American Horror Story: Coven: All Blood, No Bite

Categories: Film and TV

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What DO you wear to a ritual execution?
If you follow horror franchise sequels you'll notice that as they get longer the gore gets more out of control and gruesome. This is a side-effect of the desensitization. First you fear the killer, then you fear the kills, and finally all that's left is to push the envelope so far that even the most jaded of watcher feels something. It's not unlike drug addiction honestly.

That's the territory that American Horror Story is starting to enter into. Oh don't get me wrong. From the very first moment the show started they stood astride the line between acceptable television and unacceptable television and whizzed all over that bad boy, but the newness of the idea has sort of worn off.

Since the show is so dedicated to adhering to its formula (Men in masks, strange babies, a spooky house, etc.) a viewer who has watched from the beginning can't help but feel that we're starting to tread over covered ground... though I am curious to quiz my wife when she sees the show as this is the first season that interested her. For the rest of us, it really feels like the gore has been throttled up to cover that possible ambivalence.

Take the zombies... please. While a part of me is just as happy as can be that for the first time in many a year I am seeing proper Haitian magically re-animated corpses on the screen instead of what has basically been a long running HIV analogy for the last three decades, it just doesn't pay off as it should.

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Hi, I'm pretty dumb guy, and I'll be wandering out to get attacked by zombies this evening
The ghouls are still as static and pointless as ever, and the show just tries to make up for that by having them use horrific dismemberment as a form of execution. It's uncomfortable, sure, but all it really does is make me remember Dylan Moran's murder in Shaun of the Dead, which while bloody was not exactly a pinnacle of terror. It was really just a chance to show off how awesome entrails effects are these day.

Kathy Bates does wonders in the episode, thankfully. Watching her turn from murderous racist monster into repentant modern domestic is one of the best parts of the show. It shows change, and hope, and equality, and all that sort of thing we're supposed to me full of in Obamerica. She is where we see real growth, corny and over -the-top as it usually is delivered. I do hope she survives this season.

Taissa Farmiga as Zoe also comes off well, if nothing else because I will never say bad things about a girl with a chainsaw. Her silly vagina dentate thing is being revamped to give her more generic murder powers, which finally puts a crack in Angela Bassett's voodoo plans. That was cool, but not as cool as watching her dispatch a yard full of zombies with Mr. Saw. That's the trade off sometimes... that scene is almost laughably gratuitous, but it gave Zoe her first real moment of triumph in the whole season.

Meanwhile blah blah blah witch politics. Someone should really tell the producers that you can't exactly make someone care about political intrigue when the audience already knows the answers. The question of who will reign as Supreme Witch is completely uninteresting. Hell, it's little better than America's Next Top Model with awesome hats. Throw in some really outlandish settings like a woman being left in a hospital room alone with her dead baby and the constant, unending historical inaccuracies related to witch burnings and you risk losing your audience.

Maybe a little blood from a school girl with a chainsaw and a zombie grudge is a good thing after all.

Jef has a new story, a tale of headless strippers and The Rolling Stones, available now in Broken Mirrors, Fractured Minds. You can also connect with him on Facebook.


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