When it comes to anthology shows they are generally something that tends to appeal more to a niche instead of the broader consumer base. Shows such as True Detective use the entire season to build up the atmosphere eventually leading up to a tipping point, that in theory, should completely change everything that you thought the show was about. American Horror Story is a show that doesn't fit into this mold at all. The show has a tendency to be on the unpredictable side which normally is a good thing, if it ends up going somewhere. While this show does have a unique spin on the classic American horror genres, it always seems to fall short of being able to achieve anything besides forcing gimmicks onto the screen.
I have been waiting the last few seasons of AHS to really raise the bar on TV horror. The last few years have seen television shows really take off in a new direction. They have in essence become long movies that are always pushing the limits. Whether it is the amazing cinematography in Breaking Bad or the Shakespearean story telling of Sons of Anarchy, TV has become a more serious realm of cinema. AHS has all of the ingredients needed to really raise the bar yet always falls flat before the finish line is reached.
The gimmicks of this show always seems to be the downfall of it each season.
When I first saw the commercials for American Horror Story : Freak Show I was very excited. When I first watched Tod Browning's Freaks I was enthralled by the concept and the use of real side show performers. Despite the fact that movie was made in 1932 there was a general authenticity to the feel of the film and very creepy scenes that still stick with me. I was hoping that Freak Show would be able to capture these same feelings given the fact that they are able to do great special effects and where using real sideshow performers. The entire appeal of this season, for me anyways, rested on this notion.
After being able to finish this last season and see what the full picture was, I found my self feeling more let down than anything. The interesting parts that could have acted as a solid foundation seemed to have only been used as a tease at best. The character of Twisty was a well thought out character. His back story was one that made you feel bad for this monster and his reasoning for his murder spree is one that was unexpected. The passing of the torch from Twisty to Dandy weakened the over all feel of the show. The hatred that Twisty had for the freaks could have lead to a story where viewers could very well have found themselves questioning who they are really hoping comes out on top. Dandy, while he did have a few parts that where very well executed, was really just a little too emotional throughout the whole series to really be creepy. The creepy aspects that came out normally where overshadow by the annoying qualities of being a spoiled rich kid. While Dandy is believable as a serial killer he lacked the same level of fear that Twisty had.
The finale of the show was something that was very anti-climactic. The killing spree that Dandy goes on was the only part really worth seeing. His death was was no where near as bad as what other characters received and felt more like it was just rushed to get to the long drawn out final stretch of the season. Besides the shooting spree there was no other point where it felt like you where watching a horror story.
If you want to kill the drive of any show or movie you load it full of pointless gimmicks. With this season it was the choice of music and lack of effort to make it blend into the atmosphere needed to make the 1950s Freak Show concept work. The Nirvana cover while it might make for great viral marketing clashes with the story line and the environment. The same can be said about the other songs that where picked. A good rule of thumb to go by if you are placing music into a show is to try and keep it neutral or at the very least within the right time frame. If your story is set in the 50s and the song you are playing is referring to some one from the 60s then you are just trying to tap a demographic instead of just making a high end show. This may work for Glee but with AHS it makes episode feel like the show is made by the same people who make the Scorpion King.
The gimmicks of this show always seems to be the downfall of it each season. American Horror Story : Coven like Freak Show had all the ingredients to really raise the bar and fizzled out. The need to have Stevie Nicks in an episode to do a song instead of using that time to further the plot felt like a sad joke. The huge following the show has amassed has shown that these gimmicks do help with the viral marketing but take away from the growth of the story line or the development of any of the many plot lines that show up.
The Next Season
AHS: Freak Show had its moments but overall lacked the elements needed for it to reach it's full potential. With referencing a classic film in horror cinema in the fashion that Freaks Show did I was hoping for more of an atmospheric story instead of a season that felt like it was more filler and gimmicks than horror. The characters who where really interesting seemed to disappear before they had their chance to shine and the big ending fell flat on its face. Hopefully the next season decides to go to a more serious horror note instead of the hodge podge of concepts that made up this last season.