Season 5 is off to a strong start

by Ed Blackadder

I’ve faithfully followed American Horror Story from day one, yet felt after last season’s Freak Show, that the show had lost much of its edgy appeal. After watching the season 5 opener, aptly titled Checking In, it would appear that Murphy and Falchuk have gone back to their roots with Hotel, using a very similar style to that of their Murder House from the first season.

Noticeably absent from this latest incarnation of American Horror Story is Jessica Lange, with Lady Gaga making a decent attempt at filling those rather large shoes, or, in this case, high heels, as she takes on the role of hotel owner Countess Elizabeth. Kathy Bates’ character looks like Robert De Niro in the final scenes of Casino, wearing these oversized spectacles. Sarah Paulson is the frizzy-haired Hypodermic Sally, a name we discover is well deserved. In keeping with the bizarre aspect of the show, Denis O’Hare becomes a completely bald transvestite who goes by the name of Liz Taylor. Wes Bentley makes his second AHS appearance as Detective John Lowe. Playing The Countess’s lover Donovan is Matt Bomer, and we’re introduced to the pair in a most dramatic way.

American Horror Story: Hotel
Created by
Ryan Murphy & Brad Falchuk
Kathy Bates, Sarah Paulson, Denis O’Hare, Lady Gaga
Episode Release Date
7 October 2015
Ed’s Grade: B+

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The Hotel Cortez sets the stage for murder, mayhem, and vampire-like activity, and is a place that couldn’t possibly exist in the real world, not unlike season one’s Murder House. The sound of pain and torture emanate from every room, and white-haired children that feed on blood run through the hallways. It’s immedietly obvious that the Cortez takes its cues from The Shining‘s Overlook Hotel, only much darker and more oppressive in appearance. It also features a room that never gets rented out — Room 64.

The episode opens on two attractive Swedish women who arrive at the hotel but quickly realise they’ve made a terrible mistake. Iris, the unsympathetic manager (played by Bates) refuses to give them a refund forcing them to stay. The women end up first being attacked by a man hiding in their mattress followed by vampiric children, only to be caged then forced to detox so that their blood tastes better. Another guest is anally raped to death by a strange-looking character wearing a rubber suit and a large shiny, pointed dildo as Hypodermic Sally gazes on. This should give an indication of what to expect at the Hotel Cortez.

While all this is going on, a serial killer is sending John Lowe on a wild goose chase trying to catch him. This killer is particularly brutal in his technique, as witnessed when Lowe arrives at a crime scene to find a naked man with his hands nailed to the headboard. His eyes have been gouged out and left next to the bed. On top is a dead woman and she’s been speared in place. To top that off, he’s been given a massive dose of a sexual stimulant then his penis has been glued inside the women. This, of course, means he’ll need to be taken to the hospital still attached to the corpse of his lover. It turns out that the man and woman were married, but not to each other. This appears to be the work of the Ten Commandments Killer, a savage murderer that seems to have taken an interest in Detective John Lowe. Exactly why that is we’ll need to wait and see.

The music was especially good in the season 5 premiere, tying in beautifully with the major scenes. Two were extremely noteworthy, with the first being the foursome the Countess and Donovan indulge in with a couple they pick up at an outdoor showing of Nosferatu. The scene is accompanied by Tear You Apart, and is especially powerful when the blood starts to flow. The second one was right at the end, as Detective Lowe is forced to move out of the family home and into the Hotel Cortez, to the sound of Hotel California.

There are still more characters to come, like show regular Even Peters, who plays James March and Angela Bassett playing Ramona Royale.

I liked this episode a lot and I hope the remaining 12 are as interesting. It feels like AHS is getting back on track.