SLIGHT SPOILERS FOR THE VERY FIRST EPISODE OF SEASON TWO.
Last year, I was an avid, obsessive, totally addicted viewer of FX Network’s erotic horror series, American Horror Story. Even when I hated it, I loved it. So this year, even though I’ve been booked solid with writing commitments and family commitments and day job commitments and everything else, I had no doubt whatsoever that I would watch Season Two: Asylum, just as voraciously. Even when my baby sister who knows me well warned me after the first episode that it dealt with one of my least-loved horror tropes, the evil insane asylum, I was keen to watch and downloaded the first two episodes from the PlayStation Network.
So yesterday, after we finished hanging the ceremonial bat lights and spider webs on the front porch in prep for trick or treat, Max and Sister Lex and I sat down to watch the first two episodes. I made it about halfway through episode 1 before I said, and I quote, “Turn that shit off my TV!”
Please understand, I am not offended at all by the sexual content or the manipulation of religious symbology; I’m not bored by the 1964 settting; and I believe any storyline that results in the maiming and possible death by bleeding of Adam Levine can only be a blessing. I would also sign any petition to have Jessica Lange declared a national treasure. But y’all . . . aliens? Unanethesized surgery? It’s like Hostel raped the X-Files, and it gave birth to One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, which was immediately strangled by Agnes of God.
Which may be the point. The first season of AHS was just as much a mash-up of true crime mythology and pop horror, and it may well be that I liked it better because I liked the component parts better. Lex is right; I have a real and very personal twitch about horror stories set in mental hospitals (don’t even get me started about the 1999 remake of The House on Haunted Hill). And I absolutely loathe the entire “torture porn” genre, which is obviously a powerful influence and component in this story. (The opening sequence with Levine, for example, could have been lifted straight out of a new installment of Saw or any of its imitators.) But Season 1 just seemed to have so much more story. Yes, there were pure shocks – who had ever seen a gimp suit on non-pay cable before? But everything seemed slotted into the central drama of this seemingly-gorgeous American family held together with lies and delusion, and the setting, Murder House, felt like the perfect, even inevitable vessel for that drama. Season 2 may well gel beautifully at some point, and I freely admit I haven’t seen enough to judge it as a narrative whole. But what I have seen felt more like four or five separate SHOCKING!!!! vignettes, all shot and edited like slasher flicks, with only the most tenuous connection to one another than it did any kind of cohesive story that could carry on through an entire TV season. And the connections to the asylum itself seemed just as tenuous. Season 1 was like an infuriatingly clever and jaw-droppingly sexy postmodern, post-deconstruction take on The Haunting of Hill House. What I’ve seen of Season 2 felt like a sick stoner’s staged reading of an old issue of the Weekly World News.
Which again might well be the point.
Again, I’m only speaking for myself here; a lot of smart people I know are absolutely enthralled so far, Lex included. But I’m really disappointed, and I’m cutting my losses early. Like I told Lex yesterday, I don’t get why the new season has to be so completely different, why we needed a whole new setting and a whole new genre of paranormal – aliens instead of ghosts. Like I told her, in the second season of Friends, they didn’t celebrate their success by recasting with six ugly people who hate one another and hang out in an alley smoking crack. And yes, I totally get that AHS is NOT Friends, nor should it be. But it ought to at least be fun to watch, and for me, this season, it just isn’t.