American Horror Story: Freak Show Sneak Peek

I gazed into my crystal ball, and I predict the following questions to be raised by American Horror Story: Freak Show

american horror story freak show asylum pepper naomi grossman entertainment story

What is the best way to enrich the lives of people with special needs?

With the return of Pepper pre-Asylum, you can bet there will be some debate whether it was more humane for her to be in the side show than the institution. I would love for this to pop into a contemporary look at how people with special needs are treated. Even though the primary storyline will be 1952, I still bet we’ll get some current day glimpses as we did in Asylum. All three seasons so far have compacted time to some degree.

Who in society regulates normality?

This will be taken a lot of ways. Not only will Jessica Lange’s character be a woman running a business in a man’s industry, she’ll be a German ex-pat not that far out from World War II, where the Nazis, like Dr. Arden (James Cromwell) from Asylum, were busy turning people into freaks through experimentation. Being German in America will not be fashionable. Neither will physical deformities, nomadic lifestyles, or sexual deviance. As with Asylum and Coven, I expect Murphy will comment on how taboos shift with time, but he will also make the point the carnival folk, along with gypsies and physical oddities, have always remained on the outskirts, no matter the time period. Evan Peters will play one of the only “non-freak” characters, the son of the bearded lady (Kathy Bates). One wonders what normal feels like to him.

Do you look because you want to?

The latest trailer hints at a peekaboo, voyeuristic culture within and without the freak show. There will be lots of peeking through tent holes to uncover knowledge, as well as the peanut-crunching crowds paying to watch the shows. Perhaps Murphy will dive into Sylvia Plath’s examination of the medical-industrial complex in “Lady Lazarus.” In a recent Entertainment Weekly interview, he suggested that he may use this lens to question modern-day TV. Are all actors freaks? Does television make what will pay for, and if the show is horror, are we the evil ones?

What makes happiness and safety scary?

The scariest character on the show this year–and perhaps ever–will be Twisty the Clown. Murphy confesses that this is to explore the widely held coulrophobia (fear of clowns) that he does not understand. I just finished It by Stephen King, so I feel like a bit of an expert on the subject. Clowns are supposed to represent uninterrupted joy, a delight so secure it can be trusted with children, but deep down in us, we know that joy and security are fragile. A person representing the contrary is frightening. Some people also have an issue with year-round costumes and masks (what are they hiding?), but that’s not a big deal to me. My first scary clown was the statue in Pee Wee’s Big Adventure that seems to laugh at Pee Wee when his bike gets stolen. Ever-happy clowns have no sense of empathy. My second scary clown was a customer at the ice cream store I worked at in high school. In full clown garb, she would tell me I was so cute that she was going to come behind the counter and take me home with her. Yeah, that’s scary.

What is the true meaning of asylum?

Asylum is supposed to mean a safe place, but Asylum showed a place that was anything but that. The freak show will be an asylum for people with nowhere else to go. That may also raise some tension–do they want to be there or is it the only option?

How does Americana capture our zeitgeists?

I’m interested in Americana right now, the idea that American artifacts say something about who we are as a country. While freak shows began in England, their heyday was American, suggesting that the American spirit desires spectacle. From the Salem witch trials to the recent JLaw photo leak, something in our society calls on us to distance ourselves from the other. This is especially problematic in a nation built for diversity.

Is there such a thing as a self-made freak, or are we all born freaks?

In addition to people born with certain physical traits, freak shows featured learned oddities: sword swallowing, full-body tattoos, and surgical implants, to name a few. This raises the question, did the people do these to feel special, or did they just want to do them? Is there something inside all of us that someone else would consider freakish?

What are you predicting for American Horror Story: Freak Show?

Halloween Movie Month: Week One

Join me in watching 31 horror movies in October! It’s harder than it sounds. This year, I’m planning ahead to keep you in movies all month long. These first 7 are my again and again horror movies. They never get old for me.

1. Halloween

This landmark tale of a babysitter (Jamie Lee Curtis) fighting my favorite murderer, Michael Myers, kicked off the Golden Age of Slasher Films. The re-watch helps you analyze the music and the cinematography for the shaping of an entire sub-genre.

2. Carrie

Carrie (Sissy Spacek) plays a girl bullied at home and school. We cheer for her when her telekinetic powers give her confidence, then don’t know how to feel when she becomes the worst bully of all. The re-watch is good for analyzing what makes someone a villain.

3. Scream

An important iteration of the slasher genre, Sidney (Neve Campbell) picks up where Jamie Lee left off. The re-watch is shows the clues to the killer and gives you time to consider Sidney’s choices as a heroine. Does she ever go too far?

4. Secret Window

Johnny Depp plays a writer recently divorced from his wife who finds job trouble when a dairy farmer from Mississippi (John Turturro) accuses him of plagiarizing a short story. I never tire of watching the choices made by these two actors in this movie.

5. The Strangers

A couple (Liv Tyler and Scott Speedman) find themselves at the mercy of three home invaders in the woods. This one is hard to watch, because it’s the scariest movie I’ve ever seen.

