Christopher Lee and American Horror Story

Christopher Lee

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Sadly, actor Christopher Lee passed away last week at 93. Most people now probably remember him from either the Lord of the Rings trilogy or the Star Wars prequels. Growing up in the 70’s I remember him also as Dracula and about a dozen other bad men.

One thing I didn’t know about him was his heavy metal music career in his late 80’s to the time of his death. Heavy metal? Really? Yep. That’s gotta mark you as some sort of badass. Of course he’s not wailing high falsettos because he was more a bass voice. But I sampled some of his album Charlemagne: The Omens of Death, it’s… different, and certainly different as Lee comes on sounding like what you’d imagine Charlemagne to sound like.

If he sang in English, that is.

He also supplanted Tony Bennett as the oldest living performer to enter the music charts with his song Jingle Hell.

I laugh. That’s great. 91 and half years old and he makes it to #22 on the charts with a heavy metal song called Jingle Hell.

American Horror Story

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I have always been a big fan of horror. Unfortunately horror is a very difficult genre to produce, in any medium, so most of it is garbage. Most of it nowadays I don’t even try to sample. But it is a genre that will always have a place in the dark recesses of my blackened soul, mwehahaha!

When I was growing up I had this friend named Pat who had a truly creepy house in mid-state Michigan. It was a two story house by a river and there was a fenced in barn opposite the house that always had a night light that shined dimly on the door. His bedroom was a small, cramped thing with only room enough for a bed, a television and the usual piles of children’s junk. But his bed was built into one of the walls of the bedroom and adjacent to it was the closet. When you entered the closet on the floor was a little hole in the wall that went under the bed. It was creepy.

We would stay up half the night watching the horror movie run on whatever channel did that in the 70’s. And then take dares to solo journeys either to the barn or under the bed. Or into the woods… across the river… under a pale moonlight.

And I was scared shitless by the whole Amityville Horror for many years. I think it was the news magazine exposes about it that really scared me.

Of course Stephen King managed to scare the shit out of me a couple of times in the 80’s. But the movies never did it for me after that. Slasher fests seemed to be the order of the day.

Now I’m a little old to be scared that same way again, but I still enjoy the genre. So I was delighted when my wife turned me on (pause for your discomfort…) to American Horror Story. It gives me three things horror can still give me: horripilation, suspense, genuine uneasiness.

First, the acting in this series is fantastic. You have Jessica Lange, that alone is probably worth the price of admission. Sarah Paulson, Kathy Bates is in for seasons 3 & 4 so far, Angela Bassett, and many other familiar faces.

The younger cast members are some real talent. Even Peters is in every season and is one of the best young actors I’ve seen in awhile although he did spend most of season 3 as a mute corpse… And Taissa Farmiga is also very good.

Zachary Quinto (most famous for taking over the role of Spock in the Star Trek revamp timeline movies) is absolutely stone cold as a sadistic psychopath. Some of the scenes with him and Sarah Paulson in season two were quite disturbing.

Each season is around 13 episodes with each one getting the characters into deeper and deeper trouble. Season two is definitely the strongest of the ones I’ve seen. It takes place in a psych ward run by nuns… and a former Nazi experimental doctor.

The only drawback to the show is they do an excellent job of building the tension and the story up to episode 8 or 9, and it seems right then that you can’t go any further and it has to break at that point – how are they going to do 4 or 5 more episodes? Well, they can’t so they have to segue into something or stretch it out. The ending of season three was noticeable for this problem. I think the problem is not the writing, which is excellent, the season is simply a little too long.

As the genre it is, you can’t have “slumber” episodes that are meant as filler. You can’t have a family in a haunted house and then have a few episodes where they have some yucks at Knott’s Berry Farm. Or have a psych ward run by nuns and then have a few episodes where some of the nuns take off for a Pope tour or something. Unless he’s the antiPope…

Horror in that way is very restricted to plot line. You can have scenes that relieve the tension for a moment, but you can’t go off the grid and cut it off entirely.

That knife, the psychopath, Dracula has to always be, possibly, right around the corner ready to strike.

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