Two years ago our editor here at Art Attack said to me, "Hey, you're weird. Watch American Horror Story and do a review. So I did, and I really fell in love with the show, both seasons. The first had its ups and downs, and ended on a very weak note, but all in all it was tremendous television experience.
Then Asylum rolled around and my God did they up the ante. We had Nazis doing body horror, aliens, serial killers, zombies, and to top it all off demonic possession. To this day I don't know how they got away with half of last season, and I was all set to resume my duties getting paid to be frightened.
To be honest, though... Coven sounds freakin' terrible. Really, really terrible.
At first I was elated. In addition to Jessica Lange returning, Kathy Bates and Angela Bassett are rounding out an A-List class of powerful women who can definitely deliver the goods. Bates is famously creepy whenever she wants to be, and Bassett is capable of that understated but undeniable force that lends itself to any role.
So you've got big guns going on, and the subject is witches. OK, it's a place to start. Personally I have never seen a single witch movie that ever delivered on scares unless you counted maybe Dead Silence, and that's more of an evil puppet movie than anything else. On the other hand, it's a brave choice, and we've already done ghosts and slashers and evil doctors.
What we have not done before is Evil Hogwarts, which is apparently what we're going for in the new run.
The center of the show is Miss Robichaux's Academy for Exceptional Young Ladies, a school for girls with witch bloodlines that is both haven from persecution and training ground for, I dunno, witch stuff. The Academy is under attack from several sides, including remnants of voodoo enclaves that once clashed with the Salem witches that fled from hunts up north and encroached on their territory.
That does sound like it has potential, actually, even if the historical hyperboles are making my teeth grind (I have an entire shelf dedicated to witch hunt texts at home... you see why the editor tapped me for this gig.) Bates is promising us torture, using slaves' blood as wrinkle-cream in segments set in the past, and other gleeful demonic wickedness. I like that there is a racial dynamic at play, which always ups the tension in horror.
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What I cannot really get excited about is our young female cast of schoolgirls. As Entertainment Weekly described them we have troubled teen star Madison (Emma Roberts), tough girl Queenie (Gabourey Sidibe), enigmatic Nan (Jamie Brewer), and shy Zoe (Taissa Farmiga). Glad as I am to see Farmiga back on the show... just, no.
The girls may have to deal with the hex equivalent of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants assaulting their little Jean Grey School, but apparently there are also frat boys and crushes involved, and well, the whole thing sounds like it's going to basically be an overly extended version of The Craft. That movie, by the by, is bloody terrible in every way.
What the hell is going on here? I'm not sure who this season is trying to reach. If FX is angling for a younger crowd I can sort of see why the focus is on a quartet of cookie cutter stock characters that would be as at home in a Monster High straight-to-DVD flick as an edgy horror series, but then why throw all your might behind a trio of main actresses, the youngest of whom is 55? I know that Jessica Lange is the series workhorse, and rightfully so, but is she going to really be able to do what this show demands when surrounded by four adorable little chainsaw fodder?
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Dear God and furry scrote of Alf, the first episode is called "Bitchcraft." Seriously? What are the odds we won't hear Bjork's "Army of Me" at some point? I feel like I took a time machine back to 1997.
I understand that American Horror Story has an almost impossible task to accomplish. It's a linear horror story than runs for thirteen 45-minute episodes. It takes a whole lot of skill and moxie to keep horror going for some nine hours without it getting stale. The fact that AHS has pulled it off twice so far is really a credit to the skill behind it.
Maybe they'll do so again. Maybe my fears of Charmed: The Next Generation are unfounded. Join me in October when we find out.