These days it feels like October just wouldn’t be the same if we didn’t have the gruesome, invigorating and engrossing guilty pleasure of American Horror Story to indulge in. To the delight of many adoring fans, and an array of new watchers keen to take in the show, American horror story is back with Coven, providing a perfect introduction into a season destined to revolve around witches and voodoo with their premier episode, entitled ‘Bitchcraft’. One of the best things about American Horror Story is that you don’t really need to be one hundred per cent up to date with the previous series to take part in the newest one, as each season takes on its very own story line, with new characters, hooks and themes, each as intoxicating as the last. However, if you haven’t already watched the first two seasons, I absolutely recommend that you do, as you really can’t imagine what you’re missing.
Over American Horror Story’s previous two ghastly and addictive seasons, creators Brad Falchuk and Ryan Murphy have made it absolutely clear that they are not faint of heart. When it comes to picking topics to base their series around, the two believe that no subject is too distasteful to tackle, and there is something liberating about the knowledge that you’re watching a show that isn’t afraid to hit the difficult subjects head on. American Horror story doesn’t attempt to soothe it’s watchers, or tiptoe around human atrocities, it serves to show us, in part, the horror of what the world could be, through a mixture of real circumstances and imagination. In the first season, subsequently re-titled as ‘American Horror Story: Murder House’, we follow a family moving house in 2011, and tackle the subjects of depression, disability, psychiatry, miscarriage, infidelity, ghosts, psychotic teenage murderers and a frankly insane ex-girlfriend. In last year’s instalment, named American Horror Story: Asylum we dealt with nuns, insanity, mental health issues, aliens, serial killers, abortion, the devil and sexuality. Murphy and Fulchuk even threw in a brief two-episode exploration into the Holocaust with an inmate who believed she was Anne Frank.
The latest series, Coven, does not disappoint when it comes to the boldness that we have learned to expect from American Horror Story. Forget the creepy serpents and floating girls shown in the show’s promotional materials, Coven starts off immediately with the horror of American slavery. I found myself cringing through my fingers at horrible images of minorities being tortured and killed by the apparently soulless Madame Delphine LaLaurie (Kathy Bates). From the moment I tuned into the episode, I was absolutely hooked, Murphy and Falchuk lay the story line out in front of you, giving you teasing morsels of what you can expect from the rest of the series. We quickly learned that, although it has been around 300 years since the Salem witch trials, the few witches that still remain are in danger once again. We follow a Zoe Benson (Taissa Farminga), a familiar face from season one, into a school in New Orleans that seeks to teach young witches how to blend into society and control their powers – but this is no Hogwarts. Each witch has their own specific power, with Emma Roberts’ character boasting telekinetic abilities, Gadbourey Sidibe playing some kind of human voodoo doll, and Farminga herself somehow causing men’s brains to melt in some kind of witchcraft aneurysm whenever she has sex with them. The long lost ‘Supreme’ (Jessica Lange), obsessed with youth and beauty, arrives to the mansion with a mission to turn the blossoming witches into fighters, able to stand up to those who seek to oppress them. Just a few of the themes that we can expect to see this series include witch hunts, slavery, minorities, witchcraft, racism, voodoo and incest.
Let’s be honest, American Horror Story is a melodrama, but it’s proud of this fact! It doesn’t steal its influences from gangster movies and old TV shows, but embraces the importance of undervalued genres that are often dismissed – including horror flicks, soaps and women’s pictures. American Horror Story is ambitious and extremely satisfying to watch, treating its audience to a mixture of blunt honesty and humorous, engaging story. From the moment that you tune in you’ll know that this isn’t just any other television show. American horror story is something different, bitchy, ambitious, exciting, frisky and unafraid to get down and dirty with the themes and subjects that other seasons simply wouldn’t touch. With so much energy and nerve, and a complete disinterest in regular story lines, American Horror Story is way more watchable than a lot of the shows on television today. As I’ve mentioned before, you don’t need to have watched the first two seasons of American Horror Story to benefit from the experience that Coven has to offer, but if you are lucky enough to have seen them, then you may notice a few familiar feelings coming into play. (Warning: the next bit might have spoilers.)
In each season of American Horror Story, fantastic actors play vastly different parts, but past characters and story lines seem to rub up against one another. When Zoe (Farminga) and Kyle Spencer (Evan Peters) meet in the frat party of the premier episode of Coven, you already know they’re going to end up falling in love, just like they do in Season one. The disfigured and horribly tortured slaves in the opening scenes bring to mind the horrific human experiments that were performed by the Nazi doctor of last year and although the high-class Fiona strutting around New Orleans is far from Lange’s Southern Belle in Season One, her attitude will draw your memory back all the same. In some ways, with all the eerie echoes that the show has with earlier series, it seems as though it is beginning to haunt itself.