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American Horror Story: Asylum - Blu-ray Review

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American Horror Story - Blu-ray Review

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4 stars

Insanity.  Nuns.  Aliens.  Serial killers.  Possession.  The Devil.  Abortion.  And the Holocaust.  Is there anything that the second season of American Horror Story doesn’t include?  Created by Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk, American Horror Story: Asylum opens with the bizarreness that trumped its original outing with the haunting of the Harmon family.  Yet, this time they manage to create a sense of control over the events and focus the shock on the actual storyline.

Or maybe we’ve changed.  Maybe we know what to expect this time.  The writers will commit to this insanity, rope it, and then ride it until the very end of the season and we’ll start all over next year with the same actors but a different storyline.  Either way, Asylum works for what it offers.  The story feels a bit tighter even as it leans on one too many genre clichés.  You’ll jump.  You’ll squeal.  You’ll be left wanting more.

And more of the creep-out vibe is what we get with the Briarcliff Mental Institution.  Everything here seems amped-up – including its staff.  Hell, especially its staff.  Foreboding from the start, this place reeks of danger for anyone who dares enter.  For the sake of the shocking storyline, I hesitate to offer any sort of synapsis.  And, as twisted as it gets, I’m not sure anyone could provide a synapsis that does the experience of having your head rotated justice.

Asylum sees the return of Jessica Lange as the nurse you never want to meet EVER, James Cromwell as the asylum’s Dr. Frankenstein, Zachary Quinto (another returning star from the first season) and Sarah Paulson as a muckraking journalist hell-bent on getting inside the asylum.  Once inside, it’s a hell of a thing to get out.  Torturous comes to mind and – while not unlike what it is like to sometimes sit through an unnerving episode of American Horror Story – the end, if you can make it, is worth it.

The cast swells to include Lily Rabe, Joseph Fiennes, Evan Peters, Lizzie Brocheré, and Chloë Sevigny.  They all do a fine job with the disturbing material and, while juggling multiple timeframes, manage to pull off the voyeuristic feel of the second season without abandoning the reality that must weight each line.  That’s what really drives this season to a successful conclusion: intensity and carnage, carnage, carnage.

Asylum is a bit more frustrating in how it gets to where it is going.  It’s also a bit darker and, strangely, demented as hell.  And you thought they couldn’t top the latex-suited perversions of last year’s story?!  Think again!  Through every freakish event, the second season still fills a nice niche in evening television programming that has been vacant for quite a long while.

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American Horror Story - Blu-ray Review

Blu-ray Experience
4 stars

Blu-ray

Blu-ray Details:

Available on Blu-ray - October 8, 2013
Screen Formats: 1.78:1
Subtitles
: English SDH, French, Spanish
Audio:
English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
Discs: 50GB Blu-ray Disc; Three-disc set (3 BDs)
Region Encoding: Region A

The 1.78:1 1080p transfers here capture the show perfectly. There's a calm, almost whispered quality to the visual design of American Horror Story that keeps it from being an all-out visual knockout, but there's no question that these BDs represent the series' first season perfectly accurately. Color quality is consistent throughout, black levels are inky from start to finish, and detail is razor-sharp, lending the show a sleek, biting feel that suits it well.  These DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio sound mixes aren't super-exploitative, but again, this seems to be an effort on the part of the show's creators, not a fault of these lossless tracks. Dialogue is audible in every episode, and music sounds wonderful - it really takes up a vivid swatch of the track's robust dynamic range.

Supplements:

Commentary:

  • None

Special Features:

Extras are scant this time around, for some reason. We get some deleted scenes, trailers, and short featurettes sprinkled across three discs.  The longest is simply stitched together interviews about the show and the story of Asylum.  Nothing is too memorable and it feels a bit too slapped together as an afterthought to be impressive.

  • The Orderly (9 min)
  • The Creatures (15 min)
  • Welcome to Briarcliff Manor (15 min)
  • What Is American Horror Story: Asylum? (22 min)

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