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Monday, March 01, 2021

TV Rewind | AHS Asylum: Visual finesse with classic horror tropes

American Horror Story Asylum was the season that established that this horror anthology series was here to stay.

Written by Sampada Sharma | New Delhi |
Updated: July 26, 2020 3:59:12 pm
tv rewind ahs asylum American Horror Story Asylum is a visual treat for horror fans.

The anthology series American Horror Story (AHS) has been serving stories for over nine years now, and every year, creators Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk come up with a new form of scare that fits right into the mythology of AHS. The show started with regular horror tropes in Murder House, but it was with the second season, Asylum, that the show really found its groove.

American Horror Story Asylum served the best kind of visual horror that the show has ever seen.

What is AHS Asylum all about?

As the name suggests, AHS: Asylum is set inside a mental institution with secrets of the paranormal nature. The story here is set in two timelines – the 1960s and the present day. All the great action happens in the older storyline, but all the big revelations come in the present-day timeline. At the center of it all is Bloody Face, a serial killer, who has been supposedly locked up inside the asylum. A journalist tricks her way into the asylum to get an interview with him but ends up getting locked up there herself.

From just a story standpoint, Asylum is not the best that AHS has to offer, but the visual aesthetic of the show is so strong that it is almost impossible to look away. Most part of the show is set inside the asylum named Briarcliff Manor and it has been shot in such a way that you can smell the stench of the rotting building through the visuals.

Asylum plays on classic horror tropes of old movies where priests and nuns perform exorcism and even though AHS has constantly employed “Croatoan” in many of its seasons, this season was high on the drama of angels and demons.

The perfect casting of AHS Asylum

Many of AHS’ cast members have appeared in different seasons as various characters, but Asylum was one of the initial seasons where we realised that Ryan Murphy had a glorious ensemble in place for this show.

Zachary Quinto, who pulls off the role of an antagonist with such ease, plays Dr Oliver Thredson, who is later revealed to be the serial killer Bloody Face.

Frances Conroy, another AHS regular, plays Shacath. The visual of her wings popping out and her turning into the angel of death still remains fresh in my mind. It was one of those scenes that will just creep up on you as you go to bed and then make it impossible to fall asleep. It was this kind of visual mastery that made Asylum a fascinating season.

Jessica Lange, Sarah Paulson, Evan Peters, Lily Rabe, Joseph Fiennes and James Cromwell also star in this season which is possibly the most well-cast season in the show’s history.

The way-too-many plots of Asylum

AHS Asylum starts off as an investigative story that soon turns into a psychological play. The characters of Jessica Lange and Lily Rabe find themselves in a complex battle of faith which basically defines the universe of the show. But as we move forward, there are so many tracks that proceed at the same time with equally high stakes that it becomes hard to stick to the larger story arc.

While it is better for shows like this to unfold in a weekly manner, instead of binge-watch model, it was eventually too much to remember. There were way too many plot lines for us to remember it all coherently. I remember thoroughly enjoying the storyline with alien-life, which honestly caught me by surprise, but still, perfectly fit in the universe that Ryan Murphy was trying to create.

Despite the many plot-lines at play, the show still managed to ace the fictional Anne Frank storyline. In my opinion, it is one of the best story arcs that has ever been presented through the nine seasons of AHS. I guess now we can look back and examine that Asylum had way too many good plots stuffed in just 13 episodes.


If horror is the genre that you love to watch, there is no way you will be able to stop watching AHS Asylum. Of course, it gets a little too heavy but isn’t that the reason why we watch horror shows!

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AHS Asylum is streaming on Disney+ Hotstar.

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