DVD Review: AMERICAN HORROR STORY: Asylum

Fox Home Entertainment
October 8th, 2013

So for as long as I can remember, the popular opinion was that to make a successful horror film, you needed an R rating. I think part of that had to do with the fact that the genre became dominated, starting in the early 80s, by slasher flicks and then the wretched torture porn genre.

But cable television has, from time to time, played around with the genre. But FX appears to have delivered what is the best horror series to date.

AMERICAN HORROR STORY’s second season, ASYLUM, brings back some of the cast from the first season, but in different roles.

Jessica Lange leads a strong cast with a story set, ofr the most part, in a New England Sanitarium in the 60s. Lange is Sister Jude, the administator of Briarcliff Sanitarium.

Reporter Lana Winters (Sarah Paulson) wants to get into Briarwood. While she initially pushes for a story about their bakery, she really wants to delve into the story of the serial killer Bloody Face, which folks believe is an inmate by the name of Kit Walker. Since we learn that right off the bat, it is a pretty safe bet that Kit is not said killer.

Eventually Lana extorts Sister Mary Eunice into sneaking her in. As one would suspect, this does not go well and Lana soon finds herself committed. The reason? She needs treatment for her lesbianism. Can she uncover the secrets of Briarwood and escape to report it?

While the story of Bloody Face is one of the plotlines, Asylum contains a whole mess of stories, some of which are great and some feel like they were tossed in for the hell of it. Aliens? Great, more the merrier! But the show does an excellent job of keeping things straight and not letting all of the lunacy blend together into one big mess.

In addition to Bloody Face and Aliens, we have Nazi war criminals, demons, more serial killers, sex addicts and folks that are just out and out evil. Asylum also uses the culture of the time (60s) to great effect. The era’s views on homosexuality, interracial marriage, abortion and sexuality in general are source material. As I said, there is an insane about of plotlines that repeatedly cross paths with each other.

But as crazy as all of that is, the show is quite shrewd in terms of character come across as simply good or bad. Or when it does, your impression of them will almost certainly change before the end of the season. Truth be told, few of the characters are what they seem to be. Some hold dark secrets from their past, while others simply had their true selves behind a facade.

The cast is quite rich, featuring James Cromwell, Joseph Fiennes,Lizzie Brochere,  Franka Potente, Chloe Sevigny, Ian McShane and Zachary Quinto. And each of them plays their character with gusto, but usually avoid getting  cartoonish. The writers deserve some of the credit for loading up the characters with secrets and different motivations. With weaker scripts, this could have been an utter trainwreck of camp.
Extras:
Aside from the deleted scenes, the extras are pretty good. The Orderly is a short in which an orderly takes us on a tour of the asylum. Our final stop is Bloody Face’s cell. There is not a happy ending.What is American Horror Story Asylum is a more traditional behind the scenes featurette. It runs about 22 minutes and features interviews with a number of cast members, executive producer Brad Falchuk, various directors and other crew members. Welcome to Briarcliff Manor looks at the sets with cast comments as well as some from folks in production and costumes. The Creatures, as one would imagine, tackles effects, make-up and prosthetics.

American Horror Story: Asylum is a crazy trip through a gothicly delightful world. It occasionally stumbles with it’s many storylines, but succeeds more often than not. Cast and crew come together to deliver a show that should delight anyone seeking chills and scares.

Jeremy Lynch
Jeremy