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American Horror Story: Freak Show (Blu-ray Review)

American Horror Story: Freak Show (Blu-ray Review)I’ve seen a few episodes of the first season and I gotta admit I really wasn’t impressed.  The whole over-the-top concept seemed really silly to me. There were also a few story-lines in the first season that seemed rather forced and generic. But I feel like this go-round they’re really trying to develop and endear you to the characters.  The special effects have also taken a step up in quality.  Particularly the practical effects.  The prosthetics and make up meld seamlessly with the computer generated effects as well.  Without giving too much away there is one character who, let’s say, has a split personality and you would think that the use of digital effects would distract you from what’s going on, but they really do a good job of keeping you engaged in the story and the show in general.

American Horror Story: Freak Show (Blu-ray Review)

The Series

The story follows Elsa Mars, played by Jessica Lange, who is the owner of a traveling freak show.  It takes place during the 50s in the small town of Jupiter, Florida.  Attendance has been slow so she’s trying to find new and exciting acts to drum up business.  All the while there are suspicious and unexplained murders being perpetrated by a ghoulish clown man.

The cast is rounded out by such notables as Michael Chiklis, Angela Bassett, and Kathy Bates.  At first you might think that the only standout performance of this season would be the Clown Man.  But that’s just not the case.  Though the murderer is quite menacing with his non-verbal performance, the true stand out here is hands down the character Dandy Mott played by Finn Wittrock.  This guy is just something you need to experience for yourself so I’ll try not to give too much away.  But he completely embodies the very essence of a spoiled man-child who throws violent temper tantrums whenever he doesn’t get his way.

The production design is pretty fantastic and spot on with it’s accuracy.  They really took their time to make sure that you felt like you were watching something that was actually made during the 50’s.  Everything from the hairstyles all the way down to the way people used to talk back than, is handled with particular care.  Which in a way, makes for a much more immersive and creepy experience.  However they do have a nasty habit of using a wide angle lens on a lot of their closeups.  This gives the scene a sort of “fun house mirror” effect.  Now, this can be an effective tool to convey an unpleasant situation.  But they really overuse it to the point of almost taking you out of the experience.

There are unfortunately a few slow episodes that almost seem like filler in order to get to the good ones.  They actually take a whole episode and devote it entirely to the back stories of each freak show performer.  Now, there is a reason for this, but they could’ve trimmed down their monologues so as not to kill the momentum of the show.  There’s also a few musical numbers that could’ve been trimmed down as well.   After the first story arc comes to a close this season seems to rely pretty heavily on the strong performances of the actors to keep the show interesting.

One thing that I was particularly impressed by was the fact that they cast real people with actual deformities.  And as it turns out, most of them are really good actors!  Usually when casting someone based on their physical attributes they tend to be pretty weak on the performance side.  But these folks really have some solid acting chops!  Which tells me that they actually had a casting process rather than just looking at pictures and picking out who looks the weirdest!

In a way you could compare this show to a stage play.  The way it sits with the actors for such long periods of time gives me the impression that the creators are big theatre buffs.  So it’s quite clear that they value individual performance over general momentum of a series.  But on a whole, I’d say that the first story arc that focuses on the Clown has the best episodes.

Episodes

Disc 1:

Monsters Among Us

Massacres and Matinees

Edward Mordrake, Pt. 1

Edward Mordrake, Pt. 2

Pink Cupcakes

Disc 2:

Bullseye

Test of Strength

Blood Bath

Tupperware Party Massacre

Orphans

Disc 3:

Magical Thinking

Freak Show: Show Stopper

Curtain Call

American Horror Story: Freak Show (Blu-ray Review)

Video

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1

Clarity/Detail: The picture is clear and crisp.  But it seems like they’re trying to evoke that old time style of film making when it comes to the lens filters that they use.  So there is a slight haze from time to time.  But that seems to be a stylistic choice.

Depth: At any given time there are a multitude of different colors and shapes on the screen.  Not to mention all of the subtle props that they use on set.  But when they pull back everything in the back ground is still quite visible and clear.

Black Levels: The show on a whole has a very dark color palette.  It somewhat resembles early Marilyn Manson music videos in the gritty imagery that they use at times.  Though the black levels aren’t exactly crisp, as I mentioned earlier I think it’s a stylistic choice for this show.

Color Reproduction: Excellent.  Quite vibrant.

Flesh Tones: The goal here seems to depict the flesh of the characters in a somewhat feral way.  Where you can make out every pore and crevice.

Noise/Artifacts: I did not notice any instances of noise, debris, or artifacts.

American Horror Story: Freak Show (Blu-ray Review)

Audio

Audio Format(s): English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (48kHz, 24-bit), German: DTS 5.1

Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish, German

Dynamics: Excellent balance between the the dramatic and the horror scenes.  It seamlessly moves from each variation without causing a jarring effect to the point where it could take you out of the moment.

Low Frequency Extension: Not a whole lot of instances of LFE.  But it’s definitely used to the musical numbers and the jump scares with good effect.

Surround Sound Presentation: N/A.

Dialogue Reproduction: Very clear.  Especially during the intimate moments.

American Horror Story: Freak Show (Blu-ray Review)

Extras

  • Getting Freaky: A peek inside the Tent (20:13 HD)
    This featurette gives you some background as to the mindset behind creating the story, set design, characters and overall look of the show.
  • Two Heads Are Better Than One (10:17 HD)
    This goes behind the scenes to show the painstaking process that went into creating the two headed woman.
  • Twisty: Behind the Mask if Terror (12:25 HD)
    This contains interviews and conversations with make up artists, special-effects artists, producers and the actor who plays Twisty, John Carol Lynch. They explain the concept, inspiration, and motivation behind creating the character.
  • Freaklore: The Spectre of Edward Mordrake (9:04 HD)
    This extra gives the history of the mythological character known as Edward Moredrake.  It explains that there actually was a real Edward Moredrake who was said to have had a conjoined twin on the back of his head.
  • American Horror Story: Freak Show Extra Ordinary Artists (26:28 HD)
    In this they talk about the reasoning for casting people with real disabilities and deformities rather than using “normal” people to play them.  Each actor talks about their personal struggles that come with their particular body-types as well as what life is like for a differently abled actor in Hollywood.
  • Hollywood Freakshow: season four premiere (4:51 HD)

American Horror Story: Freak Show (Blu-ray Review)

Summary
Overall I would say that this is a worth checking out.  Though be warned there are going to be moments that feel a little on the boring side.  But the combined strength of the horrific murders and engaging performances make for a pretty fun thrill ride during the Halloween season.
 American Horror Story: Freak Show (Blu-ray Review)
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Writer, Musician, Composer, Singer and Dancer. To sum up: I like to get jiggy with it!

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