Ryan Murphy’s hit horror show American Horror Story has been a welcome breath of fresh air since it debuted in 2011. Following its first season, Murphy revealed that each season of the show would feature a completely different story with some cast members returning in different roles. Following the haunted house drama of the first season, American Horror Story focused on the goings-on within a mental asylum in second season Asylum. The season has recently been released on Blu-ray and DVD in the UK.
American Horror Story: Asylum feels like a completely different show to season one’s Murder House and is a much darker affair. Kit Walker (Evan Peters) is brought to Briarcliff, a home for the mentally insane run by strict nun Sister Jude (Jessica Lange). Suspected of being serial killer Bloody Face, Kit soon finds himself the focus of determined journalist Lana Winters (Sarah Paulson) who tries to get into the asylum to find out about him and write a story about the abuse that goes on within its walls. As Lana starts her investigation she too finds herself imprisoned in Briarcliff and appeals to visiting doctor Oliver Threadson (Zachary Quinto) to help her escape. Can anyone leave Briarcliff once they go through its doors?
The horror explored throughout Asylum is one of the darkest variety, looking at the horror that humans are capable of. The central storyline focuses on serial killer Bloody Face who is killing and skinning women but that’s certainly not the only horror the characters have to face. Dr. Arden (James Cromwell) has a dark past and likes to conduct experimental procedures on the Briarcliff inmates, Sister Mary Eunice (Lily Rabe) comes face-to-face with the devil after an exorcism goes wrong, and Grace (Lizzie Brochere) is targeted by aliens when her time at the Asylum seems about to come to an end.
There are parts of American Horror Story: Asylum that are very difficult to watch. As with the first season there are plenty of twists and turns to keep you hooked but be warned that it’s incredibly gruesome and uncomfortable viewing at times. Sex-crazed inmate Shelley (Chloe Sevigny) is the one character we felt the most sympathy with but we couldn’t possibly tell you why without giving a big twist away. The season was quite controversial due to its standpoint on religion and is never backwards in coming forwards. It’s definitely not one for the easily offended.
Aside from the expert storytelling, it’s the performances that really make American Horror Story: Asylum something special. Jessica Lange and Sarah Paulson are the two actresses that impress the most. The two women are completely fearless in their roles and give the most powerful performances we’ve seen on TV in a long time. Also superb is Zachary Quinto as Oliver Threadson who is trying to help expose the cruelty that goes on behind the walls of Briarcliff. There’s a very strong supporting cast too with Chloe Sevigny, James Cromwell, Lily Rabe, Joseph Fiennes, Ian McShane and Adam Levine.
Extras on the Blu-ray release includes four featurettes – The Orderly, What is American Horror Story: Asylum?, Welcome to Briarcliff Manor and The Creatures – and a selection of deleted scenes. Fans will get plenty of behind-the-scenes glimpses with these extra features making this a must-have.
It’s true to say that there’s no show on air quite like American Horror Story. The show is genuinely frightening, frequently controversial and at times utterly bonkers. Asylum suffers slightly with one too many storylines but the majority of the season is compelling viewing. Even when it’s at its darkest moments you still can’t take your eyes off your TV screen. Packed with powerful performances and shocking plot twists, American Horror Story: Asylum is one of the best shows that has been on TV in years. Horror fans will lap it up and most likely be already watching the latest season of the show titled Coven.