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American Horror Stories - Season 2 - Review

American Horror Stories is an American horror anthology series created by Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk for FX on Hulu. It is a direct spin-off of the series American Horror Story, in which some episodes are connected to past seasons. When the original premiered in 2011, I gave the series a shot and was not a fan. Because it’s an anthology, I continued to give each season a try. Season 6 titled “Roanoke,” was the first season I completed and enjoyed the unique twist on a historical mystery. In comparison to other spin-offs and anthologies I’ve watched, American Horror Stories has a unique way of shifting between genres. For this reason, I feel Season 2 is refreshing and the best of the entire franchise. I felt as if I was watching Twilight Zone and Goosebumps at the same time. However, the essence of the original series is very much present. The incorporation of the sci-fi genre and relatable characters elevates the show in my opinion. The four episodes I want to focus on when discussing the season are Bloody Mary, Aura, Necro, and Facelift.

Episode 5 titled “Bloody Mary” is my favorite episode, acting as a modern twist on the popular urban legend. The myth itself involves a spirit that can be summoned in various ways, specifically seen through a mirror while chanting her name. Historically, one would either see the face of their future husband or a skull, which indicated death before marriage. Today, one is said to be met with a ghost in a wedding gown or witch. American Horror Story uses this conventional method of summoning the spirit; however, offers a varying origin and motive for Bloody Mary. The episode follows a group of teenagers who quickly learn the danger of participating in the ritual and for one of them, it changes her life forever. There’s elements of supernatural and gore, the characters are relatable, and has enough world-building to create its own season. The incorporation of African Folklore at the end of the episode was especially unique and gave it a certain kind of depth that I found with “Roanoke.”

In terms of the sci-fi genre, episode 2 “Aura” demonstrates it the most. The plot explores the drawbacks of technological hubris, through the experience of a couple who has recently moved into a new house. An advanced doorbell device has the ability to detect instances in which a person has felt unsafe or made someone else feel unsafe. This causes what seems like hallucinations, but is revealed to be the haunting of ghosts who have been wronged. The episode explores the condition of safety, complexities of marriage, and confronting one’s past by taking accountability. There’s a couple plot twists, one particularly that leaves you wondering what will happen to the main character.

The experience of watching horror often generates feelings of dismay or disgust, as it explores all that strikes fear. “Necro” is a perfect example of this and I was pleasantly surprised that I enjoyed the episode as much as I did. The plot follows a mortician who struggles with childhood trauma and building relationships with those around her as a result. Without giving too much away, the main character indulges in her curiosity of death and her decisions have everlasting consequences. What really caught me off guard was that the romance elements didn’t take away from the horror genre. I rarely watch movies in the romance genre; however, the way that it’s demonstrated alongside the exploration of death and trauma is clever. Overall, the episode is eccentric, scandalous, and powerful.

While several episodes are reminiscent of Twilight Zone, “Facelift” is directly inspired by the popular episode “Eye of the Beholder.” The plot follows a woman who undergoes an anti-aging procedure that has horrifying consequences. An unexpected twist introduces the supernatural genre, which demonstrates the show’s unique telling of the story. There’s a scene that is incredibly gory, creating a chilling image that I’ll remember for some time. In the world of horror television, this episode is especially enjoyable for a viewer who recognizes the visual parallels to the iconic Twilight Zone.

American Horror Stories has not been renewed for a third season; however many fans believe the second season is better than the first, which is a good sign there will be another season. I hope for more episodes that incorporate the sci-fi genre, urban legends, and myths. I also hope to see characters that are more relatable, concise plots, and uncommon horror themes.

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