(For a review of the full season, see my most recent blog entry here.)
So in the last couple days I’ve had some folks asking what I thought about the American Horror Story Season 2 Premiere, now that I’ve actually watched it.
My early forecast was off in some ways, on in others. There seems to be less about handling of actual possession than I might’ve expected, and it turns out the rumors of aliens in this season may in fact prove true. Well–they need to.
The one thing that has stayed in my brain since watching is that I don’t want to feel cheated with this season. The writers have given themselves a test this year. They’re tackling, in some form or another, the idea of alien abduction. This is a challenge because aliens aren’t vogue right now. People take ghosts and zombies seriously, but making vampires and aliens frightening right now is hard. We’re not trained to take them seriously. That said, the Fourth Kind from a couple years ago did a fantastic job on their abduction-possession scenes. Those things had me so excited. It’s only too bad the rest of the movie was utter trash.
I’m seeing the same direction with this show. I’m hoping (as I’m hearing that the next episode will further this idea of possession and exorcism) that the dialogue continues between crossing those boundaries and blurring the lines between aliens and demons. This is a fascinating discussion within the paranormal community (read some John Keel).
But there’s a rule of stage-writing to avoid deus ex machina, that if there’s a gun introduced in the first act, it must be used by the third, and if a gun is used in the third, it must be introduced in the first. This way the writers don’t get to pull strings to just make things happen, and to avoid flippancy with story threads. So within the benefit of the doubt, I’d be a bit pissed if they don’t follow through on this alien thing. And if they do, they’ve got a task in front of them to make it frightening and engaging (but I think they’ve done a good job so far).
Which transitions me to the scares. Which they’ve NAILED this season. Taking their cues from much of the criticism of the first season (that it wasn’t particularly frightening, leaning on the rubber man and the thing in the basement and the unsettling situation more than the actual scares), the second season has dived DEEP within fright-territory. Creepy mental institution, spindly alien fingers, screaming, the criminally insane, things hiding in the dark, bloody face, gore, viscera, creepy doctors, that thing in the forest, religious fanaticism, racism, there are scares at every turn this season. And due to the unsettling editing style, there are turns every few seconds.
For some, there might be a bit too much thrown out at once. Too many horror elements in one. But 1st season juggled similar complexities (using the timeline of the house to differentiate), I trust the writers again here to keep the elements straight, and that when they do come together, they’ll do so elegantly. First season was planned from the start. I expect no less from the second.
I love the themes put forward. I love the breakneck pace into the heart of the scares. I love the style and the acting and the setup. I’m just praying that the writers again slow down and take the time to dissect some of the more twisted socio-cultural elements, of which I have complete confidence.
American Horror Story is brilliant so far.
AHS airs Wednesday nights at 10 on FX.
Karl Pfeiffer appeared on Ghost Hunters Academy and Ghost Hunters International. He works presently for the Stanley Hotel in Colorado, where he leads the public weekend ghost hunts. He’s also the author of the novel Hallowtide, and he’d love you forever if you wandered over to the website to have a look.