There are still a few weeks to go until the curtain is raised on the new season of American Horror Story, but already anticipation has reached a fever pitch.
Ryan Murphy’s horror anthology, which features a recurring cast who tackle different roles in a new story each season, has previously petrified viewers with creepy stories about a haunted LA mansion, an asylum concealing a Nazi surgeon’s eugenics experiments and a coven of witches fighting for survival, but season four, subtitled Freak Show, could well be the scariest one yet.
In the upcoming season, we venture back to Jupiter, Florida in 1952, where we follow a troupe of ‘curiosities’, including a three-breasted woman (not that one, or that one) and a two-headed twin played by Sarah Paulson, in one of the last remaining freak shows in America.
Series regular Jessica Lange plays Elsa Mars, the German expatriate managing the show, who, along with bearded lady Ethel Darling (Kathy Bates), battles to keep the business alive as the freaks come into conflict with the evil forces that pervade the town.
The series’ strength has always resided in its superb ensemble cast and season four is no different with the introduction of the smallest woman in the world, Jyoti Amge, who plays Ma Petite, complementing an already refreshingly diverse group.
But it is one of the season’s new characters that presents the most terrifying prospect. John Carroll Lynch plays Freak Show’s main antagonist Twisty, a retired clown who wears a mask on the lower part of his face and is infuriated by the arrival of the freak show in Jupiter.
Murphy has said that he is worried the show’s sinister clown may be too scary even for him, the writer recently telling BuzzFeed: “It’s heart-stopping what he does. The clown’s intro in the first episode is … even I was terrified of it. It’s brutal.”
According to Murphy the crew were so disturbed by Lynch’s appearance that some members were unable to look at him while some even had to leave the set.
There were some who accused the third season, Coven, of being too camp and over-the-top – though I thought it was an intelligent romp that used conventional horror tactics to tackle America’s ignoble history of slavery and persecution – but there should be no such complaints this time around as Freak Show looks set to be American Horror Story’s most terrifying instalment yet.