Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The Many Themes of American Horror Story Asylum

I did not know what to really expect when I watched the first episode of American Horror Story Asylum. I didn't even see the first season. It just didn't seemed that interesting and I do love ghost stories but it just didn't speak to me. What drew me into the second season was the promise of madness. Seeing the commercials and seeing that it was taking place in an insane asylum set the proper mood.

Little did I know, watching that first episode turned me into a fan right there and then. One of the great joys of this show is the many themes and tropes throughout each episode. I have been a fan of horror movies for a long time but this show really distills them into bite sized chunks. Let us explore the many themes of American Horror Story Asylum.

Beware, there be spoilers in the dark. They watch your every move and just when you think you are safe, they reach out of the dark and steal you away never to be seen again.

Alien Abductions
In the very first episode you deal with alien abductions. It all boils down to the classic bright lights, house begins to shake and a bright white room with big eyed, hairless creatures poking and prodding.  And to make sure they had the full effect, they even included an implant that is surgically removed and it grows little cybernetic legs and tries to run away. I knew the creators of the show said there would be no ghosts in this season but I had no idea they were going to outer space to get their monsters. Bravo on the surprise AHSA.

Masked Slasher
Slasher movies were all the rage during the late 70's, 80's and beyond. AHSA is no exception. They bring forth their very own slasher by the name of Bloody Face. He wears a mask made of human flesh and teeth. Fully equipped with a blade and a need to cut people open. Even in the first episode you see his name on the walls colored in red. I knew something was going to come of it and glad I was not disappointed.

Demonic Possession
The second episode begins quickly enough with a flat out demon possession. An exorcism must be performed so they can bring the spirit out and save the boy it inhabits. They bring in the cocky priests so they fight this servant of the devil and it would seem all hell breaks loose! A priest and the possessed die and that damn demon escapes to invade another poor innocent soul.

The fact that the whole show is taking place in an asylum in Massachusetts gives a nod to the dark HP Lovecraft. The Asylum drips of evil and the people living and working there are caught in a maelstrom of bleak gloomy madness. If you have read any of his work, you can almost make the parallels of horrors so powerful they induce madness and insanity. In episode "Nor'easter", I fully expected to see a citizen from Innsmouth to walk in from the rain.

Nazi Evil
In a two part episode named "I am Anne Frank" 1 & 2, an idea is explored that the dear doctor Arden was a Nazi scientist who worked at Auschwitz. The two episodes and many thrilling twists and turns but bring the Nazis into this just turned the horror factor to 11.

Mad Scientist 
Who doesn't love a mad scientist? Some of my best friends are mad scientists. Doctor Arden fills the bill as chief doctor and mad scientist creating monsters in his laboratory. James Cromwell does a fantastic job playing the mad man of science. He even has some of his monsters roaming the woods nearby and feeds them raw meat. Only happy monsters love their raw meat.

Lizzie Borden 
In episode "I am Anne Frank" part 1, the character Grace tells a story about what happened to her family. When the truth fully comes out you see that she went all "Lizzie Borden" on her entire family. I was impressed that AHSA had to channel that bit horror history into the show. Kudos, kudos.

Serial Killer
If you look at all the episodes back to back, you could say there are several serial killers in the show. But what really stand out is our dear Zachary Quinto channels his inner Sylar as the man behind the monster of Bloody Face (Gasp)! He is complete with a secret room with chains and various tools of pain. He even has a human skin lamp and a skull cap candy dish. You can't be much more serial killer then that but I'm sure they will try.

The Bad Seed
The the episode "The Origins of Monstrosity", you have a very Wednesday Addams little girl who kills her playmate. Parts of the episode spoke volumes from the book The Bad Seed. The detached stare and manner on how the girl moved and spoke gave me the creeps. It was only natural at the end of the episode you saw her mother lying face down and the little girl giving this creppy rehearsed story of a bearded man with a brown coat.

Monsters in the Woods
The woods can be a scary place. You have no idea what could be lurking out there. They could just swoop out of the darkness and take you away to never be heard from again. AHSA has its own monsters in the woods. Creature that will eat you should you stray to far from the "Safety" of the asylum.  

There you have it, some the the major themes running through AHSA. They seem to be going after every bit of horror they can throw in there. We are only six episode in and I can't wait to see what else they bring to the table. If you haven't seen it, jump in with both feet. The cold shock might bring a horrified grin to your face.

E. Cross

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