American Horror Story: Freak show Review (Pilot)
By Rob JefchakI have a bad habit of leaving TV series just as the good stuff is about to go down. It happened with “Smallville” and again more recently with “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” However, “American Horror Story” is a unique exception since the series seasons play out like anthology stories: each one has a different setting, period cast (mostly) and a whole new frightful focus. I was unsuccessful in caring about the series when it first came out and the later seasons “Asylum” and “Coven” didn’t do the trick either. Then came the bizarre and baffling ads for “Freak show” and I finally decided I should find out and see if I am missing out on yet another quality TV series.
Despite showing very little of the actual series, “Freak show’s” ads actually spelled out the series content quite clearly. This show is MANIACALLY DARK…there’s not a single character, scene or set piece that leaves you feeling comfortable. In the pilot episode “Monsters among us,” we find ourselves in Jupiter, Florida in the 1950’s where Elsa Mars (Jessica Lange) hosts “Elsa’s cabinet of curiosities:” a failing freak show where all of the monsters, misshapen misfits and even murderers gather in hopes of forging a family that can drum up business and strength in order to survive the persecution and prejudice of the “norms” of this hateful world.
Elsa gathers those who have been outcast from society, such as the two headed woman with serious sibling issues (Sarah Paulson), the strong armed bearded lady (Kathy Bates) and a disturbingly psychotic clown that will be playing parties in your nightmares for quite some time (seriously; he makes the clown from “It” look like Olaf the snowman).
The first thing that truly stunned me was this series extravagantly exotic scenery: the circus entrance, the design of the carnival rides; everything screamed macabre and monstrous. Watching this show made me feel like I really was in the 50’s; wandering through a carnival that Satan himself designed.
The freaks themselves invoke plenty of circus familiars (bearded ladies, tiny people) and also some nightmarish newbies (people with lobster hands and grinning children who bite off heads of animals for the literal Hell of it.) There are a large number of characters to follow here and even with a whopping 90 minutes to its running time, the pilot doesn’t exactly tell you how this series is going to play out or what you can really expect from this strange new season. However, there’s enough diversity amongst the different plots to at least keep you interested enough to want to see where some of them go (especially that pants pissing clown freak).
As I said before, I have never seen the past seasons of AHS so I don’t really know if there is usually this much twisted sex and slaughtering because this pilot had A LOT of BOTH. I could scarcely believe some of the horrifying scenes this pilot featured; it’s definitely the kind of imagery that leaves you making it next to impossible to forget this show. The one problem I’m having based on what I’ve seen thus far is where the show is going with Elsa and how she (or the other freaks) plan to lead this series. Admittedly, I sometimes could barely understand what she was saying with that flip flopping accent of hers; that’s something I do hope improves soon.
I get the feeling this season of AHS will be strange even for this series, there’s so much featured in the first episode and yet so much is yet to be seen, explored or explained. But I think that’s a good thing for a pilot to have; you want to leave them wanting more but give them enough creepy crawly content so they feel their sadistic sides are indeed satisfied. “Freak show” captured my morbid curiosity the minute I saw the series intro, I’m horrified and mesmerized by the intense gore and sex and I can’t wait to see what show these freaks will put on for us this season. Until the next episode, I’ll be waiting on actual pins and needles to see what ghoulish delight is delivered.