American Horror Story: Asylum is the 2nd season of FX’s horror anthology series. In a risky move- ingenious, if you ask me – FX has given the American Horror Story creators, Ryan Murphy and Brad Fulchak, the liberty to start from scratch with each new season. Season one’s storyline was about a “Murder House” that resides in modern day Los Angeles. For Asylum, the show went back in time to the 1960s and a mental institution run by a sadistic nun, a depraved priest, and a Nazi doctor.
Asylum isn’t as concise as the “Murder House” season. It has a “kitchen sink” feel to it, meaning the show’s writers seemed to throw any and every twisted idea they came up with into the mix. Aliens, forbidden sex, Frankenstein experiments on patients… Anne Frank! Even Maroon 5’s Adam Levine makes an appearance. Although he proves he can play a certain kind of douchey role, Levine gets butchered early in the season.
This second season features some great acting, in particular returning American Horror Story cast members Evan Peters, Lily Rabe, Zachary Quinto and Sarah Paulson. And of course there’s the great Jessica Lange, sinking her teeth into another demented role handcrafted for her by Murphy and company. American Horror Story has rejuvenated her career. It’s wonderful to see this two-time Academy Award winner relishing in everything written for her. Joining the cast in Asylum are Joseph Fiennes, Clea Duvall, Chloë Sevigny, Ian McShane and James Cromwell.
As great as the acting is, and as bat-shit-crazy as the writing in Asylum is, the atmosphere of this season is so dark and oppressive that I found it difficult to get excited about each successive episode. I love the horror genre as much as the next guy, but Asylum is missing some of the devilish humor of season one. For that reason I don’t know if I’d call Asylum a complete success.
However, after one viewing of Asylum I don’t have to worry about how theses stories will effect season 3 of American Horror Story. Coven, the latest installment of American Horror Story (which premiered on FX October 9th), has nothing to do with Asylum, just as Asylum had nothing to do with the “Murder House” season. Thus, if you’re like me felt you’d seen enough of Asylum after one sitting, you can skip it and wait, or simply rewatch season one on Blu-ray.
I may not have enjoyed Asylum as much as the first season, but I respect the American Horror Story creative team for going for broke. They’re willing to try anything. It’s refreshing to see a TV series operate without fear. After all, iof it doesn’t succeed, the next year they get to start all over.