Tuesday, January 13, 2015

American Horror Story: Series and Season One Musings

American Horror Story

American Horror Story musings with tons of spoileramas for all the seasons!

With American Horror Story: FreakShow wrapping up in two episodes, I decided it was high time to sit down and watch the first two seasons once and for all. Luckily I’m a Rogers subscriber and a new service they’ve started called Showmi is offering the first three seasons. Even luckier, the first month of Showmi is free so there’s no excuse to not do my homework.

I completed my American Horror Story: Murder House viewing in the wee hours of the morning after watching it for about two days. I will confess, I had tried to watch it twice before when it was on FX. Once was on the day it actually started and the other when it was in reruns last year during Coven-time. However, both times it failed to hold my interest past the first little while. Mostly it was the less-than-stellar acting.

Several good horror writing pals told me that I’d like Murder House if I’d just get into it. And they were right. I like it very much. It was way better to watch it binge-viewing. And as a Rosemary’s Baby fan, I loved that part of it.

My first gut instinct comment is that Evan Peters has evolved and matured amazingly as an actor over the seasons. His work in Murder House is acceptable, he didn’t really have to do much as hunky horny FrankenTeen in Coven but as Jimmy the Lobster Boy in FreakShow, he deserves awards. I can’t wait to see him in Asylum which I’m starting tonight.

It was fun to watch Murder House after seeing Coven and FreakShow first. There are some little bits that tie the series together that are fun to spot. It’s also fun to see all the tropes and homages to other horror stories (hence the title of the series); some obvious, some not so much.

The first real line of dialogue in Episode One, Season One of American Horror Story is: “Hey, Freak!”  If you’ve been watching FreakShow, you know that freak is the operative word, especially with Jimmy yelling, “We’re not freaks,” a thousand times an episode.

Rosemary’s Baby is hugely spotlighted with Jessica Lange as a Ruth Gordon-type character. There are way too many Rosemary’s Baby references to get into. However, I loved the eating of the raw brains as one of my favourite scenes in RB is when Mia Farrow as Rosemary is chomping on raw liver. I’ve had those cravings myself when pregnant (craving raw steak, not brains) so it’s always fun to see a pregnant lady with extreme iron-deficiency cravings.

Evan Peters as Tate is very much playing a Malcolm McDowell in A Clockwork Orange character. I always thought Peters had a McDowell look about him, but they just plain out shot him a la Kubrick in a couple of scenes to drive it home! Love it.

As I mentioned, I didn’t totally buy Peters’ portrayal of his character. Of course, it’s hard playing a ghost playing a psychopath. I wonder too if perhaps it had something to do with the directing. The female psychopath Hayden played by Kate Maya in Murder House was terrible. I’m sorry to say that, I wanted to like her as we all know, I love psychopaths. She looked like Avril Lavigne trying to act like a bad girl. (I've never bought into Avril Lavigne as a Goth Grrl either.) I didn’t buy the black eye-liner, and she just didn’t feel real. Maybe she’s too nice in real life to find the evil inside of herself to be a husband-stealing-baby-stealing little bitch. I just didn’t buy her performance at all. I barely believed her as a mistress and didn’t believe her at all as a stalker. She gets points for trying. I’m not sure what didn’t work for me.

I guess the problem with seeing Murder House after FreakShow is that FreakShow is high voltage bloodbath orgy-ridden roller coaster ride while Murder House is slow slow slow. In FreakShow, Finn Wittrock expertly plays psychopath Dandy in larger than life manner; every nuance, every finger twitch, every lip quiver, every eyebrow lift is carefully calculated in a dance of perfection between actor, director, and camera. The actors playing psychopaths in Murder House don’t have the same level of intensity, perhaps direction, and so the performances feel weaker and don’t ring as true. There isn’t that level of audience fear about what the psychopath will do next, that anything can go horribly wrong at any minute in Murder House that you get with Dandy’s scenes in FreakShow. Dandy is a tightly wound violin string that can snap at any minute, and it's not predictable exactly when that snap is gonna happen. Peters character just doesn't have that same intensity although as a school-shooter mom-raping psychopath, he should.

Interesting that there was a very specific chair flip camera pov shot that is in Murder House and FreakShow and I think in Coven as well. It may well be a famous shot from some horror movie, I don't know.

There are lots of puppet and doll references in Murder House. We all know about the puppets in FreakShow. Dandy plays with his puppet theatre a lot and makes his own puppets out of mom and Tupperware lady. And there was a psycho doll hoarder who made a girl into his own doll in Coven. The ventriloquist doll/Jamie Brewer in FreakShow is going to be a big plot point this week, I think.
Murder House has a Dr. Frankenstein, in Coven we have a Frankenteen. In FreakShow, Elsa has wooden legs. Lobster Boy needs new hands to name a couple of numerous Frankenstein references.

Jamie Brewer wears a mask and make-up in Murder House and plays a ventriloquist doll in Freakshow. She sees dead people in Murder House and Coven and likely FreakShow. Chester wears the same over-exaggerated make-up in FreakShow that she does in Murder House.

There’s a character named Fiona in Murder House. Jessica Lange plays a Fiona in Coven.

Not sure how I feel about the Freddy Krueger stuff.

There’s a scene where Constance is painting a pair of lady legs in Murder House. Elsa has wooden legs in FreakShow.

Is the little boy in the Murder House Dandy? Yet it can’t be since Dandy was born by his mom, a product of inbreeding with relatives. And Dandy is just like his dad. In Murder House, Tait is the dad. Or was Dandy adopted or switched? We never saw his birth. Of course, I have to go back and look at the timeline, it likely wouldn’t make sense.

How is Tait a dad? How does a ghost make a baby? Or is he a demon, devil? We never learn what the original source of the horror of the murder house was. Yes, it was built for Lily Rabe by a Frankennut, but what was there before THAT? What made Frankendoc the original horror? There's a whole plot point where Sara Paulson tells us there's an original evil and made it sound like it was a demon or a portal, but then it was never addressed again. Or maybe I dozed off...

In Murder House, since it's in California, there are a few characters over the eras who want to be famous movie stars. A few are satisfied that their grisley deaths make them famous. In Coven, Emma Roberts is a famous movie star. Of course, Madam LaLaurie and Marie Laveau are famous in NOLA folklore, as were Axman and several others who showed up. In FreakShow, the driving theme is fame. Elsa wants to be famous, she almost was, and then she was for grisly reasons (much like some of the people in Murder House) and then she has another chance to be famous and won't stop at anything to make it happen. Dandy wants to be an actor and if his mom had just let him do some community theatre, he wouldn't have tried to become a clown and then found his true calling: Playing God.

Major Series Theme takeaways: puppet makers, other people "working the strings," Pinnochio, Frankenstein, God Complex, being famous/movie stars, parts sewn to parts, loves lost, perversions win, and the real freaks are those who are warped/evil on the inside no matter how beautiful they are on the outside...

Overall, I enjoyed Season One and am glad I took the time to watch it. 

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