October 16, 2012
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Get set for a darker 'Horror'
By Bill Harris, QMI Agency


The second season of American Horror Story is darker.

Not that the first season wasn't dark. It was, and I loved it. But occasionally there almost was an element of camp.

Having seen the first two episodes of the second season - which specifically is titled American Horror Story: Asylum, and debuts Wednesday, Oct. 17 on FX (the network of origin in the U.S.) and FX Canada - I can say this without reservation:

It's more troubling than season one.

"I think the story is horrifying," creator Ryan Murphy said as he was being whisked away at the Television Critics Association tour in Los Angeles a few months ago.

"The story is a period piece in a mental institution. So, (it is) based largely on truth. And the truth is always scarier than fiction."

Certainly, one only can imagine what went on in mental facilities in eras where there was less regulation and scrutiny than there is today.

But American Horror Story: Asylum combines the sadness of what probably did occur with fantastical, supernatural, horror-based story-telling that will leave you jumpy walking around your own house at night.

If you watched the first season of American Horror Story, which garnered 17 Emmy Award nominations, you'll have to accept that the tale of the Harmon family is over. Season one was self-contained.

But that also means you don't need to have seen the first season to watch the second season.

Some of the actors from season one - notably Emmy winner Jessica Lange, Evan Peters and Zachary Quinto - are back, playing different characters. But that's not as off-putting as existing fans might fear.

While there's some jumping back and forth in time, American Horror Story: Asylum largely is set in 1964 at Briarcliff, a facility for the criminally insane run by the Catholic church. Lange plays Sister Jude, a terrifying nun with a troubled past.

There's not much I can discuss about the other characters without spoiling something. But suffice to say, the characters played by Peters, and Quinto, and Sarah Paulson, and James Cromwell, and Lily Rabe, and Lizzie Brocheré, and Joseph Fiennes, and Chloë Sevigny all are at odds with Lange's character in one way or another, with more surely to come.

There also was an odd moment for me early in the first episode where I did a double-take and said, "Is that Adam Levine?" It is, but I didn't know he was in this. Still, this has to be less scary than being a judge on The Voice, am I right?

Scary comes in many forms, however. Season one of American Horror Story was scary fun. Season two is scary disturbing.

How much horror you can take is up to your own nerves.

bill.harris@sunmedia.ca




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