(Spoiler Alert = Minimal) I’ll try not to give too much away about the ending of this television show (for those of you with it saved in the “To Watch” queue), but by the nature of any review, discussing the positives and negatives of a work will hint at what to expect as well as to influence your opinion.
Now, with all that being said, my plain and simple review of American Horror Story: Asylum is that “I loved it so much I’m going to ask it to be my Valentine next week.” Okay, hokie hyperbole aside, this show was absolutely fantastic. It’s definitely not for everyone, so it you’re still talking about Gossip Girl episodes, don’t bother checking it out.
However, if you were a fan of such shows as X-Files, Twin Peaks, or Lost, I highly recommend you pull up a seat and invest some time in watching this show.
Plot synopsis: American Horror Story: Asylum takes place in 1965, inside Briarcliff, a Church-run mental institution for the criminally insane. It’s ruled by Sister Jude (Jessica Lange) who is an ardent follower of the church though, however, is not shy at pursuing her own ambitions by any ruthless means possible. Within this Institution all manner of horrors occur, most notably the addition of its newest inmate, Kit (Evan Peters), who is being evaluated after being (wrongly) found guilty of a series of grisly axe-murders. A journalist (Sarah Paulson) goes undercover to expose the atrocities occurring at Briarcliff, but then finds there is no way out. Add to this mix a parade of Serial Killers, Alien Abductions, Nazi Experiments, Demonic Possessions, Mutants, and Deranged Nurses, and you get a sense this show is not easily explained. Indeed, it has so many sub-plots woven through that what exactly is happening is sometimes so confusing you don’t know how much of it is real or drugged-out psychosis, imagined while confined in the Asylum.
This is the second season of American Horror Story, though it is a “stand-alone” show meaning it has nothing to do with the first Season. Each season is an inclusive story, though each season (and pending a third) is dark and twisted in its own way.
I really found every aspect of this show to be genius. It covers a span of decades from the 1960’s to modern day, though most of the show takes place in 1965. The production is stunning. Wardrobe, set style, and everything else technical works to place the viewer so deeply in the center of Briarcliff, you can almost smell the rot and foul bedpans.
The acting is amazing. Jessica Lange deservedly earned SAG and Golden Globe recognition for this. The show also stars or includes cameos by a number of incredible performances: James Cromwell, Zachary Quinto, Joseph Fiennes, Dylan McDermott, Sarah Paulson, Lily Rabe, Lizzie Brocheré, Evan Peters, Chloë Sevigny, Clea DuVall, and many others.
This show is rightly categorized as “Horror,” however it truly encompasses a wide range of emotions which is one of the reasons why I think it was so successful. Not only is it nail-biting-scary and tragic, it’s also genuinely funny at times and even downright sweet. The story arc is impressive, and the last three episodes alone form an in-depth story of their own, providing epilogue closure for each of the characters.
As much as the array of plots fascinated me, my only criticism is that the Alien abductions subplot seemed a little “too strange,” even for this show. It was never explained satisfactorily as to why Kit and the women he impregnated were taken away; only that he was “open-minded.” Other than that, the craziness worked for me.
There’s really nothing else like this series on television these days: dark and bizarre, atmospheric and epic, and all around brilliant. So, again, American Horror Story: Asylum gets my five-star, two-thumbs-up, A+, and any other rating indicative of superior performance.
In other words, I recommend it.
Eric J. Guignard is MCM’s horror genre correspondent, and writes dark and speculative fiction from his office in Los Angeles. He has over fifty publishing credits for stories and articles in magazines, journals, and anthologies. He’s a member of the Horror Writer’s Association and the Greater Los Angeles Writer’s Society. Eric is also an anthology editor, including titles, Dark Tales of Lost Civilizations (2012, Dark Moon Books), which was nominated for a Bram Stoker Award, and this year’s critically acclaimed anthology, After Death… (2013, Dark Moon Books). His novella, Last Case at a Baggage Auction, is scheduled for release in September, 2013 (JournalStone Publishing). Visit Eric at: www.ericjguignard.com, or at his blog: www.ericjguignard.blogspot.com, or on Twitter: https://twitter.com/ericjguignard.