One thing to know about Ryan Murphy, the creator of American Horror Story, is that he has an unusual gift of screwing up his own series. His series Nip/Tuck which was great in the beginning seasons turned into such an unwatchable mess it was actually painful to witness. I'm not talking about the level of awfulness True Blood 5 is presenting - something even worse. Fortunately, he didn't reach that point with American Horror Story yet and I hope he never will.
While last season played around with the concept of haunted house, this time we have whole new setting - Asylum, called Briarcliff, led by Sister Jude (Jessica Lange) and Monsignor Timothy (Joseph Fiennes). The Asylum is the place where criminally insane are supposed to be treated, but other people who didn't seem normal in the 60's such as homosexuals are placed there too. But the Asylum hides terrible secrets - doctor Arden (James Cromwell) is experimenting on the patients, believing in superiority of science over nature. His experiments turn them into monsters, that live in the woods surrounding Briarcliff.
The first episode of season 2 was already far superior to last year's pilot episode - the whole plot is much more creepy and the series seems to be even more mysterious. We jump in time again - the season season opened with your typical moronic couple that is the common device in horror. They visit Briarcliff, now closed, in present day and they do the second worst thing you can do in horror movie - have sex. In the matter of minutes they find themselves in deep trouble - turns out the legendary serial killer Bloody Face, who was allegedly committed to Briarcliff in the 60s, is still, somehow, around.
In the 60's we meet Kit, who secretly married Alma and is now being committed to Briarcliff, believed to be Bloody Face. His wife disappeared and he himself claims that they were abducted by Aliens. Alien subplot is something that is annoying to a lot of people, but so far it is unclear whether they are real or not. Perhaps Kit's "friends" found that he married woman of color and killed her with witnessing it. Perhaps he blocked the event in his mind, replacing it with the memory of abduction? We'll just have to see how it goes. The series is so freaky and crazy that some scenes may be revealed to be just POV shots later on in the series. Cheap? Yep. But this is creepy horror anthology series - not deep, thought provoking character study.
The second season has a lot of people from first season playing different parts - Jessica Lange, who played last year's sort-of-a-villain Constance now appears to be the hero of the story, determined to stop doctor Arden. She does bad things too, but I bet by the end of the season she will be the one rescuing people. Lily Rabe who played the mother of Infantata, one of the monsters from last season is now playing Sister Eunice, naive and innocent nun who will play bigger part of the future. The main heroine is Lana, journalist and a lesbian, who wants to discover the secrets of Asylum, only to end up being committed to it. She is played by Sarah Paulson, who was the psychic in last season.
While last year Evan Peters played the villain - Tate, now he is Kit, a hero. Zachary Quino is returning, this time as progressive thinking doctor in the Asylum - we will see him for the first time next episode. Newcomers include Clea Duvall - Lana's girlfriend, Lizzie Brochere - mysterious Grace who is helping Kit and Chloe Sevigny - nymphomaniac patient. Frances Conroy, Ian McShane and Dylan McDermott will appear later on in the season.
The premiere had many good scares and creepy moments. Starting with brand new intro filled with disturbing images and yet again clues to the plot of the series, through the freaky looking patients who greets Lana in the Asylum to the chilling ending when we first saw Bloody Face, wearing a mask made out of his victims flayed skin. Good God, he looks so gross. Although is he really he? Last season's main antagonist was Rubber Man and when we found out his identity, nobody was surprised. I hope the reveal this year will be better. My main suspicion is Grace - her eyes look a lot like those of Bloody Face and she seems to be hiding something. Plus she says she was committed because she chopped off her family. Hmm...
Many people complain about jumpy and crazy editing - last season was done exactly the same way. This time Murphy was heavily influenced by Brian DePalma's work, mainly Dressed to Kill and Carrie. Some of the images in the premiere reminded me of William Friedkin's Exorcist. One of the best things in the series is that it pays homages to horror and other creepy movies - in just this episode we had references to Clockwork Orange, Freaks, The Silence of the Lambs and Carrie - the score from the movie was used prominently in Welcome to Briarcliff.
Once again the series has very strong sexual undertones - Sister Jude, from what was revealed via many articles hides kinky past. She is putting on red lingerie under her robe for her dinner with Monsignor and she fantasises about him. Shelly, nymphomaniac can be seen engaging in sexual activities with other patients and with the staff of the Asylum, punishment for which is apparently shaving off her hair, which Sister Jude attempts to do before she is interrupted by Lana. And we are still left to see what exactly Bloody Face does to his victims. I'm guessing it's not having a tea party with them.
In the world where all the new horror movies seem to be crappy, that is the series to watch. I'm more than thrilled that we will be getting new episode on Halloween. The promo for next two episodes is very creepy and I'm shivering just thinking of seeing Bloody Face again. American Horror Story:Asylum is off to a very good start.
American Horror Story: Asylum (2012, 60 min)
2x01 Welcome to Briarcliff
Plot: Welcome to Briarcliff Manor, a notorious insane asylum home to the
deranged serial killer, Bloody Face. Lurking in the shadows of this
"sanctuary of healing" are terrifying evils that blur the boundaries
between reality and insanity.
Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuk
Evan Peters, Jessica Lange and Lily Rabe