Thursday, March 10, 2016

Voodoo Bitchcraft and Sexy Minotaurs, or Thoughts on American Horror Story: Coven

 Responding to criticisms of Season 2, American Horror Story came back with a tighter storyline and no extraneous alien abductions, just witches vs. voodoo queens in New Orleans, and really, what more could you ask for?  The opening credits are all woodcut prints of witch scenes, evocative of Salem, along with demonic forest creatures, goats, voodoo dolls, arcane symbols, and women in pointy black hoods, dancing among the flames.  In a way it is the most pared down season, perhaps because the theme of witchcraft is all-inclusive.  There are real-world horrors depicted to remind the viewer of the monsters outside their door, including sexual assault, racism and murder but for the most part the story remains within the supernatural walls of Miss Robichaud’s Academy for Exceptional Young Girls.
Taissa Farmiga is back from Season 1 in a new role as Zoe, a teen witch who narrates the story over the soft, chanting Coven theme.  Her narration makes Zoe the central character by default.  After killing her boyfriend in her bedroom in a naked romp that ends with him bleeding from the eyes, Frances Conroy as Myrtle Snow arrives, along with some albino black men in black, to take her to New Orleans.  Myrtle Snow’s hair is a brassy I Love Lucy red, because it’s not American Horror Story without a redhead.
Jessica Lange is Fiona Goode, the chain-smoking Supreme Witch, as if there was any doubt.  After three seasons she is associative with the series and almost integral to any plot.  It’s hard to imagine American Horror Story without her.  She makes a Hogwarts reference to her young charges, which means I can’t, and I really wanted to.  We see her dancing to Iron Butterfly and snorting coke in front of a mirror, reminiscent of Michelle Pfeiffer in Scarface (1983) before sucking the youth out of an unlucky genetic researcher.  The stunning usage of CGI in a subtle digital facelift reminds you of what a great beauty she was in the 70’s.  It doesn’t last, and she smashes the mirror, revealing her motivation for the entire season in a single, wordless gesture.
Season Three weaves the rich and often macabre history of New Orleans into the plot with the introduction of Academy Award winner and consistently awesome Kathy Bates as Delphine LaLaurie, an alleged New Orleans serial killer bathing in blood like a Civil War Elizabeth Bathory.  Danny Huston, John Huston’s son, which makes him Hollywood royalty joins the cast as The Axeman, a ghostly jazz musician serial killer called by the coven.  The character is based on another real-life New Orleans serial killer who was active in 1918 and never apprehended.
And finally, Angela Bassett portrays the legendary New Orleans Voodoo Queen Marie Laveau, immortal and operating out of a Ninth Ward Beauty salon.  It’s a voodoo turf war between the witches, and it separates into color lines, literally black magic and white magic.
Denis O’Hare, obsessed once more with Jessica Lange’s character, plays Spalding the mute butler, living in the attic and serving tea to his doll collection and the occasional dead witch he’s hidden in a trunk.  Lily Rabe plays Misty Day, making Stevie Nix cool again with the power of resurgence or necromancy.  Sarah Paulson returns as Fiona’s daughter Delia, a classic witch with her greenhouse and potions, along with Jamie Brewer as the clairvoyant Nan.
Fiona Goode leads her young witches down Bourbon Street in chic black ensembles and matching parasols as if they own the Crescent City, and they do.  The genius of American Horror Story is that the series creates sympathetic monsters, and the angry villagers that persecute and burn them become the villains.  It’s a metaphor for intolerance that’s been around since James Whale’s Frankenstein (1931) and is sadly still relevant today.


my first novel? thanks for asking:) I wrote a 4 book supernatural martial arts series concerning the ongoing feud between a group of kung-fu killer witches in san francsico’s chinatown.