This week is really flying off the rails thematically, isn’t it? Only ONE Vnicent Price movie in a week devoted to him? Fuck me. However, in addition to a billion other things, we totally forgot American Horror Story started its new season this week, so we absolutely had to watch the premiere of Freak Show on demand last night.
Above and beyond everything in the debut double-length episode is the fact that it makes abundantly clear that, for all the talk of this being an “ensemble cast,” this show has really become a showcase for Sarah Paulson and Jessica Lange. Evan Peters and Frances Conroy have become the other two players to feature prominently in the other three series, but, honestly, it’s all about Paulson and Lange.
Given the number of scenes where the two actresses interact, and the telling lines regarding how Lange’s Elsa Mars has brought in Paulson’s Bette and Dot to get people to see her, rather than them … I think this is going to play out in a battle of wills much like Asylum. Or, so I hope. Their interactions as Lana and Sister Jude in that series were some of the best interplay of the entire AHS franchise.
But, the show: violent. Creepy. Kind of dirty. It’s exactly what you’d expect, and given that Coven raised the bar on the sort of violent depravity the show would attempt, one would think a guy in a creepy clown costume stabbing people would hardly push the envelope. In Coven, Marie LaLaurie’s actions alone, to say nothing of Zoe’s chainsaw spree on the zombies, would be difficult to overcome — but, holy fuck.
The first appearance of Twisty the Clown hearkens back to the daylight stabbings in Fincher’s Zodiac, and there’s something about brightly-lit brutal murder that makes everything starkly terrible. The introduction of the rest of the characters is a bit mixed: Elsa Mars and Bette and Dot get plenty of screen time, but it seems like the show’s creators are attempting to pack in too many characters at once. That was the big flaw of the first series — aka Murder House — and I hope that they don’t go supporting-player crazy again.
Still, you’ve got the basis for the possibility of a very unsettling season. They’ve promised to stay in this time period for the entire series, and the inclusion of Naomi Grossman‘s Pepper makes one intrigued to see how this might play out in terms of connection with Coven. Given that series’ own masked serial killer, Bloody Face, and the inevitable revelation of a family propensity for murder in Coven‘s finale, might we see Twisty as Bloody Face’s progenitor?
We’ll end at the beginning with the credits, which are stop-motion and incredibly unsettling. However, at the same time, I’d kill for miniatures of so many of the creatures shown within the minute-long sequence. What makes it unsettling is that the variation on the theme for this season emphasizes the “under the big top” aspect of Freak Show, recalling the creepier calliope aspects of John Morris’ work on the score for David Lynch’s The Elephant Man.
For more information on that sequence, check out this informative interview with one of the folks behind it at AdWeek. American Horror Story: Freak Show airs Tuesdays on FX.