Saturday, February 9, 2013

Review: American Horror Story: Asylum

Title: American Horror Story: Asylum
Starring: Jessica Lange, Evan Peters, Zachary Quinto, Lily Rabe, Sarah Paulson, James Cromwell
Language: English
Genre: Horror, Drama, Thriller, Mystery
Episodes: 13

Set in 1964 in Briarcliff Mental Institution, the story revolves around a handful of characters ranging from nuns, doctors, and patients. All of their stories, from the past and present, intertwine with each other to a dramatic and possibly horrifying experience for both the characters and the viewers.

I know normally wouldn't review a non-Asian TV series here, but this is something that deserves a review. As a fan of the first season of American Horror Story, I was pleased that they were starting something new and unrelated from the previous as I have no idea where they would've gone anyway. I was also pretty excited with the setting being in an asylum. There was plenty of potential and the series brought something new and somewhat daring to television. It wasn't a perfect series, but it satisfied me enough between walkers, drag queens, cupcakes, and pageant brats. Don't judge me!

The first episode began in present day with Maroon 5's Adam Levine making a cameo to lure more fans with his "sex appeal". The viewers are also introduced to the infamous Bloodyface as well as the characters that we will be following throughout the series. It was an uneasy start, but the first season brought on uncertainties as well. So, I stuck with it and realized that this season faces the same problems that many movie sequels have. Too much yet not enough of something. This problem causes me to compare with the first season, unfortunately, even though they are unrelated storywise.

While the first season had a handful of characters that you can distinguish by using their names and pointing out conflicts, Asylum went overboard with characters which caused the anthology of stories to become convoluted and extremely dialogue heavy. There is so much going on with each character, but none of it pushes the story forward or is clear enough to explain to anyone afterwards without using Wikipedia synopsis to cheat. I'm not sure how many viewers had problems following along with the story like I did (and Ophelia), but this was very problematic. With each episode, I came in with an open mind and optimism that maybe the season will pick up and pull me in like the first. Unfortunately, it never happened and I became frustratingly eager for the series to end by midpoint.

I understand what they were trying to do with the story set at that time in an asylum. There's tons of potential and I'll give some kudos for the attempt and being different from the usual asylum tales, but that's where the compliments end aside from good visuals and the Lana character. All good of the season was overshadowed by the negatives.

I suppose I could give some examples of what I mean. In the two part episode called "I Am Anne Frank", a subplot is form through a temporary character who believes that she is the real Anne Frank and mistakes Dr. Arden as a Nazi doctor. Once her character is "fixed", there is no reference to her ever again nor did it move the main story forward in any way. There's also the sprinkle of creatures here and there that are completely ineffective, ranging from the Angel of Death to aliens. Everyone went from normal to insane too quickly, which made it distractedly unrealistic. There's also the careless execution of gore and inappropriately placed sex scenes that made me cringe inside.

Lastly, my final complaint that I'll mention in this review lies within the last episode which I think was longer than it should've been. While watching it, there was a certain point where I was sure that the season was over, but it just kept going unnecessarily adding more ridiculous elements to an already convoluted but somewhat complete package. The writers just had to make it more dramatic and weird with character death, cancer, children making everything happier, and aliens. I think it possibly killed what little love I had left for Lana, which was probably the only character I felt anything for and could somewhat follow with minimal confusion.

Overall, I'm really hoping that the third installment is way better than this. Any award or positive recognition this season has received was undeserving...except maybe Jessica Lange's performance...kinda. By amping up what made the first season so great, caused this season to fall short and lose all appeal for me. I will definitely be cautious when the third season premieres.

Rating: 2/5

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