American Horror Story

I really did not like the first two seasons of American Horror Story.  This one I enjoy though.  And I’ve been trying to figure out why for the past 3 weeks.  Bit difficult when I have neither the time nor will to watch the first season again.  I liked the pilot because it was a good scary story.  It was tense and there was that weird pig demon in the basement doing jump scares.  It was weird but good in part because it was so weird and out there.  Then in week 2, three people take the main characters hostage.  Then Evan Peters murders the fuck out of them.  Uhh…okay I thought, maybe each week is going to be a different horror cliche.  Then in week 3, no one seems that concerned that the neighbor boy murdered the hostage takers, or that there were hostage takers.  It completely sucked me out of the show because it didn’t make sense.

In horror, making sense isn’t the most important thing.  It’s the only thing.  Horror needs atmosphere and atmosphere needs a realistic, logical consistency.  You have to convince part of your brain that these characters are actually in danger, and you don’t want to see them hurt.  I think professional critics are a bit harder on movies for their authenticity.  Anytime you have someone complaining about a found footage movie and says, “who found the footage” I think they’re being overly critical.  What breaks atmosphere for me might not be the same for you.

American Horror Story is not a Horror Story.  By week three they had completely abandoned that premise.  There was no realistic connection to the events of the previous episode.  Instead it was an endless parade of guest stars, 80% of which were ghosts.  The characters were unlikeable, the atmosphere was non-existent, and the style was really distracting.  For some reason Ryan Murphy can’t keep the camera focused on one thing for more than five seconds.  So if there was an atmosphere, you wouldn’t know it because it cuts so often so quickly.  There was one episode, with the twist about Violet, that I really liked.  But it really was, American Campy Ghost Story.  Not Horror.

I just gave up after the first episode of the second season.  This was going to be the exact same thing except oh shit the first season was a success so this season dialed the weird shit and camp up to eleven.  I didn’t feel like sticking around.  So why do I like this season?  I think its because, this is definitely not a horror story and most importantly, it hasn’t been presented as one.  This is an exploitation TV series about witches.  And when you know that the entire thing becomes much more enjoyable.

The plot of the first season is “Family gets terrorized by random ghosts of people who’ve been murdered in their house.”  That’s not a plot.  That’s stuff happening.  Its jangling keys in front of you.  OH BOY THEY GOT ZACHARY QUINTO!!  Is that Mena Suvari?  Alby from Big Love?  Dylan McDermott’s mistress dies, then she gets bored being a ghost because there’s fuck all to do.  The storytelling this season is just better.  The supreme witch tries to discover the secret of immortality.  Three young witches try and find their place, find love.  Then you have the racial component, where white people stole/learned the secrets of magic from a slave during the Salem trials.  Every witch has a random power like X-Men, but magic is still a learned skill.  How does that work?  Its a mystery where the solution is worth sticking around for.

Then you have that this is an exploitation TV series.  This is not a horror story.  You have the one character, Madison, running around in her pants, Kathy Bates torturing slaves, Sarah Paulson doing “fertility spells.”  You have a scene where two young teenage girls create a Frankenstein-like creature out of body parts to literally “build a better boyfriend.”  Then one character looks around for a better dick to give him.  But then you have a really intense scene between Angela Bassett and Jessica Lange where Jessica’s character, pointedly, asks after over 200 years, this salon is all you have?  And you know without the character saying a word that she has a community, she has, family that really makes Jessica’s attack blatantly offensive.  This is a fun show with a deeper meaning.  It’s really quite good.