American Horror Story: Finding True Horror in Coven
American Horror Story is truly one of the most unique TV series we’ve had in a while. It lives up to its name as it explores both the mythical and the real horrors in our society. But the first episode of this season’s AHS started off a little shaky for me.
The opening sequence was a masterpiece. I’m usually the guy who laughs through a horror film but this time I felt myself cringing and feeling terrified as Madame Delphine LaLaurie walked through her basement, aligned with her slaves, all of whom displayed gory deformities: skin peeled off their faces, eyes and mouths sewn shut, and even a guy with a cow’s head over his own. Bringing up the atrocity of slavery and elevating to an even more disgusting level of horror made me instantly praise AHS.
Now cue Miss Robichaux’s Academy, a school for teenage witches. Again I cringed, but this time for all the wrong reasons. Almost halfway into the episode, the audience finds themselves in the Academy’s luxuriously white but bare grand mansion. And then as if to starkly contrast the white walls, we meet the over-the-top witches. All of them had completely different personalities mirroring their different powers; this could’ve been a good thing if the writers were able to connect the characters rather than have them clash with each other at every given moment. At one point, I felt like I was watching a low-budget ABC Family high school movie. The attitude, the fights, the flashiness of it all slowly took the show’s take on witches into an area of mediocrity and the atrocious horror present at the beginning got lost.
According to Slate, “American Horror Story is, proudly, a melodrama. Its influences are not other golden age TV shows and gangster movies, but undervalued genres, often dismissed as pulp: horror flicks, women’s pictures, soaps, camp. American Horror Story is obviously ambitious, but it is rarely somber or sober.” Although I do agree that the show highlights dying genres, I’m left to wonder if this season is becoming another representation of teenage entertainment today in the likes of Twilight and Project X. The Academy has even been, both jokingly and seriously, compared to Harry Potter, but the characters in Harry Potter had depth and weren’t overcome with bratty attitudes or petty drama. Also, the past seasons of AHS were more focused on adults and they contained a gloomier atmosphere that made the horror cut deeper. Now that the season is more centered on teenagers, why is everything so glossy and dry at times? We don’t get any emotionally driven and raw scenes from any of the teenage witches that make us feel the terror they face.
But the latest episode, although dizzying with themes, contained real horrors–such as incest and the sense of not belonging–that I hope the show will use to develop their younger characters. For now, I’ll keep returning for the amazing Jessica Lange and the dark instances of voodoo brought on by badass Angela Bassett.
Until the next episode, what are your thoughts on the teenage characters? And what do you find most horrifying about AHS: Coven?