'American Horror Story: Coven' & Ryan Murphy Clearly Have Mind Control Powers

I'm no dummy. I watched the premiere of American Horror Story: Coven knowing full well that it was going to be an onslaught of creepy camera tricks, bloody torture, and severed bulls' heads. I somehow still willingly watched the first episode alone, late at night, sans the respite of commercials (thanks, DVR), and with most of the lights out because my roommates were asleep. The entire episode made me feel as if tiny little violins were screeching under my skin. I did not enjoy this show. Yet somehow, all I can think about is tuning in again next week.

First off, let me share a little context about just how allergic I am to horror film and television. Last year, I attended New York Comic Con for work, which entailed sitting in the IGN Theater from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. while visions of zombie witches, giant flesh-eating parasites, demon-possessed campers, tree rape (thank you, Evil Dead), and supernaturally talented angry teenagers (and Carrie) danced across screens for six hours. By the time it was over, I practically needed an escort to make my way to the subway without screaming at strangers coming around corners too fast or allowing my wobbling knees to buckle beneath me. I do not do horror. But I was drawn like a moth to a bug-zapper to this shiny, glossy season of American Horror Story and the only conclusion I've managed to make is that Ryan Murphy has finally mastered mind control.

He got damn close with Glee. The impossibly catchy renditions of songs I already loved; the cringe-worthy, yet colorful costumes; the sweet saccharine draw of sweet, simple adolescent love (even Will and Emma acted like kids); the advertising wrought with such brilliant, high definition color that it felt like Glee had somehow sucked up all happiness and that'd you miss your piece of the pie if you weren't watching. That's how Ryan Murphy's choral series almost did it. But AHS has taken that failure and turned it on its head and here's how:



What's happening in this promo? It's almost impossible to guess. Right off the bat, it defies all logic. We're off-kilter and begin spinning questions in our heads. Why won't they tell us what's going on? What is that poor cow-face thing on the ground? Why is everything and everyone so pretty? Why do I want to go there? Why do I need to know who these people are? Mind Control Phase 1: Complete and the frantic questions continue.


In the first few moments of the episode, we witness as Zoe (Taissa Farmiga) accidentally sexes her boyfriend to death, mourns his death, and is whisked away to a boarding school for witches. From the moment she's taken away to her new home by Ms. Frizzle from the Magic School Bus and her Pitbull look-a-like minions, the camera angles start to tilt and sway and focus is artificially shifted. The effect is disorienting. The further we get into the mystery of the coven and its Supreme witch, the less stable we feel. Eventually, the camera is tilted at least 45 degrees as we attempt to peer into a room in which two witches are conversing.

Now, they've got us infinitely curious and too dizzy to stand up. Mind Control Phase 2: Complete.


Once they've got us too weak to move and the horror of Delphine LaLaurie's lair has dissipated along with the vision of Madison Montgomery's brutal sexual assault, they bring out the all important hook. Only, thanks to the gentle drawl of Jessica Lange's Fiona and the plodding speech of our protagonist Zoe, we're lulled into a false sense of security and don't even see it coming. After watching Zoe dart through her new life as a witch like Bambi in the forbidden forest, she comes wheeling into the hospital, mounts herself on top of the frat boy who raped Madison, and fucks him to death with a brand new streak of sinister determination.


The fact that Fiona digs up a still-living Madame LaLaurie while the hospital sex sacrifice is happening is just the cherry on top, at this point. AHS: Coven and Murphy have put a spell on us and whether we like it or not (we don't like it and it makes us for uncomfortable) we're theirs.