American Horror Story: Hotel Review- Checking In

Hello all! This post brought to you by Tom Hanks and the Bridge of Spies trailer. “I’m only an insurance lawyer,” said Tom Hanks, and the audience cried tears of joy. Believe in yourself, Hanks! We know that by the 30 minute mark of this movie, you’ll be so much more than  an insurance lawyer.

I’m a big fan of American Horror Story, but I’m not afraid of acknowledging how campy and stupid it can be. So far, Season 5 takes the cake, and that’s when you consider a season that was just beautiful witches bitching at each other. The premier was a whopping 90 minutes long and boy did I feel every minute of it. Half of it was an extended Lady Gaga music video (I’m pretty sure she was wearing some re-purposed Bad Romance costumes) and the other half was an embarrassing imitation of Hannibal. Was it good? No, not a bit. Do I take pleasure in dissecting every minute of it? Oh yes, yes indeed.

We’re first introduced to the Hotel Cortez through the eyes of two stunning Scandinavian tourists. Naturally, their blonde hair told me they would soon be dead. They’re on vacation to see such marvels as the Jurassic Park and Fast and Furious rides. Though they’re excited (you’d think these kids would get out more), they’re immediately put-off by the atmosphere of the Hotel,  as any half-way intelligent humanoid would be after seeing The Shining carpet in the lobby. Grumpy Kathy Bates “greets” them at the front-desk and escorts them to their room, which is surprisingly ugly considering the dark glamour of the rest of the Hotel. There’s no wi-fi and no cellphone service (all signs of a great hotel), but when the two girls, Aggie and Vendela, try to get their deposit back, Kathy Bates screams “No Refunds!!!!!!” and they’re forced to stay at this horrid place.

I, for one, am glad to see some intelligent mo-fos in this place. I know that they will soon die in a horrific fashion, but at least they’re keeping their wits about them and trying to escape this hell-hole. Props to Aggie and Vendela for exhibiting some genre-savvy horror movie smarts.

The girls smell something odd in their hotel room and decide that it’s COMING FROM INSIDE THE BED. Vendela takes a handy silver knife and slashes open the mattress, which was already stitched (eugh) and out pops some The Hills Have Eyes creature. It seems improbable that a guy could stay alive while stuffed inside a mattress, but you know what’s more improbable? Those two girls speaking broken English. Scandinavians speak better English than the Queen of England.

That’s a fact!

Kathy Bates says she’s going to call the police, but we all know she ain’t. In the meantime, she installs the two girls in Room 64, which if we follow closely the glaring Shining references, is probs gonna be a bad room. Surprise! It is a bad room. Vendela falls asleep and wakes up when the radio clock starts playing music at 2:25. Is this gonna be a motif or what? (Yes, The answer is yes.) She finds Aggie being eaten by ghostly children on the bathroom, starts screaming, and then the show goes to the opening credits.

AHS is known for having pretty spooky credits. I’d say if we were to rank them that Hotel’s is better than Season 4’s Carnival theme, but nowhere close to Season 1, 2, or 3. If we compare the opening sequences of Coven and Hotel, there’s a huge difference in scare tactics. Hotel is relying on blood and creepy children, while Coven focuses on unexplained images and keeps the original music intact. I guess it comes down to individual tastes, but I find ominous hooded figures and walking stick animals more frightening than your pedestrian ghost kiddies.  Here’s a comparison between Season 5 openings and Season 3:

Next, we’re introduced to Wes Bentley, the cliche detective of this story. I’m gonna make this easy and refer to the actors instead of the character names because they’re easy to forget (and pretty dumb). Wes Bentley is your pretty standard detective guy: moody, thunder-browed, unmoved by horrific violence. We first see him investigating a gruesome case which I won’t go into detail about because even I was a bit shocked. And anyways, it’s really not important to the main show. We learn that a Hannibal wannabe is responsible for the murder and interested in Wes Bentley because aren’t they always? This sub-plot is smelling a lot like a Seven rip-off. Hopefully Wes Bentley’s wife, a.k.a Chloe Sevigny, doesn’t end up like Gwyneth Paltrow did in Seven. But if she does, hey, I won’t be surprised. There’s a really awkward scene of Wes reading Little Women over video chat to his daughter. It always seems to me that Wes is playing his characters tongue-in-cheek, so I find it hard to believe when he’s being all cutesy with his daughter. Speaking of his daughter, Ryan Murphy must hate kids, because he always portrays them as nosy, destructive and overly precocious. Wes Bentley’s daughter Scarlet worries that her sushi might be radioactive when they eat out together. You’re like ten, Scarlet. Let the grown-ups not worry about the radioactive Japanese fish.

