"I'll tell you who the monsters are!" Prepare to be amazed! A bearded lady (Kathy Bates), the world's smallest woman (and actual Guinness World Record holder Jyoti Amge), a man with lobster hands (Evan Peters) and a two-headed girl (Sarah Paulson). These are just some of the highlights one can expect to find under the colourful tent of American Horror Story: Freak Show.
The fourth season of FX's phenomenal series takes place in 1952; a post-WWII Jupiter, Florida, with vaudeville owner Elsa Mars (Jessica Lange) who collects an extraordinary entourage of characters to showcase their unique physical appearances within her scandalous and diabolical carnival community.
We're first introduced to the bizarre bunch in the stop-motion animation during the opening credit sequence. The story unfolds with Elsa literally headhunting the conjoined twins Bette and Dot Tattler (Paulson and Paulson) to revive her failed attempt at stardom. She lures the sisters to take refuge at her freak show and elude the police who suspect them of murdering their parents. However, Elsa's maternal altruism is thinly veiled as she hungers to attract paying crowds and, more importantly, talent scouts. A clear division separating the 'normal' townsfolk and the 'freaks' generates sympathy and an understanding for the unconventional looking people, echoing the theme of prejudice and human-mutant racism in the X-Men Marvel movies. Nevertheless, the danger to disrupt their lifestyle isn't limited to the outside world, as secrets from within clan threaten to destroy them.
Freak Show blurs fiction with reality as a host of 'freaks' portrayed in the show include actors with real-life disabilities, as well as characters inspired by documented performers who have also appeared in the controversially banned film Freaks (1932). Along with the above, we have strongman Del (Michael Chiklis), Desiree; a hermaphrodite with three breasts (Angela Bassett), a congenital limb malformed 'Seal Boy' (Mat Fraser) and 'Legless Suzi' (Rose Siggins); the result of a spinal disease at a young age. The killer clown (John Carroll Lynch) with a sadistic smile on the loose is as terrifying as the Psycho similar mother-son relationship between Gloria (Frances Conroy) and the curiously unstable Dandy Mott (Finn Wittrock). Much like the juxtaposition of contemporary pop songs in Baz Luhrmann's period musical Moulin Rouge! (2001), fans can also look forward to a collection of musical numbers such as: Elsa singing David Bowie's 'Life on Mars'; suited in glam rock costume and Lana Del Rey's 'Gods and Monsters', with Bette and Dot covering Fiona Apple's 'Criminal' and Jimmy belting out Nirvana's 'Come as You Are'.
In addition to the signature recurring actors from previous seasons and familiar faces from Coven rejoining the cast (Emma Roberts and an uncomfortable comical cameo from Gabourey Sidibe), Freak Show also features some celebrity cameos. Matt Bomer appears as a homosexual hustler and Lea Michele, Neil Patrick Harris and partner David Burtka are destined to pop up very soon. A cross-over of American Horror Story seasons is set to intertwine the anthology universe. The microcephalic 'pinhead' Pepper (Naomi Grossman) reprises her role from Asylum and it is speculated her backstory will come to light as the show progresses and we can expect other characters, such as Sister Mary Eunice (Lily Rabe) or Dr. Oliver Thredson (Zachary Quinto) to return to the horrifying mix.
Rumours abound that the fifth season has already been referenced in the first two episodes of Freak Show, leading cult followers to determine a narrative riddled with alien conspiracies. However, it is unlikely to star Jessica Lange as Freak Show is claimed to be her last outing with the show. Let's hope not. That would be a monstrosity.