News broke this last week that the new season of American Horror Story was going to be subtitled Coven. (For those of you folks who’ve been googling season 4, Coven is in fact the 3rd season of AHS and premieres in the fall of 2013). This follows on the heels of the news that was announced, at the end of last season, that the season would be taking place primarily in the deep south, much of it being filmed in New Orleans.
This has me excited, because I love to wonder about the themes, settings, and frights that this show will be supplying next.
It’s these things that makes the show brilliant: their handling of social and political and philosophical themes; their refreshing new storylines and sets each season; and the gritty horror that they bring to television.
So, following my blogs last season, in which I wondered at the themes and the developments in Asylum, I’m now broadening my scope. I’m thinking ahead to seasons 4 and 5 (which would air in the falls of 2014 and 2015. But of course, in the world of television, future seasons are never sure until they’re ordered. But I like to dream, and American Horror Story killed it with the ratings for its first two seasons, giving FX some steam to compete with other cable biggies a la Walking Dead).
In the first season, we covered the Murder House story. The marketing color was RED. American GOTHIC. The themes explored were drawing from decades of recent Americana. Murder. Abortion. Adultery. Divorce. Sex. School shootings. Drugs. And a healthy dose of ghosts to boot.
In the second season, we covered the Asylum story. The marketing color was WHITE. The themes ranged from religion, to science. Gay rights. Women’s rights. The masculine and the feminine. Mother issues. Medicine. Mental illness. Abortion. Nature versus nurture. Inherent evil. Nazis. Human experimentation. Alien abduction.
In the third season, we only know that it’s the Coven story. Which says to most of us: witches. And, shooting in the deep south, I can only guess at marketing colors: GREEN. (Update: Now that season three is in the wind, we see there was a tinge of green and a bit of hot pink, this being a season of feminism themes, amongst others) And I can only imagine themes and topics. Racism, I’d imagine? The mingling of “American” ideals with French and African? Magic. Producers have hinted at lots of sex and more comedy. Hoodoo? Voodoo? Vampires? Segregation?
So now I’m looking past season three and into four and five. The uncharted, un-talked-about, not-even-rumored, here-be-dragons territory.
(I’m not even forecasting here. I’m just spit-balling).
So what’s left on the plate? The core of this show is explicitly American horror, in the sense of both location and theme. And so brainstorming future settings that hold quintessentially American horror roots is interesting. I’ve only come up with two, but my excitement to see the team’s handling of them is palpable.
I want to see season four hit the coast. I’m a sucker for coastal everything. Lighthouses. Water. Storms. Lovecraftian horror. The kind of sea-eroded history. The moodiness of such an atmosphere. Can you see it?
Promos with only a fat phallic tentacle on a couple storm-beaten rocks? (Oh, you know it would be phallic too. Did you SEE the promo posters for Asylum?) An exploration of the mystery of the sea? A throwback historically to the old sailors, both in discovering America and also fishing. HEAVY draws on Lovecraft, if particularly the Shadow Over Innsmouth? Can you imagine? Cult-like worship of strange sea-creatures within the town? Half-man, half-animal hybrids? Perhaps some splicing/cloning scientific play with that?
Play on seclusion and religion and what makes up a homestead. Safety. Security. Especially in the times we live in. Themes perhaps of that question of security versus freedom.
And then into season five. I have a bias. I think every wonderful show on television only has five good seasons in it. It’s the best amount of time to complete a thorough arc before getting into redundant territory.
And what better way to wrap American Horror Story than a return to America’s roots? The midwest and the colonial east. Cornfields. Small towns. Colonial roots and revolution.
Americana at its heart. Late summer. Autumn. The harvest. Calling upon the classic horror themes we’ve seen season to season during the heart of Halloween. The imminent fears of the long winter. Questions of simple living, American values. Questions of population growth and food in the modern times but also in the past. Throw back to the land itself. Throw back to Native Americans and the disputes with them. Curses. Genocide. Animals and nature and scarecrows guarding the fields.
A sprinkling of Shyamalan with the Village. Some Hawthorne! Dark Romanticism. A bit of Young Goodman Brown. Some twisted Puritan values. Some Washington Irving, a bit of Ichabod Crane and headless horsemen.
The final iconic monster as something Native American. The revelation coming in that it’s not really a monster. Like all monsters, it’s misunderstood. And it’s usually only as monstrous as we make it.
What better way to wrap up the show than with a final look at the heart of America: where it all came from. How it was founded. The sins in the soil.
But I want to know what YOU guys think. Would that be a satisfying wrap to one of the smartest shows on television? Are there more choice selections of classic horrific Americana that I’m forgetting? What do you want to see in the upcoming seasons? Let me know in the comments section down below!
Update (Feb 6, 2014)
Murphy is still skating as to what in particular season 4 will be called, though I suspect we’ll be hearing about it in the next month or two. He’s already hinted that season four will be over many time periods, but mostly in the 50’s, it’ll be as comedic as season four (though five will be something very much out of left field, he says), and a bit gothic. Folks are having fun with the carnival/circus idea, but I quite like the Freakshow art that appeared in a quick google search. Freakshow is certainly a topic that would be VERY much American Horror Story’s alley, and would touch upon the gothic, but he’s already said fans haven’t nailed it yet, and that the circus idea was baseless.
In lieu of the updates, I wanted to update this post, since it still gets a lot of traffic (almost seventy comments? You guys are AWESOME. And some GREAT ideas that I’d completely overlooked).
I should point out that though there are at times a greenish tinge, AHS seems to have deviated from the color schemes I guessed about above. It seems the black, white, and red will always be their base, with a touch of extra color that might connect with the theme, the way green reflected the south and the witches. That obviously would influence my marketing brainstorms up above a bit.
I still love the ideas of a coastal, Lovecraftian AHS, as well as a midwestern corn-fields and autumnal feel, so I wanted to add some applicable titles and extra promo photo mockups, particularly since I’ve gotten a bit more deft at the photoshop in the year since I posted this bad boy. Enjoy, rock on, and hope to see you on the other side of season four!
(Seasons one through three courtesy and property of FX. Of course, the American Horror Story and FXs logos are copyright FX):
My name is Karl Pfeiffer. I’m a writer, ghost hunter, and photographer. I won the first season of the pilot reality series Ghost Hunters Academy, and went on to work with the Ghost Hunters International team on the same network. Since then I’ve lead the weekend ghost hunts at the Stanley Hotel, studied religion and writing at Colorado State University, and published my first novel, Hallowtide, in October of 2012. I’m also a conceptual and portrait photographer working out of Northern Colorado. More can be found at www.KarlPfeiffer.com