It's the writing; it's brilliant, and even those who have excellent reasons to hate American Horror Story must agree, that as shows go, it's Art. Last night, after the finale of season 4, Freak Show, I considered the subtle and effective themes of punishment and release, if not reward, that make Horror such a perpetual favorite in literature and film.
This spectacular mini-series exemplifies the genre.
Friends! We are meant to learn lessons from scary stories–morals about sin and consequence, courage and loyalty, keeping to our own business, and a great deal about death.
Bad people generally get what they deserve in horror, unlike films of horrifying reality, such as No Country For Old Men, where bad people often walk away from justice, and audiences are left angry and dissatisfied.
So, the freak show's over, folks, and Heaven turns out to be a filthy circus tent with a moronic audience. But hey, it's where the heart is. Surrounded by her family, treacherous, cynical, and beyond petulant Elsa Mars, finds peace.
It's certainly better than the afterlife Lang's previous character, Fiona, merited; but in Coven, .Fiona's lust for immortality and power caused her demise. Elsa, on the other hand, was forced by Nazis to be the murderous, narcist she was, so merited forgiveness. She was even granted her moment of fame, as briefly foreshadowed in Asylum when Pepper sees her on the cover of Life Magazine.
Distasteful? Gruesome? Nearly unwatchable and getting worse? Absolutely; but beautifully accomplished, nonetheless. In classic stand-alone horror: The Shining, Poltergeist, Psycho, Silence of the Lambs, there is closure for audiences. Viewers are warned not to let the monster in, not to be naughty, and so even thought losses are suffered, there is also relief. That's what's missing in films set up specifically for franchise: Nightmare on Elm Street, Friday the 13th, Saw, and the like, but their Hell is evident by their rubbish sequels. And beware, viewers. If you buy it, you'll get what's coming to you.