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HAIL MARY, GORE ALMIGHTY-AMERICAN HORROR STORY:ASYLUM

It has taken me a few weeks, and I have gotten behind a little, and now catching up but I am just about back on track with the second series of AMERICAN HORROR STORY showing FX/FOX in the UK now.

As with the first series, expectations were built up quite high, with very stylish and at times again arguably controversial poster imagery and visual themes. But having seen the first series, we must now be more prepared and ready for similarly twisted and depraved terror a second time around right?

With good credit to the creators they did announce the brave and intriguing step of bringing back the actors, but this time in very different roles and with a totally new location for the narrative. This offered some skepticism and curiosity until the series finally began a couple of months ago.

Alright, so this time we have the story set in a classically spooky mental asylum setting, which while is possibly good choice for the horror genre that it resides in, it could initially seem a lazy choice and even become thin on ideas quite quickly. Well, in the first couple of episodes it began really quite sudden and disturbingly intense, chopping between time frames, but this we had become used to from the previous season.

It was suddenly actually very brutal and modern with some dizzy chaos and gore around as a new mysterious monster known as ‘Bloody Face’ stalked corridors. It was, derivative of some recent notorious horror movie styling, and similar to the SAW franchise, and so this then lowered my new hopes. But, after a couple of episodes the main new characters settled into place, and a new dark tale was unraveling once again.

We are presented with a young couple- young white man and his black lover. She dies soon enough-but did he kill her? Two lesbian lovers at a time when it had to remain total secret, one of them soon is taken into the asylum and blackmailed. Through this again, the actor Jessica Lange plays Sister Jude, a truly warped and dangerous nun who controls and manipulates the patients and other around her there.

While Lange now plays a disturbed and satisfyingly chilling evil nun, there are similarities between this and her character in the earlier series. Even so, she is still one of the most reliable and entertaining reasons to keep watching.

Evan Peters, who last time was the sick and conniving young grunge ghost, now plays Kit, a young man tricked and confused over the death of his loved one, and his own guilt or involvement. Now, it is interesting to see him portray a new character who is conflicted and mourning, and for the most part, one of the good guys. There is also some very strange and mysterious connection with him and potential supernatural forces which is curious.

There too, have been some new actors arriving, new guest stars most notably Joseph Fiennes portraying an at first very selfless and helpful holy man who may provide future dark edges. Gradually two other actors from the first series returned-Zachary Quinto, playing Dr.Olivier Thredson who appears helpful but soon becomes a difficult character, and then also Frances Conroy-the aged French maid in the first series now a shockingly impressive and sudden marvelous new character, whom I will hold back from revealing for those who have not yet seen her this time.

So far, there have been a good few comments about how the show has changed, the violence and gore, the new characters, plot lines and content. Some people are not happy with the possible misogyny, sexism, repetitive and sex-obsessed nature, the kinky nun imagery.

Controversy and extreme reaction is nothing new to this show, as it created and caused unrest immediately with the first series, and was almost bound to do so again. In fact, the creators must have certainly hoped for that once more.

Do I think that they have gone too far this time? Is it just lacking in real inventiveness and new ideas, while churning out predictable horror cliches and what would only shock your grandmother, if that?

I do believe that this second season could have been edited down quite a lot, a couple of episodes chopped out. While I have been enjoying watching the exploration of the main characters and narrative, some of it has dragged along perhaps far too slowly.

Thankfully, by mid-series it does seem to have found the original stronger beginnings and headed along back on track again, after a few more very twisted and grizzly events. Heading now toward the end of the series, it could reach a very dramatic and revelatory climax which it does hold the potential to show us.

What do you think of this second run so far? Has it been more successful and rewarding than the first, or has it dropped below expectations already?

There is now talk of a third season, and all three then somehow being linked by the narrative together. This is pleasingly mysterious and bold but could of course simply be hype to keep the show on air. One very large and epic connected dark horror world could be a very stunning thing, and to see it become that would be a genre triumph indeed.

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About JAMES E PARSONS

Author of science fiction novels Orbital Kin and Minerva Century-also horror, literary fiction, many short stories and screenplays. Always reading, writing, watching films, playing guitar/bass, and am a husband with a coffee addiction. New horror novel due for 2017. This is my blog, offshoot from my website. It will be where I post current thoughts, opinions, views, reviews, or discussions about contemporary film, movies, books, video games, television series mostly in the horror, science fiction, fantasy and their sub-genre offshoots. The entertainment not in the mainstream (for the most part) and proud of it. Also follow me on twitter- @ParsonsFiction, and facebook - James E Parsons

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