American Horror Story: Asylum: The Rabbit Died
I sat on the floor of my living room watching this week's Asylum, the last until January 2. I'd checked on my three-year-old daughter before beginning to make sure she was sound asleep and wouldn't overhear the show. She was snoring gently in monkey footey pajamas clutching a stuffed rabbit while the Cat in the Hat celebrated Christmas on the small portable DVD player that serves as her night light.
Within minutes, Sister Mary Eunice (Lily Rabe) announced that Lana (Sarah Paulson) was pregnant from her rape by Dr. Thredson (Zachary Quinto), and that despite Lana's protestations, she would indeed be bearing the child to term in Briarcliff before having it sent to an orphanage. Not long afterwards, Lana's eyes lit upon a row of coathangers a delivery man had left in the bakery she was assigned to work in.
I paused the show and decided that I needed a drink because I had absolutely no doubt that Asylum was going there. None in my mind, and I definitely didn't want to face it sober. Even with a buzz I couldn't do it. I just walked out of the room. Nothing the show, or hardly any horror movie I've ever seen, was more torturous than the five seconds Paulson pretended to slide a coathanger into her womb.
Sometimes I wonder if we really are going to far these days. There are things on True Blood and Game of Thrones Bosch wouldn't have painted, but even on basic cable it seems to be getting out of hand for little purpose. Lana's attempt at an abortion is ultimately pointless. She didn't succeed, and later used it to first get Dr. Thredson to confess, then to wound him before promising to return later that night and kill him. He escaped first, only to have the possessed Mary Eunice tell her that she could feel the child's heartbeat... and it was a boy.
I'm really not sure what the point of this little arc was. Oh, I know it was to make us grimace and squirm, but blindly doing that is not really artistic, nor is it true horror. It's nothing more than surprising some more kids by getting them to close their eyes and make them put their hands in roadkill.
When you look back through the greatest of the world's evil, things like the Holocaust, witch burnings and stuff like that, you see the thing that turns mindless savage violence into the stuff of legendary evil. Behind the Nazis and the Inquisitors there was still an honest passion to do good... it's just that their version of "good" was a mutilated mess of death and pain.
The people doing witch hunts (at the top at least) were genuinely afraid for people's souls and thought that any means necessary were acceptable to achieve that goal of salvation. The Third Reich leadership believed with utter sincerity that the elimination of non-Aryan races would herald a utopia.
It's purpose that lends horror its most grandiose station. Mere murder and atrocity don't cut it. As Vincent Bugliosi himself put it in Helter Skelter, there was a serial killer called The Trashbag Killer around the time of Charles Manson's own spree. You don't remember anything about him; no one does. He was just a man with mental illness raging at the world. Manson had a dream, and that makes him a boogeyman people are still afraid of today.
When Asylum made me watch a homemade abortion for what in the end was really no reason at all, it wasn't horror. It was just offensive. Horror requires narrative, artistic execution and ambition. This was none of those things.
At least the alien thing is finally coming along nicely. See you in January!
Get the Theater and Arts Newsletter
Exclusive discounts and announcements to Houston theater shows and art events