warning Hi, we've moved to USCANNENBERGMEDIA.COM. Visit us there!

Neon Tommy - Annenberg digital news

'American Horror Story: Hotel' Fails To Keep Us Checked In

Adrianne Ramsey |
October 28, 2015 | 12:34 a.m. PDT

Staff Reporter

"American Horror Story Hotel" (FX)
"American Horror Story Hotel" (FX)
Bloodbath? More like bloody mess. 

Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk’sAmerican Horror Story” anthology series is currently on its fifth season. Every season, the show completely reboots – new story, theme, characters, and setting. What stays the same is the horror, sexually explicit scenes, monsters and scares. The show has been critically acclaimed, with each season receiving much praise and a slew of awards. Therefore, my expectations for "Hotel" were extremely high, especially due to this season’s star-studded cast.

Unfortunately, "Hotel" has fallen short. The execution of this season is very poor, which is sad becuase the potential for the plot was so great. There are a few recurring themes: people stuffed in mattresses, vampires, ghosts, children, and probably the most discussed, Lady Gaga. But a show can’t simply rely on interesting themes: first, it needs a reliable and appealing plot. Second, there should be depth to the show as a whole. So far, there have been too many bloody sex scenes and heroin induced deaths. 

This season takes place at the fictional Hotel Cortez in Los Angeles, where visitors check in and never leave. Why? Well, the hotel has a little bit of a murder problem. Lady Gaga stars as the Countess, a 111-year-old vampire who lives on a healthy diet of sex, sex, sex, and oh, blood – lots of it. She also participates in many relationships: the heroin-addict-turned-vampire Donovan (Matt Bomer), bad-boy-model/drug-addict-turned-vampire Tristan (Finn Wittrock) and Will Drake (Cheyenne Jackson), the new owner of the Hotel who is so far oblivious to the Countess’ clutches. 

The show is made to be more interesting with the addition of Detective John Lowe (Wes Bentley), who is investigating the “Ten Commandments” serial killer. The murderer justifies his/her actions by killing those who have broken biblical teachings, and seems to be targeting Lowe and his family. Lowe’s screwed up family is another main plot point, as he feels responsible for losing his son Holden (Lennon Henry) years before. It turns out that Holden was kidnapped by the Countess and is now one of her many vampire children. Chloe Sevingy marks her return to "AHS" as Alex, Lowe’s incredibly emotional, boring, estranged wife. 

READ MORE: 'Jem And The Holograms' Stars Talk Scooter Braun, Film's Female Empowerment Message 

Lowe feels compelled to move into the Hotel Cortez to solve the case of the Ten Commandments murders, where he encounters an even more eccentric cast of characters: Iris (Kathy Bates), Donovan’s clingy mother, Liz Taylor (played by an incredible Denis O’Hare), a transgender bartender, and Hypodermic Sally (Sarah Paulson), an emotional heroin addict who has a past with Iris. Evan Peters haunts the Cortez as the original owner Mr. March, a sadistic serial killer. Angela Bassett made her first appearance in third episode as Ramona Rayole, a former lover of the Countess who seeks revenge on her ex-girlfriend. In addition, a mysterious ‘Addiction Demon’ roams the hotel, wrapped as a mummy and armed with a horrifying drill bit dildo.

While it is nice to see "Hotel" return to ensemble casting, as the past three seasons revolved around original show-runner Jessica Lange’s characters, the show clearly suffers from the absence of season regulars. Jessica Lange is without a doubt the biggest loss to the series, as her incredible acting skills rose above even the highest expectations. Frances Conroy is another huge loss, and even I miss Emma Roberts sassy moments (she’s expected to have a small role on "Hotel" when she finishes filming "Scream Queens"). Gabourey Sidibe was a great addition for the past two seasons, but she is clearly very busy filming "Empire." I was hoping that original leading lady Taissa Farmiga and the underrated Jamie Brewer would return, but at this point in time that doesn’t seem to be happening. 

Most of the teasers, trailers, and promotional art for the show touted Lady Gaga’s debut. While these were exciting, Gaga’s actual performance is a far cry from ever carrying the show to the extent that Jessica Lange did. Do I expect Gaga to be a replica of Lange? No. However, I find it odd that the show’s creators thought to replace one of the greatest actresses of our time with a pop star that not only has a failing singing career, but no prior acting experience or training. While Gaga is a mesmerizing visual, it’s clear that acting is not her strongest suit. And for AHS to maintain their longstanding high reputation, they need a front-runner who will perform any scene as if it’s the last scene they will ever perform. Gaga doesn’t do that. Every time she opens her mouth, it’s very clear that she is, unfortunately, not an actress. 

In addition, there isn’t a good grasp on the plot and ensemble casting style. The writing seems to be all over the place, and it’s hard to understand what is going on. While the show is only a couple of episodes in and "AHS" does have the opportunity to become better over time, it hasn’t had a very strong start. It seems to favor shock value and lavish style over effective storytelling; becoming more of a haphazard romp of horror and making little sense in terms of plot. Aside from Gaga, there is a wide range of talent from the seasoned actors and actresses that make up this season’s cast. However, the writing is mediocre and leaves for continuous confusing episodes. For "AHS" to remain a strong show, the creators need to head back to the drawing board and create a meaningful, scary story that allows the cast to shine.    

Reach staff reporter Adrianne Ramsey here. 



Craig Gillespie directed this true story about "the most daring rescue mission in the history of the U.S. Coast Guard.”

Watch USC Annenberg Media's live State of the Union recap and analysis here.