TV Review: American Horror Story: Freakshow 4.1 “Monsters Among Us”
By Dr. Zaius
Wednesday, October 8th, 2014 at 12:00 pm
American Horror Story: Freakshow Season 4 Episode 1: “Monsters Among Us”
Directed by Ryan Murphy
Written by Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk
Starring Jessica Lange, Sarah Paulson, Frances Conroy, Evan Peters, Kathy Bates, Angela Bassett, Michael Chiklis, Denis O’Hare, Emma Roberts, and Finn Wittrock FX
Air Date: Wednesday, October 8, 2014, 10pm
No network pushes the bounds of television like FX. Whether it’s the uber-realism of Sons of Anarchy or the low-brow hijinx of the gang from Paddy’s Pub in It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, FX has cornered the market on extreme cable TV, giving viewers premium shows without the premium prices of HBO and Showtime. In 2011, American Horror Story joined the lineup and immediately caught on with the growing TV horror craze giving FX a competitor to HBO’s True Blood and AMC’s The Walking Dead. The difference can be summed up easily: American Horror Story is genuinely and purely terrifying.
What makes AHS unique is that it is the first and, to my knowledge, only show in TV history to begin and end a specific story during a season, and then bring back nearly the entire cast in a totally new genre concept each season. From season 1 till now, the series has set itself apart with its ability to push the boundaries on sexuality and violence. It also makes use of phenomenal acting, tremendous score (always a must in the horror genre), and stunning visuals (the leather-suited man springs to mind).
Season 2 took many of the actors who hooked us in season 1, including Evan Peters, Sarah Paulson, Frances Conroy, Denis O’Hare, and the show’s ace in the hole, Oscar-winner Jessica Lange, to the Asylum. From there, in Season 3, we went south to Louisiana to join the Coven, adding new stars like Emma Roberts as well as two more Oscar-caliber talents in Kathy Bates (Oscar winner for horror film, Misery in 1990) and Angela Bassett. For season 4, co-creators Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk go back to their strong suit: picking on some of the most basic fears of humanity. The elements of loneliness, longing for acceptance, and not fitting in are major themes surrounded by the ghosts, demons, and witches. Now, they take their themes to the titled Freakshow. I mean, c’mon its bad enough the commercials have been selling us nothing but scary clowns!
We open with a milkman discovering a dead body in the small Florida town of Jupiter in the summer of 1952. The suspects are in the hospital and everyone’s talking about them. Soon, they are visited by Fraulein Elsa Mars (Lange with a pitch-perfect German accent). Elsa recruits Siamese sisters Bette and Dot Tattler to join her show. Dot is angry and cynical, Bette is ditsy and aloof. To escape the threat of prison, they go along and meet some of the other fr”¦ don’t call them that, they don’t like that word. There’s Ethel, the Bearded Lady (Bates) and her son “Lobster Boy” Jimmy (Peters). Jimmy moonlights using his deformity for a special purpose that only American Horror Story and FX can get away with. There are pinheads, midgets, flipper-armed men, giants, sword swallowers, and more. Conflicts are foreshadowed as the area folk don’t seem to warm and fuzzy towards the carnival of outcasts and a detective shows up investigating the murder. A socialite and her exceedingly strange son (Frances Conroy and Finn Whitrock) also show up for a private show, and make an attempt to buy the twins themselves. For what purpose we don’t know yet. But what we do see in abundance is the recurring theme of acceptance among the odd. In season 1, the ghosts united. Season 3 showed witches from all backgrounds joining together to stop a greater evil. The freaks of this show are a family bonded by something much deeper and darker than blood. Oh”¦ did I forget the serial killer kidnapper clown that is so straight up freaky that somewhere Tim Curry is smiling knowing he’s being given a run for his money? They also continue the streak of amazing opening credits scenes, this one done in clay-animation that would make Jack Skellington jealous.
As usual with American Horror Story, try not to watch it right before bed because the imagery, music, and that damn clown might keep you sleeping with one eye open. It’s one of the few shows that produces genuine scares, and manages to be wholly compelling with actors who fully embrace their bizarre characters and the beautifully macabre world Murphy and Falchuk created.
American Horror Story: Freakshow debuts Wednesday October 8, 2014, at 10pm (EST) on FX. Seasons 1-2 are available for viewing on Netflix free with streaming subscription.
American Horror Story: Freakshow 4.1 “Monsters Among Us” trailer: