'American Horror Story: Asylum,' 9 p.m. Wednesdays on FX beginning tonight (Oct. 18)
Three stars (out of four)
Like a good scare? How about a bad scare? Or a thousand scares, good and bad and crazy? Season 2 of "American Horror Story," subtitled "Asylum," is for you.
In a clever reconstruction, creators Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk have brought back some familiar players from Season 1 in an entirely new setting, an asylum for the criminally insane in the 1960s.
Terrible, terrible things went on in this place, and continue to go on, we learn when a pair of contemporary visitors get inside for some sex play and run afoul of the ... things ... that still lurk there.
The story then flashes back to 1964 and the horrible heyday of Briarcliff Manor, a tuberculosis sanitorium turned looney bin, run by scary Sister Jude (Jessica Lange), who wears red undies under her habit and has a seamy past.
Into Briarcliff come two innocents -- a newlywed (Evan Peters) accused of murdering his wife and a reporter (Sarah Paulson) who was investigating the asylum.
What horrors await? Oh, so many horrors. Murphy and Falchuk leave no gravestone unturned, confronting us with every possible thing that goes bump in the night, plus exorcism, extraterrestrials, Nazis and a nymphomaniac played enthusiastically by Chloe Sevigny ("Big Love").
Most of this, including a creepy, mutant child-thing, is piled into the first two episodes, which are scary and also (can't quite believe I'm saying this) surprisingly smart.
Peters (who was born in St. Louis and spent his early childhood here) is outstanding and appropriately sympathetic as the character Murphy has billed as his hero. Lange is more controlled than in Season 1, and also more terrifying.
And that's what fans want from "American Horror Story: Asylum" -- more terror. Watch in the light of day.