American Horror Story: Asylum (2012)
Review by Jude Felton
Over the past few years genre fans have gone from having nothing especially juicy on regular cable television, to having two vastly differing, yet equally engrossing shows. AMC hit it big time with The Walking Dead, which once again help keep the undead firmly in the mainstream conscious, whereas FX took a different approach, with American Horror Story.
The first season of American Horror Story was a delightful twist on the haunted house sub-genre, as it focused on a family who moved into a new house, where all manner of malevolent events occurred. Aside from being an incredibly interesting story, with many sub-plots, it also featured an excellent cast, headed up by Jessica Lange.
Rather than just rehash the first season, the makers of American Horror Story took a bold approach with the follow-up, entitled Asylum. The story was a brand new one, this time taking place for the most part in Briarcliff Manor, but many of the cast from the first season still remained, albeit in totally new roles. So, in effect, there’s a whole new saga, yet it still retained a sense of familiarity for fans of season one.
Although the majority of Asylum takes place in Briarcliff Manor, which is a rather imposing insane asylum, you will really need to brace yourself for the first couple of episodes. The reason for this is that the makers of the show fire several plot strands at you in quick succession, which could come across as slightly overwhelming. At least it might have if you were watching it on TV, with a week’s gap between episodes. Fortunately, on this release, you don’t have the wait, and the stories soon take on a life of their own, all within the same greater picture.
Once again, the stories push the limits and deal with some rather unsavory elements, all of which were delightfully told, thanks in part to the universally solid cast. You’ll find serial killers, UFO’s, Nazi war criminals and much, much more all going on here, and I thought it was quite excellent.
Part of the joy of watching this show is that you never quite know where it is going next. With the many storylines, and jumps in time, it keeps you guessing, and for me was nothing less than riveting.
Once again, this set comes on three discs and has a healthy amount of extras to work through. The Blu-ray presentation is crisp and sounds great, and is quite honestly an essential purchase for fans of the show. That being said, if you are new to the world of American Horror Story, you can dive into this season without fear of feeling lost if you’ve not seen season one.
As you might have guessed, I am a huge fan of American Horror Story and am presently fully engrossed in season three, entitled Coven, which takes another new storyline. Asylum, however, is at present my favorite of the two complete seasons available. The expansive nature of the plot just nudges it for me, giving it plenty of replay value. There’s a lot to digest in Asylum, both in terms of plot and some of the grisly imagery, but it is rewarding viewing.
In terms of shows on cable television, American Horror Story is without doubt my personal favorite, and Asylum further cemented this. An intelligent, yet labyrinthine, script, great visuals and a top-notch cast, all combine to make this superb viewing. Horror fans have not had it this good for a long time, when it comes to seeing their beloved genre on TV, so I wholeheartedly recommend this release. Great stuff!
American Horror Story: Asylum is available now on Blu-ray and DVD from 20th Century Fox.