John Villarose VI
Every season of the FX miniseries “American Horror Story” follows a recognizable theme of the horror genre. Season one, “Murder House,” dealt with ghosts and haunted houses. Season two, “Asylum,” dealt demons and a mad scientist. Season three, “Coven,” dealt with witches and voodoo. Now, season four goes into territory not typically seen, focusing on freak shows: circus-like performances popularized in the late 1800s which put the spotlight on people with unusual deformities or abilities. Reflecting the trend, the newest season features deformed characters, including a bearded woman (Kathy Bates), a two-headed woman (Sarah Paulson), and a boy with “lobster hands” (Evan Peters).
Jessica Lange, who has been the star of every season thus far, once again takes a center role as Elsa Mars, the show’s corrupt, fame-crazed ringleader. Unfortunately, her role this season is perhaps the least captivating of the cast, feeling much too similar to her role last season. Evan Peters, another star, fulfills his typical role as the dreamboat of the season (most likely the reason his deformity is one of the few that does not take away from his general appearance). So far, the best performances have come from Bates whose role is perhaps not outside her comfort zone, and Paulson who impressively plays two characters with conflicting personalities in a way that seems effortless. Newcomers to the series include John Carroll Lynch who plays a murderous, insane clown named Twisty and Finn Wittrock who plays a spoiled, disturbed boy who is perhaps even creepier than Lynch’s character.
This season breaks away from the past three in a couple of refreshing ways. The first three seasons fell into the typical horror tactic of dark color schemes and dim lighting, which worked for them. There isn’t a bit of that in “Freak Show” however. The use of bright, pastel colors and fill lighting expertly contrasts with the show’s ideas of keeping the “freaks” shadowed in mystery, with performances strictly happening at night and the characters being kept out of the public eye. The audience is shown everything clearly, proving that the real horror doesn’t come from the deformed characters. Likewise, this season seems to be dropping the supernatural element that’s typical of American Horror Story. This kind of makes the horror feel a bit grittier, relying on classic horror-movie murder to scare (or excite) the fans.
Although it’s far too early to say just yet, based on the show’s first two episodes, “Freak Show” is has the potential to be “American Horror Story’s” best season yet. From this point, the show just needs to work on fleshing out Peters’ and Lange’s characters, put some more emphasis on the secondary, and make sure not to fall into the monotony that dragged down last season. For fans of horror, “Freak Show” is looking to be a must-watch.