AMERICAN HORROR STORY – IS IT GOING TO THE DOGS?

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Starting 2011, I’ve always been an avid fan of the horror Vaudevillian series American Horror Story (2011 – present). What fascinated me most, as the years went by and the franchise bloomed, was that differently from other series, each season brought us a new premise. Instead of there being one linear plot line, with the same characters appearing through the seasons, each season offered us a different timeline, atmosphere, personages, and a different storyline.

Another exciting and endearing fact is that AHS uses a main cast throughout its different plot lines. The same actors play and portray totally different characters in different seasons, thereby showing us not only the actors’ skill and versatility, but also adding another confusing, yet interesting aspect to the realisation of the series.

The genius in AHS is that though all these storylines – from a haunted house, to an insane asylum, to a coven of witches, a freak show, and finally a mysterious hotel – all seem to interlock in strange and hinted-at ways, the seeming randomness of events hide a bigger and more intricate plot line, much as the Saw (2004 – 2010) movie franchise did.

The latest season, which is the fifth, promised to be the best one yet. A ferocious advertising campaign revealed the involvement of the talented and quirky singer Lady Gaga, together with appearances by model Naomi Campbell, not to mention the introduction of yet another macabre location for new gruesome and morbid happenings.

This time, the viewer finds himself in a cursed hotel. The now semi-run down Hotel Cortez dates back to the 1920s. At the time, it was glamorous and magnificent, and we see in the first episode how a new rich owner restores the forgotten and dank hotel to its previous high status of prestige.

Enter Lady Gaga – a luscious, sensual and bloody Countess. A vampire preying on the powerful and the beautiful, the victims and the unwary. Lady Gaga’s acting is masterful. I must admit I was quite surprised by this. However, at the same time, I also felt a bit let down at the way vampires were portrayed. For example, why lure victims into one’s hotel room using such intricate subterfuges, only to waste all the blood, letting it drip on beds and furnishings, instead of drinking it?

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American Horror Story has always had strong visual content, both when it comes to violence, as well as more adult scenes. I appreciated how this content made sense in the larger vision of the plot line, aiding to cement the characters’ states of mind as well as the terrifying nature of the programme. It is with regret and disenchantment that I came to realise that this is no longer the case for the fifth season. In the new episodes, it seems like any excuse is worthwhile to throw in hard nudity and senseless sex scenes. I’m not a prude, and I like watching eye candy as much as the next person, but trying to lure prospective viewers with scene upon scene of porn-like behaviour when this is not in character or does not fit within the storyline, is merely trashy. It’s not something I would have expected of such a popular and original franchise at all. Why use cheap thrills when the plot line is already so interesting?

The culmination of irrationality took place in the third episode. We see one of the main characters, a cop, who is passing through marriage difficulties. His wife presents him with divorce papers because she wants to end the relationship. Hard-eyed and resolute, she tells him she cannot stand it any more. Then suddenly, out of the blue, we see her leading him on and they jump into bed. After a few passionate fumblings and violent gasps, she pushes him away and runs off. Really? Does that make any sense? Especially after we had watched the same cop being fondled and titillated by someone else in the lift only moments before? Can’t there be even one scene where there isn’t some kind of sexual activity going on?

American Horror Story promises to present us with another very intriguing and peculiar season, and I’m looking forward to continue watching it, however I sincerely hope that they focus more on the original plot and distinctive characters, instead of wasting the viewers’ time with tawdry displays and coarse sensationalism.