is not a show I'm going to be reviewing regularly. But the truth is, after being appalled by the first episode, I still went back for the second, and I'm really not sure I'm going to be able to resist writing about this from week to week. American Horror Story is so bad, so over-the-top and batshit-crazy, that it's almost irresistible. Continue reading