With the mini-series categories blowing up within the past year, I have taken it upon myself to use my very abundant amount of time to explore these amazing artistic and creative feats. Most recently, I have checked myself into Briarcliff Manor – the setting for FX’s smash-hit American Horror Story: Asylum. And the things I saw were…well, horrifying – in a good way.
From the ironically deranged mind of Glee’s Ryan Murphy comes the second installment of the AHS anthology, the first of which followed a modern day family moving into a haunted house in LA. In the second chapter, however, Murphy quite beautifully recycles his actors to tell the story of an insane asylum in the 1960s and all of its inhabitants.
Once a prestigious tuberculosis ward, the manor was converted to a monastery-run home for the criminally insane. Owned by papal hopeful Monsignor Timothy Howard (Joseph Fiennes from Shakespeare in Love), the asylum is under the rule of a Nurse Ratchet-type, Sister Jude, played by the incomparable, two-time Oscar winner Jessica Lange, who played Constance in the first installment.
The overambitious reporter, Lana Winters (Sarah Paulson), attempts to come in contact with one of Briarcliff’s patients, a murderer by the name of Bloody Face, but her naivety gets her placed in the nuthouse herself.
Accused murderer Kit Walker (Evan Peters, who played Tate in the first installment) is locked up for Bloody Face’s crimes – but did he do it?
With the help of Dr. Oliver Thredson (Star Trek and Heroes’ Zachary Quinto), both Lana and Kit plan their escape from Sister Jude’s rule.
The show’s many religious undertones and gruesome sights of the conditions within the asylum create a much more ominous sense of horror, whereas the first season relies a lot on cheap, “jumpy” scares and Connie Britton just being afraid.
The second season continued the tradition of a Romeo and Juliet-type relationship that Tate and Violet have in the first season. This time around, former Nazi and asylum doctor Arthur Arden and the Devil-possessed Sister Mary Eunice meet their tragic fate. Ironically, it’s the ex-Nazi that initiates their incineration.
The show also plays well on the Cold War hysteria that has become a timestamp for the asylum generation. At the time, the threat of extraterrestrial war was just as real as that of the atomic bomb.
However, my one criticism for this amazing and addictive mini-series is that the ending seemed too dragged out. Not to spoil anything specific, I feel like they turn society and the media into the antagonist, which I didn’t feel was necessarily what Murphy intended to showcase. I would have much preferred they stuck to the “curiosity killed the cat” theme, but hey – who am I to say so.
If you have yet to delve into the series, please do yourself a favor and watch it. You can find the first season on Netflix and you can get a little creative when viewing the second.
Production of American Horror Story: Coven is now in the works in glorious New Orleans. Jessica Lange, Sarah Paulson, and Evan Peters are set to return amongst others, Joining the cast will be Kathy Bates (Fried Green Tomatoes), Gabourey Sidibe (Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire), and Emma Roberts (Scream 4).