TV Review: “American Horror Story: Asylum”: Booooo!

Written by Jesse Gelinas January 27, 2013

Jessica Lange as Sister Jude on "American Horror Story"

This is not horror

Proper horror is an under-represented genre on cable today. Classic television always used to have room for anthology series such as “Night Gallery” or “Tales from the Dark Side”, but today it’s just hard to find entertainment with the same ability to scare us on a Wednesday night. Enter “American Horror Story”, an attempt by FX and Ryan Murphy to corner the cable-horror genre and resurrect some dead careers. With a strong opening season (that sadly fizzled toward the end), this show had promise that was subsequently mowed down by a follow-up that was just unsatisfying, and more importantly, not horror.

**Season SPOILERS below**

“American Horror Story: Asylum” brings us into the halls of Briarcliff, a Catholic-run institute for the criminally insane in the mid-1960s. Jessica Lange portrays the hardcore nun running the place with an iron fist. Sarah Paulson is the hard-nosed reporter who’ll have a run in with a psycho killer. Lily Rabe is the young sister who’ll be possessed by Satan. James Cromwell is the Frankenstein wannabe creating mutant forest monsters. Evan Peters is the kid who gets abducted by aliens. Oh, and the Angel of Death shows up too. These are not patient delusions or dream sequences. This is the plot, and I use that word very loosely.

What could go wrong? A f&@%ing lot!

The first season attempted to be scary at times, before it devolved into a soap opera about young ghost sex and marital issues. “Asylum” just doesn’t try. Ryan Murphy seems to think that if you just throw a bunch of half-ideas into the air, and let them arrange however they fall, you have a show. This is the show’s main problem. Most shows actually try to write a cohesive story with a sensible plot, direction, and satisfying conclusion. This mess just jumps all over the place, throwing everything at us at once and assuming we’ll accept it as quirky and edgy.

The Angel of Death makes a few appearances on "American Horror Story"

Plot lines are dropped, potential intrigue is wasted, and focus and effort are spent in all the wrong places. Those aliens I mentioned? That’s about all they get, a mention, occasionally. The Devil in the nun? Not a big deal, not even the focus of the show. James ‘that’ll do pig’ Cromwell and his forest mutants? A passing thought. Apparently the gripping mystery we’re supposed to be so consumed by is a murderer with a rat-tail haircut and mommy issues.

Ryan Murphy is just awful

Ryan Murphy is the mind behind “Glee”, “The New Normal”, and “Nip/Tuck”. All shows with huge potential, obliterated by his huge ego, and his inability to follow through with a half-decent idea. “American Horror Story: Asylum” was not scary. It was not thrilling, and it was not clever. It was one flavour-of-the-week writer’s attempt to shoehorn in every gimmick he could think of, and hoping for a masterpiece. Every great artist measures each brush stroke with surgical proficiency, but not here apparently.

This program gains ONE point to its base rating for Jessica Lange’s and Joseph Fiennes’s performances. And +0.5 for hacking off Adam Levine’s arm in the opening scene.

My Rating: 4.5/10

the poster for "American Horror Story: Asylum"

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About Jesse Gelinas

After years attempting to escape the Matrix, Jesse has accepted his fate as a writer and Senior Editor. Now that's he finished with his film degree, it gives him something to do while waiting for the machines to get careless.

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