American Horror Story, Season 4, Episode 1, “Monsters Among Us”
Oct 8, 2014, 10:00p.m. (EST), FX
American Horror Story: Freak Show is unlike anything I have ever seen on television. This first episode of the newest season was extremely compelling due to the creepy ‘70s horror music, Kubrick-ian shots and wicked fun characters.
The opening scene and the few that take place within the hospital are executed extremely well. Keeping with a very ‘70s horror film vibe, such as Halloween or even Kubrick’s The Shining, the music creeps up on you and crawls under your skin until you literally have to shake your body to get the feeling off. The music throughout the entire episode is used very specifically. When there is small to no dialogue and more action in a scene the music comes skulking in to take its place. But, when there are those stunning scenes with dialogue that can make even the worst of actors great the music is nowhere to be heard; we’re left with dead silence. Ryan Murphy did a fantastic job with his choice of music in this episode and where and when he chose to place it.
Along with the music comes the epic shots that Ryan Murphy chose to use. From the distorted fish-eye shot inside of the diner, where there is a conversation taking place, to the split screen that takes place in the hospital when the Siamese Twins are talking and they can’t come to one conclusion because they both have differing opinions. There is a very Kubrickian feel to the first half of the episode where a lot of the characters are set into the dead center of the shot; hardly any use of the Rule of Thirds within this episode. Which is surprising and transgressive. Who needs a rule when your show isn’t a standard TV show? This show deserves to have shots that are distorted and unusual rather than to succumb to the normal rules of television. Simply, this isn’t your normal television show.
No this is something different. The reason why is because in average TV I would have never witnessed a clown stabbing a man to death as his girlfriend looks on in horror. Or see that same clown stab a husband while he was lying in bed with his wife and then kidnapping their child. No, this is a character and those are scenes I would be seeing in a horror film. Maybe that is why I am so drawn to this show, and this episode in particular. I love horror, period. It is a very challenging genre to tackle, and many fail. But, Murphy has a steady hand, an amazing script and terrific actors that make it all go freakishly well! Maybe that’s why it’s called Freak Show?
Jessica Lange is mesmerizing in her search to be a star, and I am curious to see just how far she will go. Sarah Paulson is spellbinding playing the Siamese Twins character because it forces her to show her full range. One twin is always seen smiling while the other is completely in her head and as the emotional expression of a stone. But who do I think everyone should pay close attention too? Well that would be no other than Evan Peters. He held his own very well in this first episode, from conversational scenes to an epic monologue. Even if you take away his dialogue, he commands to be seen even in the background of scenes were Lange is supposed to be the main focus of our attention.
One little weakness for me, that no one should bother dwelling upon because I’m sure it will be addressed, but I can’t fathom why there would only be three scenes involving the clown in the hour and a half season opener. A lot of the focus was on the Siamese Twins when they were not really the most interesting character. Yes, they did have very freakish qualities, but were they really that compelling? Not for me at least. I would have rather seen more of the clown butcher someone or interact more with the two children he has kidnapped, then on a woman with two heads. Maybe the problem is that I love to be scared, and clowns never scared me…until this episode.
This is one hell of a season opener and can only get better from here. I am excited to see Emma Roberts return and to see a newcomer, Matt Bomber, in the fifth episode. Hopefully though, there is more time spent on the development of the Clown character either next week or the week after that. If not I will be extremely disappointed.
American Horror Story: Freak Show is going to be one of the standouts in this anthology series. It is unlike anything we have seen on TV before. People with weak stomachs, beware.