“Checking In” to American Horror Story’s new Hotel
I have a message for Brad Falchuk and Ryan Murphy this season – if American Horror Story: Hotel is going to continue following the delicious vein that was exposed during episode one – you have won me back – with fervour. American Horror Story’s first season was epic, but there were struggles with Asylum, Coven and Freak Show. At times the series’ excessive violence has seemed a pointless distraction from its plot. So, counting chickens before all of the eggs have hatched, I am ready to declare that I think this season looks promising. The absence of Jessica Lange and Lily Rabe (absolutely loved her in Coven) will be a problem for many fans but the addition of Lady Gaga and Matt Bomer will hopefully breathe some new air into the series.
First, Lady Gaga. I am by no means a “little monster” super fan but her music and performance art can be interesting at times (maybe not the meat dress) and though her Simpsons episode outraged fans she always takes risks and pushes boundaries. When it comes to acting, it is probably too early to tell how she will fare but her on-screen presence and scenes in the first episode seemed to be brilliantly executed. Beyond all of this, Gaga seems like a tailor-made fit for the series given her image.
*WARNING – SPOILERS*
Gaga plays “The Countess” and Matt Bomer plays her progeny (and Kathy Bates’ son). In the couple’s debut scene, Gaga and Bomer get ready for a night out – well dressed for the occasion – and attend a graveyard screening of the classic silent film, Nosferatu. The pair seduces another couple, bringing them back to the hotel for a little fun. Cue the vampirism. The scene literally made me sit up in my chair and intently focus on it – all because of a 1983 cult classic called The Hunger.
In The Hunger, the film opens with David Bowie and Catherine Deneuve as they pick up a couple for a little fun. Again, cue the vampirism. Both scenes are set to dark, hypnotic music: Gaga and Bomer strutting to She Wants Revenge’s Tear You Apart and The Hunger opening with Bauhaus front man Peter Murphy singing Bela Lugosi’s Dead inside of a cage. While Gaga and Bomer wear gloves with razor sharp talons, Bowie and Deneuve wear necklaces with hidden blades fashioned to look like the Egyptian Ankh. The predators, respectively, strike and feed. In both scenes a sexy, hypnotic, tableau ends in a bloody mess. Murphy and Falchuk have effectively paid homage to one of my favourite vampire movies and this wins them a lot of points in my books.
I have read a few other reviews and they all mention the rape scene that occurs early in the episode so I would be remiss to ignore it. Max Greenfield (New Girl) checks in to his room, jacks himself up on some drugs and is then raped by a hideous and frightening hotel occupant (I will spare you the disturbing details). Some critics are questioning why this scene was included and disparaging the series’ overall depiction of rape (there are other rape scenes in the series history). Speculation is pointless, but perhaps there is an endgame and a purpose. I hope so. While I do not condone the inclusion of rape in film, literature or television with no real purpose or message, I hope this disturbing scene exists for reasons beyond violence for violence’s sake. So, not to gloss over the rape scene in my zeal for Hotel’s allusion to The Hunger, I forewarn you that roughly 3 minutes of this 90 minute episode might make you very uncomfortable (and this is why DVR’s are our friends).
Hotel’s Cortez has just the right amount of well-executed nods to Stanley Kubrick’s Overlook (unlike the overt 2001 sampling in Interstellar – Falchuk and Murphy seem to believe in much more subtle nuances). Haunting and surreal with a robust cast of intriguing characters American Horror Story: Hotel looks like it might be one hell of a ride. Nicely summing up Gaga and Bomer’s bloody series debut, the Countess says to him whilst puffing on a cigarette: “And you didn’t feel like going out tonight.” To which he smugly replies, “…it’s not the getting ready – it’s the cleanup.”
Brace yourselves – this might prove to be the most gloriously messy horror story yet!
AHS: Hotel trailer
American Horror Story: Hotel airs Wednesday nights at 10pm on FX.