TV Review: “American Horror Story: Hotel” – Daringly Dark

Written by Danielle Sing January 18, 2016

american horror story hotel

With the departure of Jessica Lange from “American Horror Story” at the end of last season, Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk tried to wow their audiences with the casting of Lady Gaga and the promise for a much darker season. But damn, they definitely delivered on that last part (perhaps even over-delivered). something with the word ‘horror’ in the title can never be too dark, but “American Horror Story: Hotel” brought back the original dark and uncanny themes of the first season but amplified it so much so that the structure of the show starts to fall apart.

“American Horror Story” has returned to Los Angeles and takes place at the Hotel Cortez, built by James Patrick March (Evan Peters) in the 1920’s. In present time, Will Drake (Cheyenne Jackson) has purchased the hotel to inspire his fashion line, unknowing about all of the permanent residents trapped in the hotel – some living, some dead, and some neither. These residents include Liz Taylor (Dennis O’Hare), Iris (Kathy Bates), Hypodermic Sally (Sarah Paulson), and The Countess (Lady Gaga). Detective John Lowe (Wes Bentley) is attracted to the hotel because he believes that is where the sadistic and creative serial killer, the Ten Commandments Killer, was last seen.

“Your boy has a jawline for days.”

“American Horror Story: Hotel” is much darker than previous seasons; Murphy is successful in that respect. “Hotel” plays on the dark and uncanny themes of the first season, “Murder House”. It focuses on ghosts who are trapped in the location they died, like the first season, but it also explores the addictive tendencies of humans. Many characters in “Hotel” are addicted to something; whether that be drugs, murder, love, blood, sex, fame, or acceptance. The dark themes are taken way too far sometimes, as if the show is begging for an adverse reaction from its audience. A perfect example is from the first episode, “Checking In”, when a druggie (Max Greenfield) is anally raped by a man with a drill bit dildo. Without any tension built up for this scene, it views more as gore. I believe it was meant to set the dark tone of the season, but it seemed unnecessarily dark and added nothing to the plot. There is a thin line between horror and gore.

american horror story hotel

Along with the unnecessarily dark scenes, there was a lot of unnecessary characters in “American Horror Story: Hotel”. There were too many minor characters with sub plots that did nothing for the show, other than add more gore. Imagine if “Game of Thrones” had flashbacks, and that’s what “American Horror Story: Hotel” feels like. Plus, the show overused these narrated flashbacks. Flashbacks are intended to show the audience something, so don’t narrate over it. There are two major plot lines focusing on the Countess and Detective John Lowe, and they were connected beautifully with each other and with the minor plot lines of the Hotel Cortez’s residents. If just the plots that surrounded the Hotel Cortez were used, “American Horror Story: Hotel” would have been one of the cleanest shows, in terms of plot, that Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk have every created, but no, nothing can ever be that simple.

“You’ve lived in my hotel long enough, John, seen enough evidence to know that what is impossible becomes very possible here.”

With way too many characters and some new actors who have never worked with on “American Horror Story”, I expected the acting to drop in quality. “American Horror Story” veterans Evan Peters and Dennis O’Hare were absolutely amazing in their roles, with O’Hare playing a transgender woman and Peters playing, once again, a murderer but this time with a great transatlantic accent. I want to give a special nod to whoever casted the infamous serial killers for the episode “Devil’s Night”, as they were terrifyingly mesmerizing. The only acting that did not amaze – which was disappointing because the role was created for her – was Lady Gaga, but I guess that’s not surprising since she has little acting experience. She has a striking presence in “American Horror Story: Hotel” but she could convey emotions well. When Gaga opened her mouth, I felt as if I was watching Kim Kardashian cry on loop; it felt fake and like she was over-acting and under-acting at the same time.

american horror story hotel

Overall, “American Horror Story: Hotel” is successful in terms of having darker themes, some beautifully connected plots, and some fantastic acting. Unfortunately, there was so much focus to create a darker theme that Murphy and Falchuk added unnecessary gore, and minor characters and plot lines that did nothing for the other plots. Also, Lady Gaga’s acting was not as good as you expect for how heavily they were promoting her casting. With all that said, “American Horror Story: Hotel” is still a thousand times better than “American Horror Story: Asylum”.

My Rating: 7/10

american horror story hotel

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