The Hor­ror, the Hor­ror

India Today - - LEISURE - —Ja­son Over­dorf

The first sea­son of the ‘Amer­i­can Hor­ror Story’—way back in 2011— stunned TV au­di­ences with its campy blend of gore, de­prav­ity, outré sex­u­al­ity and post-mod­ernish film gags. Cen­tred around a fam­ily that moves to Cal­i­for­nia for a fresh start in what turns out to be a haunted man­sion, it was con­sciously de­riv­a­tive. But cre­ators Ryan Mur­phy and Brad Falchuk played off the clichés of the hor­ror genre to cre­ate some­thing as stylis­ti­cally fresh as the first films of Quentin Tarantino. Both loved and hated, the show never re­ally held to­gether as a story. But that wasn’t what Mur­phy and Falchuk were af­ter, they con­firmed over sub­se­quent sea­sons about a de­crepit Mass­a­chu­setts men­tal asy­lum, a New Or­leans’ coven of witches, a car­ni­val ‘freak show’ in the back­wa­ters of Florida, and sim­i­larly fa­mil­iar sce­nar­ios. Rather, the an­thol­ogy show is TV-se­ries-as-cul­tural-crit­i­cism: Us­ing the con­ven­tions of var­i­ous film gen­res and their own out­ra­geous char­ac­ters to com­ment on Amer­i­can phe­nom­ena rang­ing from our weird at­trac­tion-re­pul­sion with se­rial killers to re­al­ity TV and our ob­ses­sions with youth, beauty and fame.

As with any­thing that re­lies on its shock value, every gross-out and never-seen-on-TV-be­fore mo­ment raises the bar, how­ever. So af­ter peak­ing with ‘Coven’ (Sea­son 2), it’s been hit or miss, reach­ing a low point in the Re­al­ity TV-fo­cused ‘Roanoke’ (Sea­son 6) be­fore last year’s vi­cious com­ment on the af­ter­math of the elec­tion of Don­ald Trump, ti­tled ‘Cult’.

Now stream­ing on Hot­star, Sea­son 8 is an­other thought-pro­vok­ing fail­ure. Ti­tled ‘Apoca­lypse’, it’s a bizarre moral­ity tale loosely fo­cused on the idea of equal­ity. Af­ter a nu­clear holo­caust de­stroys the world, a mys­te­ri­ous group called The Col­lec­tive se­lects a hand­ful of the su­per rich and ge­net­i­cally su­pe­rior to sur­vive in a sur­real un­der­ground bunker run by sadis­tic spin­sters (Sarah Paul­son and Kathy Bates). The story is me­an­der­ing and ir­rel­e­vant. But the com­men­tary on the epi­demic of nar­cis­sism and self-right­eous­ness is vi­cious and oc­ca­sion­ally hi­lar­i­ous, and, as al­ways, the point­edly de­riv­a­tive style is re­mark­able: a sort of mashup of Mel Brooks, Robert Maplethorp­e, and Ing­mar Bergman.

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