(For a full review of American Horror Story season 2, see my most recent blog entry HERE)
Quick aside here. I spend a lot of time on this blog railing against cinematic horror for underachieving when the potential for really brilliant horror movies to share a dialogue seems so rare.
But tonight, the second season of American Horror Story premieres, and if I spend too much time talking about the failings of the horror genre, I have to talk about the successes.
And American Horror Story is absolutely one of those successes.
The divisive element of horror films these days is that most people go to horror to be scared. And different things scare different people. The inherent problem here is that some people will leave happy, other people will leave unhappy, and reviews will be divided.
I go to to horror films to think, to have my views of the world challenged and played with and questioned. Ethics. Norms. Cultures. Emotions.
And American Horror Story in its first season absolutely challenged every one of these. The word American in the title does an incredible amount of work. Not so much a proclamation of an “American” style, the show is instead a dissection of America, and those things very scary within our society. Dealing with such issues as infidelity, parenthood, school shootings, murder, abortions, and gay rights, it’s not the ghosts that are supposed to jump out and scare you (or the at-times over-the-top, strobing, Sam Raimi style scares), but these issues within our culture. The “American Horrors” are these decisions that the characters make, embodied in the spiritual. Echoes of the past compile in a narrative of changing belief-systems, opening minds. The show studies what is timeless beneath all of that, and the power of forgiveness in the face of atrocity.
That’s only the foundation. The discussion of these themes throughout makes for the real brilliance of the work. The choppy style of editing and storytelling advance many themes at once, cover much more ground, with the unsettling feeling of a house that’s made up not of just walls and plaster, but memory and experience. The house itself in the first season of American Horror Story is not a house, it’s a photo album, a series of snapshots of the darkest, twisted side of America itself.
And now we enter season two, where the camera has backed up and swiveled about to take on a new perspective of Americana and the foundation of our great state.
After a month of brilliant, subtle, flickery advertisements, we got a glimpse of the actual roots of the show. Check out the trailer below and consider the themes.
I’m absolutely excited. Dissecting religion and religious extremism in a scientific setting instantly pits the ideas of science versus god, and atheism versus theism against themselves. The nature of evil, the nature of evil in the insane, within religions themselves. Whether evil can stomp out evil. Whether evil recognizes itself. And, if we’re lucky–and god I hope we’re lucky–I’m crossing my fingers for a possession storyline running through this one, playing those religious themes I love so much even deeper against the nature of pure evil and how that manifests amongst mental disorder and religious (dis)orders.
And of course, what is it lurking outside in the woods?
American Horror Story Season 2 premieres tonight at 10 on FX.