A review of American Horror Story: Coven
Following the intensity of Season 2’s ‘Asylum’, American Horror Story is reset and re-booted with a whole host of new characters for Coven; officially known as the season of the witch…
Opening in 18th Century New Orleans, actress Kathy Bates dove straight into the pool of crazy with her performance as high society slave owner Madame Delphine LaLaurie. LaLaurie was clearly based on the Countess of Bathory from the get-go as she spends the second scene dousing her face in blood; which brings us to our first serious and controversial topic; Slavery. It turns out LaLaurie tortures her own male slaves in her attic in a disturbing sequence which sees her black subordinates cowering with their eyes and mouths sewn shut as she harvests their bodies to retain her youth.
Slavery is quite frankly horrible enough, and definitely the true horror of the period, yet with each American Horror Story series every topic from mental illness to sexuality, infidelity, abortion and religion are up on the chopping block and handled with the heat turned up to the nth degree.
Meanwhile, the majority of our story takes place in the 21st century. The real tale begins when teenage Zoe (Taissa Farmiga) unfortunately discovers she is in possession of supernatural genetics which mean that her vagina incidentally kills her boyfriend. Don’t let that shock you ladies and gentleman, for this show spares no tact and is certainly not for the faint hearted. Don’t say we didn’t warn you, we’d class this episode as light-hearted!
In result, Zoe is packed off by her parents to Miss Robichaux’s Academy for Exceptional Young Women in New Orleans (the central hub of Louisiana voodoo) which serves as a sort of Hogwarts for young witches. Governed by headmistress Cordelia Foxx, a witch who encourages the students to control their powers and conceal their identities, Foxx is played by AHS cast regular Sarah Paulson.
Finding herself shacked up with clairvoyant Nan (Jamie Brewer), ‘human voodoo doll’ Queenie; (Precious actress Gabourey Sidibe) and crude, spoilt Hollywood actress Maddison Montgomery (Emma Roberts) who has the ability to manipulate objects; Zoe is given a rude awakening regarding the responsibility that these powers bring for each of the girls… and quickly sees how dangerous they can be when misused.
With instances of telekinetic revenge, AHS regular Evan Peters is given a prematurely abrupt storyline, but something tells us that the high billing on the credits suggests that it won’t be the last we see of him.
However, the bigger thrills and chills are just around the corner as the brilliant Jessica Lange (who won a Golden Globe for her role as Constance Langdon in the first series) shows up to wreak magical havoc and teach the girls some real magic tricks. Lange sinks her teeth into yet another juicy role as the glamourous Fiona, a head witch known as The Supreme who possesses a great deal of power. Fiona troublingly also has an obsession with youth, yet is fearful for her kind when she sees an innocent young women reported missing on the news; rumoured to have been burned alive for witchcraft.
The overall setting itself is truly an interesting one as we see the culture of Christian evangelism, colonial society and Salem witch-hunts clash with the cruelty of slavery, racism and the rise of the voodoo religion in the deep South . Shot on location in New Orleans, the atmosphere is both real and unique which is sure sure to bring some disturbing settings and imagery, if not full blown scares.
This season is almost definitely shaping up be one that focuses on sisterhood, mother-daughter relationships and a dash of post-modern feminism whilst the racial tensions will be running high. Fans were given a tasty teaser of things to come when a flashback shows Angela Basset as notorious real-life Voodoo Priestess Marie Laveau playing the baddest witch in town who apparently poisons LaLaurie in revenge for slaying her lover. Yet we haven’t quite gotten to the voodoo part of the story yet – one aspect which we are greatly looking forward to. Don’t worry though, LaLaurie is back by the end of the episode with Lange griping her resemblance to Mary Todd Lincoln.
Flipping between camp, crass and creepy, Coven will give you the heebie jeebies as well as a few laughs in good measure. Though it might be worth remembering that the real horrors haven’t even begun yet.
Best Scene: Fiona Goode takes the girls on a field trip dressed as a goth girl group
Freakiest Scene: Unfortunate slave whose face has been flayed. That must hurt…
What to look forward to next week: We pick up on the storyline of Voodoo witch Marie Laveau and watch Zoe and Maddison meddle with the afterlife.