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'American Horror Story: Hotel' is a sexy and scary surprise

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American Horror Story Hotel

Dripping with jewels, a veiled woman in a red overcoat walks arm in arm with her tall, dark and handsome male companion while She Wants Revenge’s “Tear You Apart” plays in the background. The devilish duo pick up a young couple at the famous Hollywood Cemetery and bring them back to an eerie and opulent hotel. While the song still plays in the background, the four engage in an intense orgy. As the music hits a climax, the duo slits the throats of the young couple and drink their blood.

So begins my addiction with another blood-soaked season of “American Horror Story.” 

This season takes place in modern-day Hollywood at the fictional Hotel Cortez, a no-tell hotel that the disgruntled manager (played expertly by Kathy Bates) describes as “a godforsaken cesspool” and full of “junkies.”

Something that gave many longtime viewers a true fright was the departure of Jessica Lange and her replacement being the Fame Monster herself, Lady Gaga. I actually appreciated the change-up. Before all of you superfans come for my head like the deranged bloodsuckers we saw this episode, let me explain.

For the past two seasons, I’ve felt that series creator Ryan Murphy has relied too heavily on Lange’s endless amount of talent. While she is one of the best actresses of our time, she became the center of the storylines, which weakened the seasons. 

In season three, I was ready to see more of the younger witches developing their powers once Lange’s Supreme Fiona was killed. But she kept popping back up anyway, taking time and character development away from the supposedly ensemble cast. 

In season four, it was similar with her character Elsa Mars. With so many unknown actors in the cast, I was excited to see them perform and learn the backstory of their freak characters. Instead, we had a season of Elsa trying to make it in Hollywood with minimal time being devoted to the rest of the very large cast.

Don’t get me wrong, I loved both of those seasons immensely. They were well done and Lange did a phenomenal job carrying the cast. But it was not sustainable to leave one person as the centerpiece of the cast.

In terms of Gaga, I actually enjoyed her acting. I did notice she slipped between two different accents during the episode, but since her character is very much an enigma at this point, I will let it slide. The orgy scene I mentioned in the beginning is the most memorable moment of the episode, and a large part of that is due to Gaga. She makes for a good villain, and pairing her Countess with Matt Bomer’s Donovan makes for a deliciously evil power couple. 

What I really appreciated about this premiere was that an equal amount of time was devoted to everyone’s stories. While we didn’t get to see Evan Peters or Angela Bassett in action yet, I did feel a connection with most of those who were presented so far. 

Actors aside, the episode did offer a few other perks. For one, the music was amazing. “Tear You Apart” is an addicting earworm of a song that I’m listening to as I write this review, and ending the episode with The Eagles’ “Hotel California” was a perfect way to cap off the craziness. 

There was also plenty for the eyes to play with. The costumes, especially Gaga’s and Bomer’s, were beautiful and haunting at the same time. Denis O’Hare’s Liz Taylor also had some flowing pieces that caught the camera well.

 The hotel itself provides a terrifying and tantalizing backdrop for the horror that ensues. It’s a perfect balance of fancy and creepy. The rich look comes through with its lush carpets, high ceilings and sparkling chandeliers. The sinister aspects are the sheer size of the hotel, its ominous silence, dark lighting and cramped hallways. The ritzy and fearsome aspects of the design make the hotel a prime playground for the terrors that Murphy and Co. will weave together throughout the season.

The acting, the music and the visuals are a promising start for a strong season. The twistedly engaging premiere made me very excited and I don’t see myself checking out of this hellish hotel any time soon. 

 

Mike Dolzer is a sophomore writing, rhetoric and technical communication and media arts and design double major. Contact Mike at breezearts@gmail.com.