American Horror Story: Asylum


by Jon Burns

To celebrate the UK DVD release of American Horror Story: Asylum, Loose Lips got a spooky invite to a special Halloween screening of the first two episodes – in a former asylum! We were treated to toffee-apple popcorn in the bombed out Chapel of a former asylum in Peckham. Luckily the place is a community and arts venue now, and highly worth a look if you live that way.

Moving on from the uber-creepy and critically acclaimed American Horror Story: Murder House, the asylum action kicks off at Briarcliff Mental Institution in both 1964, and the present day. Unusual for a returning series, we meet a whole new set of characters in a new setting, the only link between the old and the new being some of the original cast, in their new roles.

Building on the Best Supporting Actress Emmy deservedly won for her performance in AHS: Murder House, Jessica Lange returns reincarnated as Sister Jude, the foreboding head of Briarcliff, with a secret past. While the hapless Sister Mary Eunice, played by Lily Rabe, is Sister Jude’s long suffering sidekick.

Without giving too much away, AHS: Asylum is a creep-a-minute roller-coaster of a series introducing new patient Bloody Face (Evan Peters), a serial killer from 1964 whose legend haunts the present day in the abandoned shell of Briarcliff, or is he simply a legend? The series explores how characters find themselves incarcerated in an institution for the flimsiest of reasons or questionable diagnoses, and that terrifying feeling of powerlessness as they find they are soon forgotten by the outside world, left to fend for themselves in an inescapable nightmare.

As effective and fantasy as some of the themes this drama are, what’s disturbing is that some of the ideas are based on real events, some treatments and attitudes meted out to patients would have been used in the past – we are forced to sometimes ask where in reality the line is drawn and be thankful that attitudes to mental health are different to back then.

Fans of series one will be pleased to see the return of Sarah Paulson as an intrepid journalist who finds herself trapped at Briarliff after a failed attempt to expose it’s secrets; Zachary Quinto as a creepy psychiatrist to Bloody Face, and Frances Conroy as an ethereal Angel of Darkness. New cast members include Chloë Sevigny as a long incarcerated sex addict, Joseph Fiennes as the Monsignor of the institution, and James Cromwell as a terrifying experimenting doctor with a murderous history, who won an Emmy for Outstanding Supporting Actor in this role. The cast is stellar, but the show stealer is Jessica Lange, of course, whose portrayal of the split personality Sister Jude is as stylish and sassy as it is sadistic and scary.

If you love horror, beautifully acted drama , and stunning cinematography, American Horror Story: Asylum, is for you.

Leave a Reply