TV Review - American Horror Story: Hotel

What starts out as an ode to Stanley Kubrick's The Shining and David Fincher's Seven devolves into something akin to Queen of the Damned with not quite the deeply felt writing of Anne Rice but the overwhelming sensibilities of David DeCoteau. It's yet another psycho-sexual tale of vampires that allows people literally to revel and orgasm in blood and murder. This series is less affected by the show's previous incarnations, although that arc perhaps started last season. Having to top Hannibal is the bar and this show wants to go beyond in terms of gore and violence but certainly not beyond in terms of intelligence.

Lady Gaga stars as the Countess, a woman who runs Hotel Cortez, an art deco building built in 1935 in downtown Los Angeles. It's essentially a roach motel. People check in, but they don't check out. The Countess is a vampire. She kills people and drinks their blood, often after having sex with them in orgies.

She's turned the hotel staff into vampires too, including two drug addicts, Sally, played by Sarah Paulson, and Donovan, played by Matt Bomer. Sally and Donovan aren't really hotel staff. They're permanent residents who make victims of hotel guests.

The bartender and handyman Liz Taylor, played by Denis O'Hare, and the maid Miss Evers, played by Mare Winningham, do work there, serving or taking care of messes. They're seemingly vampires too, but we never see them kill, just help to cover up the kills. There's also an unnamed, leather dominatrix similar to the all-black-leather character from Season 1 that has the added accessory of a metallic and spiked dildo, which is used to rape men.

Kathy Bates co-stars as Iris. She runs the front desk. She's the concierge. She's not a vampire, but Donovan is her son and she seems to be complicit in everything if only to be near her son and have some kind of relationship with him. It's not that dissimilar from her character of the Bearded Lady from last season.

While all of this would be enough for most 13-episode series, it's not enough for Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk. It continues the theory that Murphy is ADHD. He has to throw so much at the small screen. He has to juggle a million characters. He has to complicate things at every turn and it gets to be too much. He can never just let anything breathe for too long.

Wes Bentley also co-stars as John Lowe, a detective with the LAPD who begins to investigate a serial killer who is murdering people much in the same way as the killer in Fincher's Seven. Instead of the Seven Deadly Sins, the killer here is using the Ten Commandments. The Ten Commandments killer or TCK murders anyone whom he or she feels violated one.

Much like in Fincher's Seven, the TCK also latches onto the main detective. John is essentially stalked and toyed by the TCK. John goes to the Hotel Cortez to live when his wife and pediatrician Alex Lowe, played by Chloe Sevigny, wants to separate. They lost their son Holden five years ago. John is somewhat to blame and it's too much for Alex to bear.

John and Alex's daughter Scarlet, played by Shree Crooks, visits her dad at the hotel and sees that there are child vampires hiding at the hotel. Scarlet learns one of those child vampires is her brother Holden whom her parents thought died five years ago.

Less you thought The Walking Dead, Sense8 or Game of Thrones had a huge cast, this series tops it. Cheyenne Jackson plays Will Drake, the new hotel owner who has a son named Lachlan, played by Lyric Angel. Will is a fashion designer who uses the hotel to stage a fashion show. His top male model is Tristan Duffy, played by Finn Wittrock. The arrogant, self-involved and coked-up model meets the hotel's previous owner and serial killer who might be the TCK, James Patrick March, played by Evan Peters.

There's also two black characters. Richard T. Jones plays Detective Hahn, a fellow LAPD cop that works with John Lowe. Naomi Campbell pops in briefly as a fellow fashion designer who helps Will Drake put on his fashion show. She's not as regular a character as Hahn though.

In Episode 2, there are some interesting things that this show introduces that could have been a slightly different exploration than what's been down in vampire stories. Alex Lowe diagnoses a child with measles because his mom didn't give him vaccinations. This seems pulled from recent headlines about a measles scare in Disneyland. The Countess even talks about being a vampire in the 1970's, pre-AIDS crisis.

Yet, the final act in Episode 2 has convinced me that I never want to watch the rest of this series. The Countess turns Tristan into a vampire. He then kills a gay guy and says immediately after, "Just because I suck a gay guy doesn't make me gay!" I understand it's supposed to be a joke, but it creates an air of homophobia that's more disgusting than the actual kill itself.

It's now becoming a pattern where this show has had Wittrock's character kill a gay guy, while never having a balance of gay guys who ever have any power or equality to other protagonists. All gay characters in the American Horror Story series for years now are either victims or tortured in a way that's always worse than their straight counter-parts. Seeing it again here is my final straw.

One Star out of Five.
Rated TV-MA-LSV.
Running Time: 1 hr.
Wednesdays at 10PM on FX.


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