American Horror Story: Asylum: Potpourri of Panic
The thing that truly makes this season of American Horror Story so much more excellent than the first season is the way it approaches horror from every direction. Whereas the first season was an almost Mayfair Witches, textbook possession and haunting scenario dabbled here and there with other facets of horror, Asylum truly seeks the shadow you're not looking for and jumps out at you from it.
Not so much last week, where the entire episode was eaten up by a fairly static exorcism storyline that, while necessary to set up Sister Mary Eunice (Lily Rabe) as a demonic agent, did little to otherwise entice the story along. All we really got out of it otherwise was a shot of Lizzie Brocheré's Grace's bare butt bent over Sister Jude's (Jessica Lange) desk as she prepared for a caning. Fun as that was, it's not really the hallmark of compelling drama.
For Halloween, though, writer Jennifer Salt and director Michael Uppendahl pulled out all the stops. Set amid a backdrop of a terrible storm approaching Briarcliff Asylum, a multi-faceted scarefest ensues like some kind of haunted house ride you didn't even really know you were on.
Sister Jude decides to try and keep the inmates calm during the storm by having a movie night, borrowing a projector to show Cecil B. DeMille's Sign of the Cross. By the by, we get enough of a glimpse of this movie for me to definitely say, "Holy shit! DeMille was insane! Go rent this flick. Murder, naked chicks staked to the ground, religious drama. It's like Martyrs except with prettier people." End aside.
Jude, unbeknownst to her, is being staked out by the possessed Mary Eunice, who has been surreptitiously dropping reminders of the night Jude drunkenly ran over a young girl and afterwards forswore her life to Christ in penance. Meanwhile, Mary Eunice uses the unholy spirit inside her to cow a highly religious Mexican inmate, murder her and dump her body out among the woods where Dr. Arden's (James Cromwell) mysterious creatures lurk.
Good old-fashioned Satanic horror? Check. What else?
Well, even as our four hero characters (Sarah Paulson, Evan Peters, Brocheré and Chloë Sevigny) seek an escape during the movie, Jude wanders the asylum drunk looking for the missing Mexican. In just a single cutaway shot, we meet something...otherwordly that terrifies her. In the brief glimpse we get, the creature appears to resemble a cross between Jeff Goldblum's last incarnation of the Fly and the Mezco Mothman figure. Is this what haunts the woods outside Briarcliff?