Review: ‘American Horror Story: Hotel’ Forges Twisted New Identity

Review: American Horror Story: Hotel Forges Twisted New Identity

Rebecca Boyajian

Viewers checked into Hotel Cortez to observe all of the disturbing and intriguing characters brought to life by brilliant creators Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk. “American Horror Story: Hotel,” with its different theme and new set of characters, clearly distinguishes itself from its predecessors, for it is even more gory and dark.

The season premiere of “Hotel” wasted no time in introducing its dark intentions. Unsurprisingly, the season opened with several gruesome, disturbing deaths. Hotel Cortez is no vacation destination; it is run by the Countess

Emmy nominee Sarah Paulson playing her new character Sally on this season of AHS

(Lady Gaga) and was built by Mr. James March (Evan Peters) as a place to satisfy his murderous tendencies. Currently, Hotel Cortez is inhabited by characters such as Sally (Sarah Paulson), a ghost, and The Addiction Demon (Alex Ward), a faceless creature, who both lurk in the hallways to taunt guests.

Although past seasons of the show followed a similar format of intriguing storylines infused with fear and gore, the creators of “American Horror Story” seem to be going in a different direction for “Hotel.” This season’s violence makes past storylines appear more subdued in comparison. The pilot left some disturbing images to fester in the minds of those who watched it, such as heroin addict Gabriel’s encounter with The Addiction Demon. The season manages to pull off its over-the-top theatrics because viewers who watch are often fans of the shocking and uncomfortable.  

In addition to the season’s dramatic flair, the introduction of Lady Gaga as the Countess brings a fresh twist to the show. Fans of “American Horror Story” were anticipating “Hotel” mainly to see whether Gaga could act as well as she can sing. Gaga’s character appears to be a vampire but creators are hesitant on labeling her with this title; they claim that she carries a type of virus that causes her desire for blood. This role appears to be perfectly tailored for Gaga because it is complete with over-the-top theatrics and elaborate costumes. Whether she fits this role well or the role was simply written to fit her acting capabilities is unknown, but nonetheless, the Countess is the perfect character for Gaga to make her acting debut.  

Despite that Lady Gaga contributes more to the show than just being a famous face, some uncomfortably sexual or gory scenes are dragged out for much too long and add to the show’s slow pace. Several backstories were introduced in the pilot; however, new characters were revealed without having a chance to truly develop. Such was the case with two random tourist women who were used merely as pawns to introduce viewers to the strange behaviors of the Countess. These irrelevant characters add to the season’s lack of direction and confusing storyline, but could be promising in the long run if writers tie their stories into one overarching plot. This method could prove to be very entertaining and would amplify the shock factor.

Even if viewers are not huge fans of this season’s increased gore, “American Horror Story” is known for making references to previous seasons, which should satisfy long-time enthusiasts. There have been rumors that “Hotel” will feature flashbacks to “Murder House,” similar to an “Asylum” reference in “Freak Show.” Other throwbacks to past seasons in “Hotel” include the possible reveal of the identity of Constance Langdon’s (Jessica Lange) child from “Murder House” and of Dandy’s therapist in “Freak Show.”

While fans may not enjoy the slow pace of “American Horror Story: Hotel,” its connections to older seasons and its over-the-top violence leave something for everyone. As the season goes on, viewers can hope that the addition of Lady Gaga and the show’s overall alluring dark themes will set “Hotel” apart from its preceding seasons.