LET’S TALK ABOUT AMERICAN HORROR STORY: FREAK SHOW

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We’re over halfway through the fourth season of AMERICAN HORROR STORY and Ryan Murphy has once again served us a peculiar plate of camp, horror, and recycled storytelling.  Of all the horror television shows out there, the only one I follow religiously is AHS.  Perhaps it’s my small obsession with Frances Conroy or the show’s intentional game of horror movie “I Spy With My Little Eye,” but AHS is something that can do no wrong in my world.   AHS: COVEN was critically believed to be the weakest season so far, but I still couldn’t get enough of it.  I feel the same way about FREAK SHOW, if not more.  Sure, the season suffers from some of the traditional problems of Ryan Murphy’s other shows like derivative story lines, one-dimensional characters, cheap scares, wasted cameos, and over stylized cinematography, but there’s this strange allure of AMERICAN HORROR STORY that keeps me coming back week after week.

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Ryan Murphy may have a tendency to present stereotypical/archetypal characters, but there isn’t a show on television that can hold a candle to AMERICAN HORROR STORY in terms of diverse representation.  In this season alone, we’ve been given straight, gay, disfigured, physically disabled, mentally disabled, black, white, Indian, transgender, elderly, youthful, little people, obese, fit, poor, wealthy, tattooed, and foreign characters.  Are the representations perfect? Of course not, but there isn’t a show on television that comes anywhere near AHS.  In fact, the only show I can think of that comes remotely close is GLEE…which is also written by Ryan Murphy.  I like seeing more than just one type of person on television, and AHS is consistently giving work to actors that may be pushed by the wayside in every other casting call.

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One of the biggest complains of this season’s show are the musical numbers in just about every episode.  While many may find it annoying, I look forward to it every week.  Ryan Murphy’s style of camp is a dying art.  We’re now in a world of film and television where people have turned their backs on the surreal/strange and instead want things to be as realistic as possible.  The current audience has lost it’s ability to suspend its disbelief.  It’s this same problem that is killing the theatre as well.  Jessica Lange singing Lana Del Rey’s “Gods and Monsters” wouldn’t have been possible in the 1950s, but by God, I’m glad Ryan Murphy wanted it to happen.  This high camp is reminiscent of the melodramatic films of yesteryear, and I’m glad that someone is still trying to hammer us over the head with the source material of horror films.  AHS is also known for its cinematic homages to other horror films, and he’s completely nailed this season.  In one of the earlier episodes, the “freaks” are all at a dinner table chanting “KILL THE COPPER” and if you close your eyes, it sounds eerily like “Gooble Gobble,” an excellent throw back to Tod Browning’s FREAKS.  Ryan Murphy knows he’s aping on other people, and he’s not ashamed to serve it up on a silver platter.

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Unless you’re a fan of soap operas, there’s a good chance you’ve never heard of Finn Wittrock, but his portrayal of the elite psychopath, Dandy Mott, is career changing.  He consistently gives the strongest performances week after week, and he’s in a show boasting Emmy, Oscar, and Golden Globe award winning performers.  Wittrock is charming, unsettling, layered, and committed regardless of whatever insanity the script throws at him.  Frances Conroy is in top form (as usual) as Wittrock’s mother Gloria, and Patti Fucking LaBelle plays the Mott’s family maid, Dora.  Wittrock shares the screen most of the time with these two dynamo performers, and he holds is own.  Regardless of how eye-roll inducing some of the episodes this season may be, watching Wittrock throw tantrums and murder men in his underwear is more than worth the hour of watching.  Twisty the Clown is probably the most memorable character of the series thus far, and with good reason.  Twisty is fucking terrifying to look at, his actions are somewhat predictable, but most horror icons achieve success for the same practice.  However, it’s the heartbreaking and breathtaking performance of John Carroll Lynch as Twisty that completely won me over for the season.  I won’t spoil too much, but the monologue delivered in “Edward Mordrake Pt. 2” is something that will hit you right in the gut.  The scenes of Wittrock and Lynch are some of the better crafted moments of the season, and the juxtaposition is definitely appreciated.

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As far as fear factor is concerned, FREAK SHOW is probably the least scary of the franchise, but I am genuinely interested in the lives of these characters moreso than any other season.  With the exception of a few moments, almost all of this season is just a dramatized retelling of events that could believably exist in reality.  During the previews for the season, the AHS Facebook page had behind the scenes interviews with the “real freaks” of the freak show, and let us get to know the actors that didn’t need makeup or prosthetic applications to look “different.”  These previews have totally influenced the way I watch the show, because I’m invested in the hardships and cruelty that some of these people endure on a daily basis, off set.  It’s hard to watch “Paul: The illustrated Seal” be unjustly kicked out of a store because of the way he looks on AHS: FREAK SHOW, but hearing the story of how the doctors and nurses delivered him and didn’t want to be present when his mother saw his condition…is much more heartbreaking than anything AHS could write.  At the same time, this previews made me fall in love with these characters.  Mat Fraser (Paul: The Illustrated Seal) said “When you’re disabled, the two things people think you can’t do are fight and have sex. So I’ve got a black belt, and I’m really good at shagging.”  It’s this one-on-one connection that this season has offered and its ability to show these “freaks” as people and not just monsters that keeps me coming back.

Damn you, Ryan Murphy. You sure know how to reel me in.

Comments
2 Responses to “LET’S TALK ABOUT AMERICAN HORROR STORY: FREAK SHOW”
  1. Jaz Moore says:

    Love this! Although, I slightly disagree with it being the best season, mine will be Season 2 now and forever. I also think that every season is getting exponentially too big. We used to have 8 good strong storylines but starting in season 3 it jumped to around 17 fair storylines and now…well… But it is still unlike anything on television and you can tell the people involved absolutely LOVE what they’re doing!

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  1. Fowux Blog says:

    Let Your American Freak

    […] ng work to actors that may be pushed by the wayside in every other casting call. […]



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