Friday, October 18, 2013

Witch vs. Witch: Reviews of Witches of East End & American Horror Story: Coven

You know how much I love witches, right? Well there are TWO witch shows that had their premieres last week. Let's do a run down of each.

Witches of East End (Sundays, 10 pm, Lifetime)
Let's call a spade a spade. This is a Lifetime show. This is filled with melodrama: sex, lies, and witchcraft. But this is not a criticism! They do melodrama, they do it well, and there is nothing wrong with good old-fashioned melodrama.

The bare bones plotline is this: two young sisters discover they are witches after their witchy, immortal mother hid this from them. Their fun-loving, magic-wielding aunt comes to town to help out with a mysterious and evil force that is intent on destroying lives. There is a love triangle within the first few scenes of the show, sexy times all around, and fantastic stock characters: the wild magic-hungry aunt, the reasonable and loving mother, the love-obsessed beautiful youngest daughter, and the skeptical and sweet oldest daughter. 

The magic seems standard: turning into black cats, curses, immortality, speaking Latin (or pretend Latin, I wouldn't know), telekinesis in times of great anger or stress. The writing was perfectly fine for a Lifetime campfest, and the acting was fun. It's important to note the return of Madchen Amick as the wild witch sister, who of course was Shelley the waitress in the incomparably spooky Twin Peaks. 

Let's talk upsides! My favorite character is the oldest daughter, mostly because I see myself in her: she wears cardigans and works at a library, like me. I'm also really interested in the (admittedly cheesy) mythology of the show. The daughters are consistently reborn, and then killed a part of their mother's curse. There are hints and moments that make me thing the mythology could become very interesting and intriguing- but we'll see!

There are, of course, the downsides. The plotlines are familiar, there are moments so unbelievably cheesy that you can't help but groan aloud. Some of the characters seem downright unlikeable, some of the plot twists are visible from space. But I like all this in a show- the campiness works for me! However, if you prefer your show to be more realistic or of a higher quality, this might not be for you. I can't tell you there are moments that highlight a quick wit or a shocking insight.

Again, it is important to remember that this is a Lifetime show. The style is meant to be melodramatic, with campiness and sex thrown in for good measure. For a Lifetime show about witches, I'm really happy with it. I'm looking forward for my next venture into the cheesefest, but at the same time I hold NO high hopes for serious characterization or moments of brilliant writing. This is meant to be fun and silly, and it works. Magically.

American Horror Story: Coven (Wednesday, 10 pm, FX)
(As a warning- American Horror Story: Coven is extremely graphic and disturbing. There are instances of rape and gore. Tread carefully!)

I've got to be upfront with you. I'm not a huge fan of Ryan Murphey, the executive producer of AHS. I think he starts out with a really solid first half of a season of a show, and then totally loses control and it becomes really... bad! Let's not even talk about the mess Glee became. But it's a fresh slate, a new season, and all witches so I'll give it a chance.

 Here is the bare bones plotline: After turning sixteen, a young girl is sent to a boarding school for witches with three other girls: a girl with voodoo magic, a girl with Down's syndrome, and a spoiled starlet. The boarding school is run by a powerful witch and her even more powerful mother, who becomes obsessed with finding the key to eternal youth. She begins to look to the past to unlock this magic. Some of the characters in the show are based on real historical women! Very cool and very frightening. (Sometimes history is so much more evil than we can imagine.)

The magic is incredibly scary and dark in comparison to East End's exploding flowers and moving paintings. There is a lot of blood and sex and death, all mixed together with magic. The writing is frightening and the acting is incredible. With actresses like Kathy Bates, Angela Bassett, Gabourey Sidibe and Jessica Lange, there is not a moment where you are not glued to them.

Let's talk upsides! The imagery is incredible. It's stunning- both beautiful and terrifying, with black clothes and flowing hair and a fantastic New Orleans setting. The set design is crazy amazing. The writing is tight, the directing is good. The acting is just so good I have to mention it twice.

There are, of course, downsides. This show is not for the faint of heart. There are several incredibly disturbing scenes, featuring rape and torture. I tend to think such graphic plot points are a bit lazy, often thrown in to get a reaction. There are aspects of the show that I simply do not like, but that is personal preference and would get slightly into spoiler territory. While it deals with issues in a way I do not like, I still enjoyed the feeling of the show!

Like Witches of East End, American Horror Story: Coven is a melodrama. While Witches of East End goes for campy and bright, Coven goes for dark and spooky. It's all a matter of preference! If you're looking to be scared and indulge in a revenge fantasy in New Orleans, AHS Coven is for you. If you're looking for light and slightly silly, Witches of East End is more your speed. Or you can be like me- and go for both types of witches! I will be watching both shows.

Watch each pilot and tell me what you think! Which do you prefer?

1 comment:

  1. Great review!

    I am completely hopelessly in love with Coven, but I'm a little scared of what's to come. Not because of the gore and violence, I can handle that, but because of a few scattered moments so far that have made my blood boil (Queen and the Minotaur, for example). There is a world of potential in this series, and I really want it to become my new go-to piece of witchy fiction, but it'd be too easy for the writers to ruin it with poor decisions... so I guess I'll keep my fingers crossed.