I may not like horror for its gore and jump scares, but I do like it for its willingness to delve into dark plotlines and creative worldbuilding. Unfortunately for me, most horror stories are too scary for my taste, and as it’s the month of Halloween, I was lamenting that I wouldn’t find a creepy story that could fulfill my needs without giving me nightmares. Last week, though, I finally decided to suck it up and watch the first season of American Horror Story, entitled Murder House. All ready for the trauma I was about to subject myself to, I started off the first episode with my finger hovering over the mute button on my controller, my feet conveniently propped up in front of my face to block the screen from view should I need it, and my sister-in-law on the phone to talk me through the worst of it.
My preparations were for naught, however, as I found out, much to my own delight, that while American Horror Story is dark and creepy, it is not scary. Murder House left me with some mixed feelings—the story often falls victim to convoluted storytelling, sexist and ableist tropes, and a camera that jumps from scene to scene with very few transition shots. Nevertheless, I found the story enjoyable enough to blow through it in no time, but the more I thought about it, the less happy I was with the overall experience. Murder House suffered from some really bad storytelling decisions—it tries to talk about complex and serious issues, but fails to adequately explore those issues with the care they deserve. Murder House captivated me for the story it wanted to be, but the story that it actually is is a lot less compelling.
Trigger warning for sexual assault and ableism below.
Another fall has brought us another season of American Horror Story. Ever since I heard each season of AHS would have a different setting, I’ve been waiting for Hotel: what is more perfectly terrifying than a spooky hotel? And yet despite this, I found myself having some reservations about this season (get it? Reservations? Hotel?). Now, every year there is a neat mix of old and new faces in the repertory cast of AHS; that’s a huge part of its appeal. However, this year is dominated by less familiar faces. Of course there is brand-spanking new headliner Lady Gaga, but most we have at least seen at least briefly before. Some, like Chloe Sevigny and Finn Wittrock, had sizable roles in a previous season, while others, like Wes Bentley and Matt Bomer, had such small, almost cameo roles, so they feel pretty much brand new. Sure there’s a few good ol’ reliables like Sarah Paulson, Evan Peters, and Denis O’Hare, but I’m definitely missing the underused Taissa Farmiga and Jamie Brewer and the inimitable Frances Conroy and Jessica Lange. I just didn’t feel the same warm, fuzzy “the gang’s all back!” feeling I usually do when a new season starts. On the other hand, this season has sort of felt like a fresh start for the show, and all the new blood is certainly a part of that. Let’s take a closer look at AHS: Hotel so far, seven episodes into the fifth season. Spoilers after the jump.
An imperfect God is easier to believe in. Just as a mystical pregnancy that doesn’t result in special children (because statistically, so few people are likely to become Great; why should children of mystical pregnancies be any different from typical humans?), and the death of a son of god being much more personal than a momentous world-saving act is easier to believe in.
However, there are a few canonical instances where wizards do actually practice (Christian) religion in the series. St. Mungo’s, the wizarding hospital, is actually named for a real saint. St. Mungo, also known as St. Kentigern, was a Christian missionary who performed miracles and founded the city of Glasgow. The Fat Friar is the ghost of Hufflepuff House and was a monk in his former life.
Happy Halloween! To mark this hallowest of eens, I tossed around a couple of ideas for a post before settling on a look at that spoopiest of shows, American Horror Story. AHS is the one of the few horror TV shows currently on air; admittedly, the genre may lend itself better to 90-minute movies, so the idea of a “horror show” is much less common than “science fiction show”. It’s been fascinating seeing how the genre is adapted to a weekly serial drama. As part of my celebrations for Halloween, which is a month-long festival for me, I started re-watching American Horror Story from the very beginning, so it would be fresh in my mind. I had plenty of critiques in mind already, but the re-watching experience also led me to something of an epiphany.
This font will forever be terrifying to me.
Hopefully this post is a treat, but the trick is that there are some spoilers.
I obviously have my bones to pick with Penny Dreadful, but from a horror series point of view, I was pleased with its level and style of horror. The clear stand-out performances came from the one and only Eva Green, whose character Vanessa Ives had some extremely notable scenes in which she was possessed by malevolent forces. These scenes got me thinking aboutan extremely common plot device in demonic/spirit possession stories: when possessing a body and in general wreaking chaos in the lives of those around the possessed, a demon loves to ruin everyone’s day by… telling the truth. Truth is something that is extolled as a virtue and associated with goodness and morality, and one of Satan’s many nicknames is “the Prince of Lies”. Yet we consistently see demons using not lies, but rather the truth, when seeking to unsettle or harm humans. Let’s take a closer look.
Major spoilers for Penny Dreadful and American Horror Story: Asylum after the jump. Continue reading →
Geek culture really has a thing for nuns. Specifically, Christian (mostly Roman Catholic) women who have made vows to live in community with one another in order to pray and do good works while living a chaste, simple lifestyle. But geek culture doesn’t like nuns for the right reasons. Whenever nuns pop up in geek media, they almost always function as some kind of trope-filled plot device. They look more like the writer’s idea of what a nun is, and less like real nuns. If nuns were depicted accurately, they’d be a great source for feminist characters and plotlines.
About two months ago or so, I found out about a new horror show that really piqued my interest. I’ve been an avid fan of American Horror Story since day one, and who doesn’t love a good period piece? Give me provocative scares and a time when men wore vests on the regular. American Horror Story: The Gilded Age or perhaps simply Victorian Horror Story would be right up my alley. Well, neither one of those is coming to a TV network near you, but something close enough is on its way: Penny Dreadful. First off, what is a penny dreadful? They were actually an early form of pop fiction: 19th century small, serial publications with sensationalist material, geared toward working-class youth and costing only, you guessed it, a penny. The genre has lent its name to this upcoming Showtime series, a period horror show also set in the 19th century. Let’s take a peek at the trailer below. Warning: this looks to be a show extra heavy on the horror, not for the faint of heart.
I have been an avid fan and follower of American Horror Story since Season 1, and it’s been quite the ride watching the never-ending barrage of shocking and offensive moments that this show brings us. When I found out Season 3 was to be subtitled Coven, I was extra excited. I love witches! After all, I consider myself to more-or-less be one. It quickly became clear that American Horror Story: Coven was going to be rather different than Murder House (Season 1) and Asylum (Season 2). While still a psychosexual horror show, it was less The Shining and more Mean Girls with heavy occult influences. So I guess kind of like The Craft. That is loosely the plot of The Craft.
And you thought the Plastics were bad.
Coven had a lot of potential, but did a lot of things very wrong (like refer to the power of teleportation as “transmutation”). This post is not long enough to cover all those points, so I’ll focus on just one. Like I said, part of the charm of AHS is all the appallingly offensive scenes, but generally what’s offensive is some mix of gore and/or sex. However, as a pagan, there was something I found particularly offensive this season—the portrayal of the Vodou deity, Papa Legba.
Mystical pregnancy. I have talked about this particular trope before, but only in conjunction with mpreg fics. This time I want to go into more detail about how harmful this trope is to women, especially since, beyond its popularity in sci-fi, fantasy, and horror, this trope is being used more often in recent popular culture.
In case you are unfamiliar with the Mystical Pregnancy trope, watch this video first. Anita explains things better than I ever could.