Another guest checks into the Hotel Cortez. This time it’s Max Greenfield (Schmidt from New Girl) dressed like he’s in an 80’s British pop band. AHS: Hotel “says” it’s taking place in 2015 but I don’t buy it. The 80s music, 70s inspired hotel, Wes Bentley…none of it makes sense! Kathy Bates gives Max the key to Room 64 which was quite confusing because I thought that the two Scandinavian girls were still ensconced in there, but they’ve disappeared. Max does some heroin and then is attacked by some faceless mummified demon who rapes him for a very, very, long time, and I had to look away because COME ON, MURPHY! What is the point of that? It’s needless and violent and disgusting. AHS is no stranger to sexual violence, though. There’s been multiple instances of violent rape in each season. While some of the scenes were purposeful to the plot (like Vivien’s rape in Season 1), the rest were nasty and exploitative. I don’t understand what Murphy is trying to say with so much sexual violence. I think the worst thing is that in this episode he’s not saying anything at all.

When I’m watching AHS

While Max is being attacked, Sarah Paulson, dressed like a 1920s madame, enters and asks Max to tell her that he loves her. He does so, twice, and then he dies (I think) and then she’s like “oh, well, that’s too bad” and that’s all we see of Sarah Paulson for now. She’s my third favorite AHS vet, after Evan Peters and Jessica Lange, but since we don’t have either of them this episode (and never again for Lange! ), she’s been bumped up. This 30 second appearance was pretty disappointing. All I learned is that her name is Sally, she kinda looks like Sally from Nightmare Before Christmas, and maybe this entire season will be a live-action version of that. Who’s Jack, then? Wes Bentley? That sounds way more interesting than what AHS: Hotel will actually be.

We’re pulled kicking and screaming back to morose cop Wes Bentley, who receives a mysterious call from Mr. Scary Serial Killer who tells him to come to Room 64 where a murder will take place. Smart Wes Bentley takes absolutely no back-up and goes to the Hotel Cortez and is allowed into Room 64, which according to Kathy Bates is once again vacant. We know you’re just playing now, Kathy.

The room seems empty when Wes enters, but just to be safe he opens the wardrobe and pulls open the shower curtain. He doesn’t check under the bed, instead choosing to take a nap in this horrible hotel to which he was summoned by a serial killer. Where’s Vendela and Aggie when you need them? The camera pans to below the bed where…you guessed it…Max is lying, apparently dead, until suddenly he gasps for breath! Yet Wes Bentley sleeps peacefully until he is woken by the haunted radio clock at 2:25 and sees the image of a ghostly child. He runs after it but doesn’t catch that kid. He seems to think that the child is Holden. Has Wes lost a son, perhaps? The deeper we delve, the less interesting Wes Bentley becomes.

Oh my god, so many things have happened and we haven’t even been introduced to Lady Gaga yet. I’m not even kidding when I say that her “intro” is like the Bad Romance music video. She’s wearing a blood-red dress, towing around a beautiful yet feminine man with her, and then has a really boring orgy with two other people she picked up at an outdoors Nosferatu screening. Then she and beautiful eye-liner guy, a.k.a Matt Bomer, rip out the unsuspecting couple’s throats. Lady Gaga is a vampire.

I must say that Gaga is surprisingly good in this episode. The vampire lifestyle suits her so well. I wonder what her real voice sounds like because all I’ve ever heard is the aristocratic drawl she employs for her music videos and now this show. Through flashbacks we see that Matt Bomer was lured to the Hotel by Sarah Paulson, a heroin addict, and died of a heroin overdose. Kathy Bates, his mom (okay..) tried to stop him, but Sarah Paulson reached him first. Kathy Bates angrily pushed Sarah Paulson out of a window and came back to find her son being turned into a vampire by Lady Gaga because he had “a jawline for miles.” I can forgive Gaga for that. I  would also turn Matt Bomer into a vampire if given the chance.

I can only imagine the talks Murphy and Gaga had before the show was developed.

Gaga: “Do you want me to act?”

Murphy: “No, no, Gaga. Just be the weird vampire Virgin Mary you played in Alejandro!”

And she does it so well!

So Matt Bomer and Gaga are so far the only interesting characters in this season, but their screen time is much too short. We’re once again whisked back to Wes Bentley’s boring life, but this time, a flashback! Wes, Chloe Sevigny, his daughter and, his son (so there was a son!) are at the Santa Monica Pier. Wes takes his son, Holden, for a ride on the carousel. While Holden is riding, Wes checks his texts, but when he looks up again, Holden has disappeared!

There’s a bunch of funny things about this scene. Firstly, the kid’s name is Holden, as in Holden Caulfield from Catcher in the Rye. There’s a scene in the novel where Holden puts his little sister Phoebe on a carousel in Central Park and watches her go round and round. Surely this is not a coincidence on Murphy’s part. Holden is a somewhat popular name right now among hipsters, but considering that Holden disappears on the carousel like a perverted re-imagining of Salinger’s scene, this must be an allusion. The question is: why is it in this show?

