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‘Ratched’ review: Surprising horror origin story filled with twists and off the wall characters

A new take on an old favorite.

Ryan Murphy has provided audiences with hours of bingeable television. The creator of American Horror Story has also had a hand in such favorites as Glee, Nip/Tuck, and American Crime Story. Over the years he has become a critical and commercial favorite. The latest work from Ryan Murphy Productions is a surprising origin story.

Starring Sarah Paulson in the title role, Ratched is the story of one of the most infamous villains ever. The series follows the early career of Nurse Ratched from One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. Set in 1947, the series is supposed to give insight into the tyrannical nurse. Does the show do an effective job of introducing the character to a new generation?

Even though Murphy was not hands on with the show, it certainly looks like something from his production company. There are vivid colors that immediately catch the viewer’s attention. Ratched is incredibly bright and brings a cheery look to its sadistic story. The stunning visuals with very striking interiors. Even the seediest locations in Ratched have a sense of glamour to them. Everything is meticulously stylish and are the perfect backdrop to the stylish hues. An argument can be made that sometimes it is too much, but it never looks bad.

The series takes place in 1947 and the sound design sounds like something out of a radio play from the time. The score is melodramatic with loud horns and sudden stops. It is perfectly done and helps build the atmosphere in Ratched. If it sounds like the show runs the risk of being style over substance, that is because it sometimes is. As lush as the settings are and as appropriate as the music can be, the story does not always keep pace. It is very similar to many other shows that Murphy’s name is attached to. There are eccentric characters, a highly sexual plot, and a constant array of twists. It can be a little overbearing at times.

Balancing out the over the top plot, are some strong performances. Paulson does a great job as Ratched. Since there is no connection to the source material aside from the name, Paulson is free to make the character her own. The character is manipulative while still being vulnerable. She does a wonderful job and is responsible for some of Ratched’s best moments.

An origin story for Nurse Ratched is certainly an interesting idea. As iconic as the character is, it is not a story many people were asking for. Ratched looks and sounds great and Sarah Paulson is perfectly cast. The story can be over the top but it is engaging. That being said, it is hard not to wonder why they chose Nurse Ratched instead of building a new character from scratch.

Ratched premieres September 18 on Netflix.

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