At this year’s Primetime Emmy Awards, Ryan Murphy’s American Horror Story won two of the three categories for which it was nominated -- Jessica Lange won Lead Actress in a Miniseries or Movie and Kathy Bates won for best Supporting Actress in a Miniseries or Movie. Both Lange and Bates will be returning for the upcoming season of American Horror Story, subtitled Freak Show. Lange will be playing a German ex-pat managing a freak show while Bates will portray Effil Darling. The two will be joined by many new and returning cast members including fellow Emmy Award nominee, Matt Bomer, for a single episode guest starring role.
As the premiere date for Freak Show draws closer, new promos for the season offer more insight into the kinds of attractions Lange’s character may display in her side show. A teaser released last week simply featured a three-fingered claw - and new TV spots for the series don’t offer very much more than similarly brief glimpses of carnival characters.
The first promo, “Lick”, (see above) features a close up on a man with a forked tongue; the second, “Spotlight”, (see below) presents a three-legged woman swinging back through a spotlight in front of a carnival tent backdrop. The on-the-nose titled promos were accompanied by two taglines: “Want a taste of the Freak Show?” and “What’s under the big top? Swing by if you dare.”
American Horror Story has often capitalized on toeing the line between campy humor and gruesome horror. Last season, Coven’s premiere, ‘Bitchcraft’, featured scenes of horrific torture at the hands of Bates’ character as well as some snarky dialogue from Emma Roberts. These types of scenes often play into the bigger picture of the cultural commentary that American Horror Story attempts to achieve each season -- with varying degrees of success.
These initial promos, along with the taglines, certainly suggest Freak Show will strike a similar balance between humor and horror, though they offer little insight into the cultural commentary on corporate consumer culture our own Kofi Outlaw recently predicted would be the thematic backdrop for the upcoming season. In fact these TV spots seem to be fairly straightforward (and offer less depth than even the fan-made teaser achieved).
However, what these promos may lack in impact they make up for in creepiness through subtlety. The freak show nature of the characters depicted -- a forked tongue and three legs -- is downplayed through the normal actions of each promo, which works to heighten the disturbing tone of the TV spots. Perhaps these videos will echo the nature of how the side show characters will be portrayed in Freak Show.
American Horror Story: Freak Show will premiere Wednesday, October 8 @ 10pm on FX.