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American Horror Story Preview

american-horror-story-asylum-ascend-1Aliens probing innocent people at random, a brutal surgeon performing shocking experiments on mental patients, a therapist attempting to “cure” a lesbian, a nun with a particular infatuation with canes and their more vile uses, a man who wears a skin mask and chops the arms off of curious honeymooners. That is what we dealt with during the last season of creator’s Brad Falchuck and Ryan Murphy’s horror anthology series American Horror Story. Last year’s installment Asylum proved more insane and disturbing than the first season’s (recently re-named) Murder House, with more terror, more twists, more character’s, and easily more insanity. But all of that “more” seemed to be a little too much overall, as the whole of Asylum proved to be a chaotic, sometimes even sloppy, concoction of several very good deranged plot-lines with too little time to fully explore and even finish them. Such as the alien’s plot last year involving Evan Peters’ Kit Walker. We were left knowing they were indeed aliens but didn’t fully know why they were aliens and what they were doing in the story.

But other than those aspects, the season was compelling, gripping and brilliantly thought up. A perfect example of one of the season’s best moments, in my opinion, was the addition of Franka Potente’s Anne Frank. Of course at first, seeing Anne Frank alive, having survived WWII and assumed a new identity only to fall back into the hands of one her old Nazi predators is pretty ridiculous, but it’s a real testament to the show’s writing that they could actually pull that off and even make it seem believable had it been actually true. And despite Asylum’s hiccups, the show still managed to become the most nominated series at this year’s Emmy Awards by racking up 17 nominations and winning two for James Cromwell’s supporting actor performance and the show’s sound editing.

But enough about last year, because everyone’s eyes are currently on the next installment in the creator’s horror story journey, “Coven.” The new season, which premieres on October 9th at 10 pm EST on FX, brings us down south to New Orleans for a tale about the tensions between voodoo and witchcraft, the bonds and struggles between mothers and daughters, the cruelty of slavery and torture and also themes of incest, love and minorities. Jessica Lange returns this year as the “supreme” witch of her generation, Fiona Goode, who comes back to protect young witches in New Orleans after centuries of hiding away because of the murder of a young witch. At the same time a young girl, Zoe (played by season one’s Taissa Farmiga), who recently discovered that she is a descendent of one of the Salem witches and possesses certain, gruesome potential, such as the power to kill using her vagina among other things, is sent quickly to New Orleans to attend Miss Robichaux’s a school for young witches run by Cordelia (played by Sarah Paulson who also returns for this season) who is also Fiona’s daughter.

But Fiona’s return to protect the young witches of Miss Robichaux’s proves even more of a challenge than initially expected due to the reigniting of a long standing rivalry between Fiona’s witch heritage and student’s and the voodoo practitioners of New Orleans. Seeing how voodoo existed in New Orleans long before witchcraft and when the first Salem witches fled to Louisiana to escape persecution in the 1600s the two factions didn’t and continue to not mix well. This history will be explained through flashbacks that the show will take from modern day with Fiona and Zoe back to the 1830’s where you will meet Marie Laveau, the voodoo queen of the south portrayed by AHS newcomer and film and television veteran Angela Bassett, who will be going up against another AHS newcomer, film legend Kathy Bates, who will be portraying Madame LaLaurie, another real life character who was infamous for her torture and kidnapping of slaves and using their blood as wrinkle cream.

But the major casting additions and returning stars does not end there. Another newcomer to the series is Broadway legend Patti LuPone, who will be playing a character that Ryan Murphy describes as a “personification of the religious right like Piper Laurie in Carrie.” In other words, a religious fanatic that will no doubt have problems with Fiona’s witchcraft agenda; that is if LuPone’s character should discover the magical practices of Fiona and her daughter’s school. Also joining the show for the first time are Emma Roberts and Gabourey Sidibe (“Precious”) as new students Madison and Queenie at Miss Robichaux’s, “Friday Night Lights” and “Nine Lives of Chloe King” star Grey Damon joins in an unknown role, and newcomer Alexander Dreymon will play a handsome young man who moves in next to the school. Broadway vet and “Amadeus” star Christine Ebersole has joined the cast this year as a woman described only by Murphy as a “Glinda the Good Witch kind of gal” and rounding out the new AHS members are actors Danny Huston (Starz’ “Magic City”) who will play Fiona’s boyfriend, Leslie Jordan (“The Help”) and actress Mare Winningham (“Turner & Hooch,” HBO’s “Mildred Pierce”). It’s obvious judging by the information on most of these character’s that the show’s content has been kept under exceedingly tight wraps. So tight that even Bates, who’s won an Academy Award for her terrifying performance in Misery, reported only having access to the first four scripts of the season.

Among all the newcomers are more returning AHS alumni apart from Lange, Paulson, Farmiga, such as Evan Peters who comes back as Kyle a Greek from New Orleans’ Tulane University who crushes on Farmiga’s Zoe, but is also rumored to have some sort of involvement with Roberts’ Madison (the two also date in real life). Peters told movie/TV buzz site Gold Derby early on that he was “excited [and thinks] it’s going to be really scary — much scarier than last season — and it’s going to be fun. It’s going to be really fun to shoot [and Peters is] recharged and ready to go this round.” Frances Conroy who portrayed the fan favorite, older version of, Moira O’Hara in the first season (the younger Moira from season one, Alexandra Breckenridge, is also returning but in an unspecified role) and the Angel of Death in the second season returns as Ruth, a woman with wild red hair dressed in large billowing gowns with vibrant sunglasses who is also, maybe for some comedic relief, Fiona’s high school rival. The excellent Denis O’Hare comes back from the first season as Spaulding, who may prove to be this year’s Rubber Man or Bloody Face; the dental hygiene challenged, long haired, mute butler of Miss Robichaux’s. But the creators’ promise that there is another monster on the horizon that will eventually tie into Bates’ character LaLaurie. And rounding out the returning actors is Lily Rabe who was featured in season one but had a more pivotal role as the once pure nun at Briarcliff Asylum who gets possessed in season two. For “Coven,” Rabe was cast as a lead and, judging by the one of the latest trailers for the show where she is seen being burned at the stake, will most likely be one of the witches during the earlier time periods in the show (1600s-1830s).

Coven has been promised to be a lighter, more glamorous and comical season than the past two but there will definitely still be some dark disturbing moments. Murphy has also promised that even though their main topic is witches, they will not treading into Bewitched, Harry Potter or Hocus Pocus territory. Just like how Murphy had his own take on a haunted house and an insane asylum, he has his own take on witches and voodoo as well. So it’s pretty safe to say that we’ll have another inventive, creepy and exciting season of American Horror Story when Coven premieres on October 9th.

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