Friday, November 2, 2012

American Horror Story, Season Two, Episode Three: Nor'Easter

I'll give this to Brad Falchuk -- he has a keen sense of timing. The absorbing third episode of the American Horror Story, "Nor'Easter" is all the more effective owing to coming right on the heels of Sandy. Nature's fury seizes my imagination more tightly when the debris from an actual Superstorm still clutter my street.

I could have used for even more of the storm actually. The radio mentions it, and the central conceit of the story, that Sister Jude (the operatic Jessica Lange) wants to calm the patients at the Briarcliff Mental Institution, depends upon it. But when it actually arrived, the sound studio torrents reminded me more of the final scene of Shawshank Redemption than some actual apocalyptic storm. American Horror Story doesn't seem to be shy about 'more is better,' elsewhere. The first episode introduced the asylum, it's inmates, a creepy sadistic Dr. Arthur Arden (James Cromwell), a nymphomaniac (Chloe Svegniy), a wife-killing psychopath (Kit Walker, played by Evan Peters) who insists he was abducted by aliens (played by unwholesome grey prosthesis), an undead serial killer, and a crusading journalist wrongly detained. Since the first episode, Satan has made his appearance, zombies have appeared and Dr. Arden has gone off the deep-end.

 Strangely, I still think this works. Partly this has to do with fine acting from the ensemble and partly this has to do with tone. I have no idea what American Horror Story is playing at but it seems to be having a lot of malicious fun getting to its point.

 I wouldn't say American Horror Story is scary precisely, but it does provide a lot of ghoulish television fun in one hour. I'm not sure. If the plot wasn't so tightly entwined I'd almost be tempted to say American Horror Story tells anthologies of stories, like Creep Show. But I don't think that's what they are trying. The monsters of one character keep intruding on other characters' stories: Kit Walker's aliens make an appearance (and possibly abduct?) during Sister Jude's boozy fall from grace. The zombies that Sister Mary tends for Dr. Arden thwart Kit, Shelly, Lana and Grace's escape attempt. Everything is connected at the same time everything's falling apart.

It's almost as if the show itself was insane and the 'stories' are the various delusions bubbling to the surface during therapy. Alternately, maybe only one of the monsters is real and the others are masks it wears. I just can't believe the show actually wants us to believe that this one asylum is beset by an entire menagerie of evil. That wouldn't be a story, that would be a scare house.

 By bet is on the aliens.
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