American Horror Story: Hotel premieres tonight, and I’m excited! I love this show in particular, and horror-themed television in general. And when I’m watching a show that I love, the opening credits, complete with theme song, can really get my heart pumping in anticipation, and it’s all the more intense when the theme song itself is awesome. So in honor of the return of AHS, here are a few opening credits that give me the chills!
[Note: The American Horror Story: Hotel clip is intense and NSFW. Viewer discretion is advised.]
Many of the songs I will be posting this month are about love. And it makes sense. First of all, it is my totally inexpert estimate that ninety-eight percent of all songs are about love, so it’s hard to avoid. Second, even at its best, love can be a terrifying thing. When you allow yourself to love someone, you are granting them the ability to truly hurt you. I’m a fan of the show Hannibal (moment of silence…) and one of the many, many things that they got right was precisely this. Hannibal Lecter was bulletproof until he loved Will Graham, and then it was Will, and only Will, who could ultimately be his downfall (a wink to my fellow Fannibals out there who get that reference).
So here is my first offering on the subject of that horrifying thing we call love, and it’s a fun one. Ladies and gentlemen, this is Ludo with “Love Me Dead.”
In the TV show Hannibal (which I praise at length HERE) the viewpoint character Will Graham has a habit of taking in stray dogs, and has several in his house out in the middle of nowhere. In last Friday’s episode, the dogs start barking in the middle of the night at something in the woods. When Will opens the door to take a better look, one of his dogs (Buster, as we learn when Will yells out his name), races out into the snow and woods to chase whatever it is. Instead of staying inside where it’s safe (well…safer…) or pausing to put a coat over his pajamas, he runs out after the dog through knee-deep snow with a shotgun in one hand.
Did I mention I love Will Graham?
When he finds Buster, the dog is laying whimpering in the snow, the fur of his back soaked with blood. There is something horrible in the woods with them, but Will takes the time to scoop the dog up under his other arm, slowing him down and making it impossible for him to use that shotgun. He races back through the snow toward the house, being pursued by gruesome death, and just barely makes it behind the door before the atrocity at his heels can reach him.
I think it’s very interesting how we react to animals in peril in fiction. Will’s care for and protection of the dogs that he takes in is incredibly endearing. We are meant to like Will Graham, to feel for him (so that the show can tear out our hearts and grind them into the dirt when horrifying things happen to him) and his kindness to animals is an effective way of securing our affection and loyalty (almost too effective, edging into manipulation territory). And I find myself more emotionally invested when an animal is in peril. I was more worried about whether Buster would make it through than whether Will Graham would be torn to pieces. And this in a show that is all about murder, mutilation and cannibalism! Feed a guy his own legs and I’m fine. Threaten a dog and I’m shouting “No!” at the screen.
I know I’m not alone in this reaction. There is a website called doesthedogdie.com where you can look up a movie and find out if a pet is injured or killed. Why do we have these reactions? Are we just built to want to protect the helpless and/or the cute? What horrors of humanity do we turn away from while raging against the same horror in an animal? And what does that say about us, as individuals, as a society, as a species?
The NBC show “Hannibal” is one of my current obsessions. The story of the gentleman cannibal Hannibal Lecter has been a part of pop culture since 1981: from his introduction in Thomas Harris’ novels, to four movies, the most notable being the masterpiece that is the Oscar-winning Silence of the Lambs. Hannibal Lecter is Anthony Hopkins for many people, in the same way James Bond is Sean Connery.
“Hannibal” is the newcomer, the first foray of the story into television, and it is amazing, due in no small part to Mads Mikkelsen’s turn as the monster in the man-suit, a performance that rivals Hopkins’.
More remarkable, though, is the aesthetics of the show. Writer and executive-producer Bryan Fuller is well known for creating visually lush television, such as the imaginative and whimsical “Pushing Daisies.” That artistic sensibility is what pushes Hannibal beyond the bounds of genre. It is not a police procedural, or an anti-hero piece. We know who the villain is, and there is never any doubt that he is a villain. What the lush artistry does is take the horrible and make it beautiful. Hannibal Lecter is as utterly morally reprehensible a person as can possibly exist, and yet the “person suit” he wears is as well tailored as his business suits, as elegant as his suave manner and cultured accent. He is distilled evil, and yet he is attractive. And that juxtaposition doesn’t stop with Hannibal. The visuals of the murder scenes, the morgue, the asylum…they are all, in a word, lovely. We are simultaneously attracted and repelled, a reaction that finds its apex in the cannibalistic culinary scenes. In one recent episode, we watch Hannibal transform a human leg into an elegant main course. My stomach turned and my mouth watered.
This sort of cognitive dissonance is common in literature, of course. I am reminded of Madame de Farge in Dicken’s A Tale of Two Cities, who uses the motherly, comforting act of knitting to record the names of the condemned. Its use in “Hannibal” is remarkably skillful, however. If you haven’t seen the show yet, check it out. It’s on NBC on Fridays 10/9 cst.
[Note: I am in no way involved in the production of “Hannibal!” I just love it tons.]