Sunday, February 15, 2015

Critical Orientation

While some might be creeped out by what American Horror Story: Asylum presents, its mind-twisting plot and in-depth characters make the audience keep watching to know what will happen next. For these reasons, American Horror Story: Asylum is a show worth studying because of its capabilities to immerse the audience into the stories of the nuns, doctors, and patients at Briarcliff Manor. 

What initially attracted me to watch American Horror Story was largely based off the name of the show itself. I love to watch horror and thriller movies so I thought that I would give this show a try. The previews for the show were enticing. They were brief snippets of characters or hints of what was to come for the season. Doing this left me wanting to know who were these characters were and what they have to do with the show. After watching the first season of American Horror Story I was hooked. I could not wait until they released the name of the next season. When I found out that season 2 would be based an asylum, I knew that the creators were taking the show to a new level. 

The contents of American Horror Story: Asylum helped make the show stand out in comparison to other television programs. The show content included many talented actors who portray their characters well, interesting camera work such as shot below the character, and great writing (intricate plot). This program is unique in that there are not any television programs of its kind. Each season is a brand new theme with a new story. There are few television shows that are in the horror genre let alone being set in an asylum. This program is one that can mess with your head and emotions. American Horror Story: Asylum leaves you wanting to know more each week while successfully creeping or scaring you at the same time.

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Each season of American Horror Story had distinct characters that made the show worth watching. Asylum in particular had great characters that were more complex than other seasons. Though these characters were different, the audience was still able to relate to them. For me, I identified with the character Lana Winters. She was very determined to get the story about the serial killer “Bloody Face” and to seek the truth about Briarcliff. Her strength and courage not only got her out of the asylum, but to reveal the true “Bloody Face” (Dr. Thredson). Even when Dr. Thredson took advantage of her she did not stop trying to save herself. Due to these acts she created a book about her experiences and that makes her well-known. Lana used this fame to fulfill a promise she made to get Briarcliff shut down. Her acts reminded me that we all have that inner strength and courage and to never be afraid to stand up for yourself. 

What makes these characters so great in American Horror Story: Asylum was largely due to the actors  
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who played these roles. Many actors, such as Jessica Lange and Evan Peters, from the first season of American Horror Story continued with the show into the second season. These actors transitioned from one character to the next with ease. This was especially true with actor Evan Peters. In American Horror Story: Asylum, Peters played Kit Walker, the accused “Bloody Face.” He emerged himself in this role. When I watched him on the show I felt Kit’s anger and pain towards the Briarcliff staff. He played the part so well that I often forgot that Peters was acting and not Kit Walker. American Horror Story: Asylum showed how Peters could execute the character he was playing and how his role immersed the audience into the story.

Another way that American Horror Story: Asylum liked to play mind games with the audience was through many relationships in the show. Asylum paired characters together that would either make sense, such as Sister Jude and Monsignor, but others were strange such as the relationship between Sister Mary and Dr. Arden. It was understandable that Sister Jude and Monsignor were close because of their work relationship at Briarcliff. The intriguing part of their relationship though was how Sister Jude had fantasies about Monsignor. She longed for more than just a work relationship. This was not possible though because of their roles in the Church. The relationship between Sister Mary and Dr. Arden was very intriguing because of their different personalities. Sister Mary was very much of a people pleaser whereas Dr. Arden acted nice on the outside but truly was evil on the inside. At first it seemed as if Dr. Arden was taking advantage of Sister Mary’s kindness so he could continue experimenting. The relationship turns though when the audience discovers that Dr. Arden in fact infatuated with Sister Mary. He remains loyal to her even when she becomes possessed. When she gets killed later on by Monsignor, Dr. Arden stays by her side by going into the burning furnace with her dead body. 

One of the reasons I found American Horror Story: Asylum interesting was how they were able to successfully show a characters story and development from beginning to end. An example that shows this is with the character Lana Winters. In the first episode we are introduced to the journalists and her attempts to interview Kit Walker. These attempts end up causing her to become a patient at Briarcliff. In following episodes we see Lana try to find ways to escape the asylum such as leaving during a nor’easter but somehow the plans end up failing. In the episode “I Am Anne Frank (Part 2)” Lana Winters is finally able to escape the asylum with the help of Dr. Thredson (the real “Bloody Face”) but ends up being trapped in his home. She now has to find a way to get out of the house. In the episode “Dark Cousin” Lana is finally able to escape hostage of Dr. Thredson but ends up in a car accident that leads her back to Briarcliff. Dr. Thredson finds Lana back at Briarcliff in “Unholy Night” with the intention of trying to kill her. The episodes that follow Lana and Kit getting Dr. Thredson to admit he is the true “Bloody Face” and once again to get out of the asylum. In “Spilt Milk,” Lana is able to leave the asylum and expose the truth about Briarcliff and Dr. Thredson. She goes to his home where she kills Dr. Thredson. The last two episodes of the season we see how she writes a book about her experiences, brings Briarcliff to an end through Briarcliff Exposed, and her at the present. Throughout the season you see how see grows and the audience gets to see her personality. 

Another aspect that I found interesting about American Horror Story: Asylum was how the show swayed the audiences’ views about a character. This can be seen with Sister Mary in how you think she is sweet and kind and then changes to be this evil woman for the rest of the season. At the beginning, the audience sees Sister Jude as a strict nun who mistreats the patient. This changes when Sister Jude becomes a patient herself and the audience sees her slowly deteriorate. A final reason why I found this program interesting was how American Horror Story: Asylum was able to convey horror in a unique way. This included “Bloody Face”, the Raspers in the woods, Dr. Arden, Dr. Thredson, etc. Some of these were creepy looking at them whereas the characters Dr. Arden and Dr. Thredson were scary in how they act. They were able to scare the audience with their words and actions. Sometimes this was scarier then seeing “Bloody Face” itself! 

There is so much to American Horror Story: Asylum that makes it interesting to study. Whether it be the characters, their relationships to other characters, or the horror elements of the show, each add to why the show is worth watching. There are many reasons why American Horror Story: Asylum is interesting to watch (as I talked about above). People find the show interesting because of how different it is compared to other television programs. If you want to watch a unique show that you cannot stop watching take the time to watch American Horror Story: Asylum. Soon you will be immersed into the ever so creepy Briarcliff Manor. 

Works Cited

"American Horror Story: Asylum." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, n.d. Web. 15 Feb. 2015.  

"List of American Horror Story Characters." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, n.d. Web. 15 Feb. 2015. 

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