This Halloween, we look at what makes Ryan Murphy's Fox series so effective.
TV frightmare American Horror Story: Coven, created by Glee's Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk, has prompted wildly differing reviews amongst critics. With their show now in its third season, Coven, Murphy and Falchuk's stated intention was to "bust the genre up" and they certainly have. The creators exploit pretty much every horror trope ever, which is an approach deemed too heavy-handed by some, masterfully effective by others.
Kathy Bates as Madame Delphine LaLaurie in 'American Horror Story: Coven.'
If you're new to the series, as many UK readers may be, American Horror Story is a horror television show where each season is its own self-contained miniseries, each charting a unique storyline. Murderhouse and Asylum preceded the currently airing series Coven, which takes place in both the 1800s and the present day and focuses on the tension between witches and voodoo practitioners.
A New Orleans school teaches young witches to learn to disguise their powers in society and avoid being discovered. Jessica Lange's Fiona arrives from her holiday to whip the coven into shape and prepare to do battle with Voodoo mistress Marie Laveau (Angela Bassett). "If witches don't fight, they burn," she rabble rouses.
Watch A Collection Of Trailers For 'American Horror Story: Coven' [Warning - Spooky]:
The rather strong themes include witches, witch hunts, incest, minorities, slavery, mothers and daughters, and witchcraft versus voodoo. The most confusing aspect of the show for many is its retention of a core cast who take on new roles each season, including Jessica Lange, Evan Peters, Taissa Farmiga, Denis O'Hare and Sarah Paulson, with the Oscar-winning Kathy Bates appearing in the third season to play psychotic socialite, Delphine LaLaurie.
Each season has a completely different premise, characters, and setting: so far we've experienced alien abduction, ghosts, sadistic nuns, lobotomies, live burnings, gang rape, demonic possession, Nazi genetic experiments, serial killers, the pope and the antichrist as Murphy et al. make sure there's no scary stone unturned in his quest for the ultimate horror show.
"The show's social commentary makes it unique," remarks The Guardian's Anne T Donoghue, who marvel's at Murphy's propensity for the shocking and gruesome plotlines, which include murder, torture and abuse. "AHS remains unlike anything else on television," she adds.
Packed with classic horror references and filled to the brim with deliberately shocking scenes and wholly unsettling themes, Murphy's show is going exactly to plan: becoming one of the most talked-about TV events of the year and a particular highlight this Halloween.
American Horror Story: Coven begins in the UK on Tuesday 29th October at 10pm on Fox.