TV Review: American Horror Story: Coven – Episodes 5 and 6 (USA, 2013)

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The zombie sub-genre can produce gory fun and easy thrills but the incorporation of the undead in Episode 5 of American Horror Story: Coven is nowhere near the standard of a George A. Romero picture. The zombie encounter is the highest point of the episode and it concludes half way through.

Following on from the previous episode, Miss Robinchaux’s Academy finds itself surrounded by the rotting undead while Fiona cares for Cordelia in the hospital, regretting how little time she spent with her.

Finally we begin to feel some suspense and chills with the undead attach but this high doesn’t last long. A drawback to this episode is the acting, especially strange as the performances so far from Sarah Paulson, Lily Rabe, Kathy Bates and Jessica Lange have been remarkably good. Emotional moments are over-the-top, in an attempt to heighten our own emotional connection. I wonder whether the performance was exaggerated to cover a dry script that didn’t build the emotion appropriately.

Clichéd lines are shamelessly used but only serve to infuriate us. Furthermore more, the production design also leans heavily on horror clichés. The hospital is filled with sick patients shuffling about the dark corridors and the fluorescent lights flicker on and off constantly one has to wonder why they would even take a patient there. The design has surpassed homage and is now just trying to scare us for the sake of scaring us.

Filters on the lenses are over used with some shots being half blurred and half in focus. A great look in theory, it unfortunately only distorts the action and makes it harder to understand the action.

The consistent flaw of this episode is that everything is hyped up too much. This episode is an overload and its dramatic points would have been more effective if treated more conservatively.

Review Score: TWO STARS (OUT OF FIVE)

– Episode 6 –

A slight upgrade from last week, this episode begins to unravel secrets and characters begin to discover them. As these secrets are the main concentration, the plot is more entertaining and character driven. There’s not much to say about the plot of the episode without giving anything away except to say that there’s a new character by the name of the “Axeman” wonderfully portrayed by Danny Huston.

There is minimal improvement to the script but its good to say that it didn’t rely on cliché’s as much this time around. However, inforpoor excuses to convey meaningless information. In accordance to the other episodes, don’t expect a horror. Episode 6 is a drama with intermittent moments of gore. It’s sad that this goose bump educing series isn’t living up to its name, despite trying hard to. This season seems to be going for the cheap thrills and trying to incite horror through gore because the emotional structure of the characters isn’t high enough for us to care about them.

The camera plays with angles and its good to see action shot in such a unique way. This week the moves were pulled off successfully and there wasn’t much confusion. That being said, stylistic lens filter choices still distort the frame leaving the audience to wonder what is actually happening.

Episode 6 is a step up from last week but arguably not as interesting in that not much actually happens. Secrets are revealed and it is entertaining to watch the results but less on action.

Review Score: TWO AND A HALF STARS (OUT OF FIVE)

American Horror Story: Coven airs Monday nights on Channel Eleven.