By this time, the episode is almost over, but we’re now introduced to another new character, Cheyenne Jackson, who is purchasing the Hotel Cortez to turn it into a fashion house. There’s some fun Ryan Murphy synergy here. Jackson played a character on Murphy’s other show, Glee, and the real-estate agent who shows him around the hotel is Marcy, the same agent from AHS: Murder House. We can tell that Jackson is supposed to be insufferable because he is wearing a trench coat draped around his shoulders and another coat underneath. And he named his kid Lachlan. That’s even more hipster than Holden.

Marcy shows him the penthouse, still occupied by a naked Matt Bomer, who is angry to be woken from his drug induced stupor before noon. Is Matt Bomer contractually obligated to be naked at all times?

Yes?

Cheyenne Jackson and Naked Bomer leave the penthouse to look at some artsy stuff and Lady Gaga takes this opportunity to hypnotize Jackson’s son Lachlan. She tells him how she misses New York, where she used to live, and he says that he’s not allowed to talk to strangers. But I guess following them into the labyrinthine Hotel is alright. Gaga shows Lachlan a hidden room which is full of sickly platinum haired children playing Pac-man and eating gum balls. Lachlan seems unimpressed. He has an iPad, why would he need this? But Gaga introduces him to a little blond kid and SURPRISE! it’s Holden. That mystery was solved really, really quickly.

Meanwhile, Wes Bentley goes out to dinner with his daughter while Mom is away doing doctorish things. Everything’s going swell until Bentley receives a text message from his wife saying HELP with an address. Bentley isn’t suspicious, not one bit. He takes Scarlet with him (seems like a bad idea), leaves her in the car, then barges into the dark house. But Scarlet is a Ryan Murphy child and they don’t listen to adults! She walks into the house and stumbles upon…a bunch of disembowled men…which have something to do with Mr. Knock-off Serial Killer Guy? I sorta lost interest at that point. This discovery is supposed to be significant but falls flat. I could not care less about Wes Bentley’s serial killer drama and it’s only the first episode.

Chloe Sevigny is quite disturbed that a serial killer lured Wes to a random house. “Does he know where we live?” she asks. He cloned your phone, doll. I’m pretty sure he knows where you live. He probably knows what you eat for breakfast too. Wes decides that the best idea is to leave his wife and daughter alone and to move out so that the serial killer will only hurt him. Not a great plan, Wes. I think we’ll be seeing Chloe’s head in a box really soon. Of course, he checks into the Cortez Hotel. At this point I’m thinking that if Wes is stupid enough to stay in the hotel that a serial killer brought him too, he deserves whatever misfortune comes his way.

We are finally brought back to the only people I cared about in the very last scenes. Aggie and Vendela are in two neon cages being fed some kidneys as a hang-over cure because Kathy Bates is convinced they’re drug addicts. She wants them to taste better for Lady Gaga. But Sarah Paulson ain’t having none of this. She releases Vendela and tells her to run. Poor Aggie is left screaming “Vendela don’t leave me!!!” as Vendela wobbles out in only her Victoria Secret underwear. But of course, she’s blonde, so she has to die. Lady Gaga slashes her throat with her talon and tells the fearful Kathy Bates “not to let this happen again.” And thank god, that’s finally the end of the episode.

We’re left with a lot of lingering questions at the end of this episode. Is Max Greenfield dead? Is Aggie dead? Is Wes Bentley emotionless or just a bad actor? Did Lady Gaga shave or bleach her eyebrows? Will Matt Bomer do anything besides sulk? Will there be any characterizations in this show or just schlocky visuals? And most importantly, WHERE IS EVAN PETERS?!!! Jessica Lange, Frances Conroy, Taissa Farmiga, and Lily Rabe are all gone from the show, but Evan still remains. You should’ve jumped ship while you still had the chance!


Spare Parts

  • Denis O’Hare is a master of transformation. I almost didn’t recognize him as Liz Taylor, the elegant drag queen. He’s been pretty hit or miss for me in AHS, so I hope this is a good season for him.
  • So.much.eighties.music. Too much is too much, Murphy!
  • I wonder how many elements of the other movies this show is gonna crib before someone puts their foot down. Twins from the shining? Check. Seven-esque serial killer? Check. Extremely grotesque crime scenes in the Hannibal style? Check. Wes Bentley as Seneca from the Hunger Games? Check.
  • The Hotel Cortez is based off the Cecil Hotel, a Los Angeles hotel infamous for having serial killers in residence and as the home of several mysterious murders. The funny thing is that no matter how creepy Ryan Murphy tries to make Hotel Cortez, the real Cecil Hotel is one million times freakier. Richard Ramirez, the Night Stalker, stayed there, as did serial killer Jack Uneterweger. It was one of the last places Black Dahlia victim Elizabeth Short was seen, and where Elisa Lam’s body was found drowned in a water tank. The hotel has been renamed the Stay on Main to try to distance itself from its gruesome past.
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