6. Trick ‘r Treat (2007)

Four interwoven horror stories that also teach you about the history of Halloween. I re-watch it to find more connections between the stories.

7. The Conjuring

A family terrorized by a demon seek out the Warrens (Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson) to perform an exorcism. While it cannot dethrone The Exorcist, this film moves the demon sub-genre forward.

Honorable Mentions

If the horror gets to be too much, the following humorous Halloween/horror films can be substituted:

  • Hocus Pocus
  • Shaun of the Dead
  • Zombieland
  • At World’s End

What movies do you watch every October?

Dark Carnival Cover Reveal

My friends over at Pen & Muse have edited a fantastic new horror anthology. I’ll be previewing an excerpt on Friday, but check out the cover and artwork below.


In this anthology, several authors and illustrators explore the dark and hidden dangers that lie within a carnival that has come to town. But it is no ordinary carnival. It’s The Dark Carnival.

And when The Dark Carnival comes to town, there’s no promise that anyone can leave…alive.

Edited by: Jolene Haley, Kristen Jett, and Jessi Shakarian

Contributors include: Kat Daemon, Kristen Strassel, Julie Hutchings, C. Elizabeth Vescio, Mark Matthews, Brian W. Taylor, Kim Culpepper, Eli Constant, Mari Wells, J. Elizabeth Hill, Nicole R. Taylor, Ashly Nagrant, Kristin Hanson, Calyn Morgan, Tawney Bland, Roselle Kaes, Ken Mooney, Emily McKeon, Bobby Salomons, Ezekiel Conrad, Sheila Hall, Michelle Davis, Lucas Hargis, Vanessa Henderson, Ryan Bartlett, Debra Kristi, Jessi Esparza, T.A. Brock, Ruth Shedwick, Brian LeTendre, Amy Trueblood, Gregory Carrico, Jamie Corrigan, Kate Michael, Tyler Anne Snell, Alicia Audrey, Meghan Schuler, Jamie Adams, Wulf Francu Godgluck, J.C. Michael, Suzy G., Kristin Rivers, and Claire C. Riley.
*Final lineup subject to change

To get you ready, check out these creepy carnival GIFs!

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You’ve waited long enough. And now, the Dark Carnival coverrrrrrrrr!


Add it to Goodreads

Cover Design by the fabulous C. Elizabeth Vescio. Learn more about her and her incredible design skills here.

About Pen & Muse Press

Need writing tips? Want to learn how to market yourself as an author? Pen & Muse Press was started to give you just the tips you need. No matter how long you’ve been writing – or haven’t been, embrace your craft.

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In the words of my favorite movie father, “It’s a beaut, [Jolene, Kristen, Jessi, and Cara. A beaut.”

Based on the cover, what stories do you think Dark Carnival will contain? I’ll give you a sneak peek on Friday.

Spooky Shot: Chester’s Chicken

On my walk home from the grocery store, I saw this and walked right by it.


Big deal, huh? I didn’t think so, but then I thought, ‘We don’t even have a Chester’s!’ That made me snap a picture. After doing some follow-up research, it turns out Chester’s is served at a gas station 2 miles away from where I found this–definitely not at the closest gas station. It could have been a Chester’s fan that went and got it. It could have been someone visiting a friend. It probably was someone eating chicken in their car who threw it out the window.

Trash like this freaks me out. It’s basically someone’s footprint. I don’t know who they were or why they couldn’t just throw it away. Littering is definitely a lesser evil in the grand scheme of things, but it indicates other evils that send my imagination spinning. According to a University of South Alabama study, litter is negatively correlated with educational attainment, labor force status, and socioeconomic status. Litter could represent people angry with their life circumstances and the environments to which they have been relegated through any number of evils: a greedy world that funds wages and schools unfairly, chemical dependence, or negative and limited life options. Any way you slice it, they may feel the world has left them in a place not worth their love.

This particular relic scares me, because Chester is creepy:

Who do you think is the creepiest mascot? Remember to contact me if you find a spooky shot to share!

Watch or Don’t: The Conspiracy

The ConspiracyThe Conspiracy is another film from Matt Barone’s list, which gets updated regularly with good horror additions now streaming on Netflix. Check it out this list. He hasn’t been wrong yet. A couple weeks ago I discussed my beef with found-footage, but this is a perfect example of how to do it right.


Shot as a documentary on conspiracy theories, two filmmakers get involved in unraveling a dangerous secret.

Entertainment Value

  • Good found footage. It has that authentic feel of found footage, because it’s shot as a documentary. When the filmmakers go undercover, they where tie-clip cameras. These filming styles put you in the action without kick you out of it with faux-shoddy camera work. Since the camera work didn’t exclude me through difficult viewing, I got lost in the terror of the situation.
  • National Treasure + Conspiracy Theory + The Matrix = layers of paranoia that hang around you for days

Dark Muse Value

This film made me wonder

  • Is ignorance bliss?
  • How far would I go to know the truth?
  • Is my world created to perpetuate evil for the benefit of the few?
  • Do I only ask that questions that I have permission to ask?

Verdict: WATCH