- Category: Volume 87 (Fall 2015 - Spring 2016)
- Published: 28 October 2015
- Written by KEVIN HOLTON | STAFF WRITER
It’s fall again, which means it’s time for American Horror Story’s newest season. Heading into its fifth year, the show returns with the Hotel motif, and promises a season full of ghosts, addictions, and murders based on the Ten Commandments.
That’s not to mention the return of a star-studded cast, including show veterans like Cathy Bates and Evan Peters, as well as newcomers like Lady Gaga and Cheyenne Jackson. Some fans will be disappointed to know that Jessica Lange will not be returning, but as the actress herself noted at the end of Freak Show, there was no topping that performance, so it was time for her to bow out.
Hotel kicked off with what is, by far, the show’s weirdest opening yet—but it was also one of the rockiest and most disheartening. While there were some great elements (like a man being killed and sowed into a mattress only for his ghost to reach out and drag new tenants in), viewers have been faced with an alcoholic-but-now-sober cop who feels responsible for his son going missing, the ghost of a heroin addict that lures the living into the grip of drug and alcohol abuse, and near-constant references to The Shining.
As with all AHS seasons, there are two main stories here. While the first is the cop investigating a string of murders and looking to redeem himself for ‘killing’ his son when the child is abducted at a fair, the other follows Lady Gaga (as The Countess Elizabeth), who is another knock-off vampire-that-is-not-a-vampire. While she drinks blood, dresses in provocative yet often Victorian-esque fashion, and relentlessly pursues drugs, sex, and alcohol to spice up her immortal and eternally young existence, she can go out in sunlight and describes her condition as ‘a virus.’
As tiresome as it is to see yet another TV show trying to give us a new side of vampirism, the plot wasn’t quite as tired as Gaga herself, who, in the first episode, both looked and sounded so completely bored that her eyes were half shut through the entire episode—as were mine, whenever she came on screen. She had nothing to offer the show and no reason for viewers to care about her, but thankfully, episodes two and three redeemed this.
Fortunately, this was also balanced out by Peters, who plays James March, the man who built the hotel in the 1920s. He, a ghost, continues to haunt the halls, killing at whim and often claiming several lives every week. Despite his youth, Peters portrays a suave, Gatsby-style aristocracy, adopting a turn of the century accent to supplement his role. As for being a killer, we’ve seen in seasons past how great Peters is at capturing this kind of a character.
While ‘haunted hotel’ is far from an original concept, this side of the season is rooted in a very real incident. During the 1880s and into the early 90’s, a man named H. H. Holmes terrorized the country. Dubbed “America’s First Serial Killer,” he built the World’s Fair Hotel for the 1893 World’s Fair, a building complete with false doors, dead-end hallways, stairwells that didn’t go anywhere, and various traps to imprison or injure the tenants. The exact number of his victims can only be estimated, and ranges from 20 to 200, since many were dismembered or mutilated beyond recognition.
Peters himself may have big shoes to fill, but the set department, so far, has done an excellent job. Viewers have seen everything from iron maiden-style closets to false walls with bodies bricked inside, not to mention lime baths, deprivation chambers, and various other macabre equipment in the lower levels of the hotel. The Cortez hotel balances this dark design with lavish decoration—so much so that the second episode features a Vogue fashion shoot, where Finn Wittrock returns as Tristan Duffy, a model who soon succumbs to The Countess’s offer to join her as a vampire.
There is a lot of material in this season that can offend the more sensitive viewer, more so than in previous seasons. There is an extended monster-on-human rape scene in the first episode, pretty graphic gore (including two men with their intestines hanging out), and near-constant drug use. Suicide and child abduction also play major roles.
Those having been said, it is still a great season overall. True to AHS form, the show is gaining strength as the season rolls on, and with the Halloween episode premiering this week, viewers are in for a treat. Be sure to tune in and catch the latest and greatest of this hit series.
IMAGE TAKEN from ew.com