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Monday, October 22, 2018

Fearsome flicks from the ladies of American Horror Story

One of the annual delights of the fall TV season has been a new season of American Horror Story, an anthology series that goes above and beyond anything The Twilight Zone ever dreamed up.

Fans have both loved and hated certain seasons yet this time out, the current run "Apocalypse" seems to be a crowd pleaser.

 I've been watching the show and despite having only viewed three out of the eight seasons(Coven,Freak Show and Hotel) of AHS, the crossovers from the past have been amazing to behold. Of course, this series is not going to be everyone's cup of Halloween brew but with such fine female actors giving their all to the various characters that they've portrayed over the years, it would be a shame not to see some of their scary silver screen work.

This particular quartet has been on AHS more than once and all of them have made an appearance on AHS:Apocalypse(some more than others) and perhaps one or two of their frightening films might be a nice addition to your Halloween movie marathon plans:

JESSICA LANGE/HUSH: Lange has been a mainstay of AHS, winning Emmy awards for such roles as witchy Supreme Fiona Goode and murderous matriarch Constance Langdon(the latter being recently revisited for Apocalypse).

While she hasn't made a lot of horror/suspense films, there is one that does evoke some of the deadly diva antics that were perfected on the series. 1998's Hush cast Lange as Martha Baring, a seemingly sweet Southern belle of a mother in law, who slowly but surely terrorizes her pregnant daughter in law Helen(Gyneth Paltrow).

Granted, this isn't a great movie unless you're in the mood for some campy cult fun. Lange earned a Golden Raspberry nomination for her over the top nuances here(including forcing Paltrow to experience natural childbirth in captivity!) yet it's hard to resist a gruesome giggle at her demented diva performance:

KATHY BATES/DOLORES CLAIBORNE: Bates came on board AHS in season three entitled Coven and won an Emmy for her role as resurrected racist Delphine, becoming a main staple of the series as well.

Most people would go straight to her Oscar winning role in Misery but it doesn't really reflect the detailed character development given to her AHS personas such as Freak Show's sorrowful bearded lady or Hotel's manager mother willing to protect her self destructive son at all costs.

For that, I recommend Dolores Claiborne, another Stephen King adaptation that has showcased her talents to perfection. Bates plays the title role of a hard as nails woman accused of killing her longtime employer, which brings her distant daughter Selena(Jennifer Jason Leigh) back into her life.

While the two of them deal with that investigation, the truth about the death of Dolores' abusive husband Joe(David Strathairn) is brought back to vivid life, unleashing a horror that both hoped to be long forgotten. Like most of Bates' roles on AHS, the real fear factor comes from the depths of reality involved in her character's  tragedy:

EMMA ROBERTS/SCREAM 4: Roberts also arrived at AHS in season three as snarky witch with a "b" Madison Montgomery. She came back for very different roles on seasons Freak Show and Cult, along with another Ryan Murphy series, the short lived Scream Queens, and is now back as mouthy Madison once again.

Roberts does very well in ensemble casts, which Scream 4 proves nicely. Here, she plays Sidney's cousin Jill, one of the younger generation being targeted by a new Ghostface killer. This sequel is actually a vast improvement from the horrible third act meant to complete this fear franchise and worth seeing for it's own merits.

However, Roberts gives a grand performance in this one and while I refuse to reveal any spoilers, let's just say that her character is not as innocent as she seems and delivers one hell of a speech towards the end:

TAISSA FARMIGA/THE FINAL GIRLS:  I first saw Farmiga in the Coven season as Zoe, a distraught young woman who found out about her magical abilities the hard way but she was part of the show since Season One,aka Murder House, as distraught daughter Violet.

 Both of those roles have brought her back to AHS this season and while I think we'll see more of Zoe than Violet, a good movie to catch Farmiga at her best as distressed would be The Final Girls. 

She plays Max, the distraught daughter of recently deceased scream queen Amanda, who joins her friends in a horror movie screening of her mom's most infamous slasher film, Camp Bloodbath. Somehow, Max and friends wind up trapped within the movie and have to follow the rules of cinematic survival in order to escape.

It's a bit of a horror comedy but the tone is properly balanced between those genres and Farmiga does have a few solid emotional scenes as Max tries to connect with the fictional version of her mother. The movie is rated PG-13,which dilutes some of the scares yet some might find that a welcome advantage there:

If you still want to catch up with the current AHS season, there's still time to do so and trust me when I say it does take a few twists and turns that you might not expect. For some reason, this season does feel as if it's going to be the last one and while I could be wrong, making AHS: Apocalypse the final take on this strange small screen ride isn't a bad call to make.

Like I said, my notion could be completely incorrect and they may flip the script for a whole new version of the show in the last episode of this season. Either way, American Horror Story is well established as an icon of Halloween TV at it's best,thanks to the talent behind and in front of the screen,especially it's lethal leading ladies:

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