American Horror Story introduces “Hotel”:

AHS’s fifth season scares, shocks new audience with underwhelming plot

Lauren Frias, co-editor-in-chief

Horror can be defined in a variety of ways. Whether it be detailed by jump scares, psychological immorality or graphic gore, the previous can be found alone or in a wide variety of combinations. However, a rare example of all three could be accurately represented by the popular anthology series of American Horror Story (AHS).

In its most recent season, dubbed American Horror Story: Hotel, the popular FX hit took America by storm, averaging 9.1 million viewers just on the first episode. However, I managed to avoid the rain and thunder, granted I was thoroughly unimpressed with the way the series commenced. Opening with a Swedish pair of sisters checking into Hotel Cortez in California, I anxiously awaited further development of the plot.

However, I became more concerned with the roles of the recurring actors in the season, given that it was evident that I failed to pick up any distinct indication of a plot. The only consistency that I picked up on was this: people checked in to the hotel, something remotely eerie occurs, then someone drops dead.

From what I gathered, the plot follows Detective John Lowe (Wes Bentley) investigating a series of murders performed by a Bible-obsessed serial killer. Interweaved with the story comes the cursed Hotel Cortez. This hotel is haunted by so-far unexplained entities, such as the hotel’s founder James Patrick March (Evan Peters), transgender bartender Liz Taylor (Denis O’Hare) and resident Hypodermic Sally (Sarah Paulson). All these tenants are led by immortal vampire, the Countess (Lady Gaga) and her paramour, Donovan (Matt Bomer).

Undeniably, the set up is there: giant hotel, blood-sucking monarch and a few disturbingly sinister characters introduced here and there. The execution was lacking, however. Yes, the characters each have their own fright factor, but the overwhelming number of characters contributing to the plot made it difficult to pick up on any personality development. Surprisingly enough, all the actors (including Gaga) perform well in their roles, capturing the essence of the character they’re supposed to portray, but where’s the value in that if the character itself can’t even be definitively explained?

Furthermore, Hotel seemed to have a prevailing concept that, the more it was portrayed, the less it played a significant role to the plot: blood and sex. Owning up to its maturity rating, it was to be expected that the season would have its share of explicit moments. But, the frequent occurrences took away from concentrating on establishing their characters or, more importantly, the plot. Gore can contribute to the series’ fearful aesthetic, but it shouldn’t be the main factor making the plot scary. And let’s just say that the countless provocative scenes were nothing short of trivial to developing the story.

Thematically speaking, this season has proven to be darker than all the rest, which is a definite plus. The horror is introduced within the first few minutes of the introductory episode, with gore being the dominant contributor to the fear factor. However, as evident in the first few episodes, I can say that this season is more characterized by jump scares versus that actual gothic horror that all us AHS fans have come to know and love.

I had high hopes for this season, having waited almost a year since the  finale of Season 4, Freak Show. Familiar with the great work that screenwriters Ryan Murphy and Brian Falchuk have pulled off for four seasons, I didn’t doubt that the dynamic duo would hit another homerun with the commencement of Hotel. Sadly, the ball landed just short of the outfield.

Keeping up with this season became more of a chore rather than enjoyment. However, that’s not to say that the season doesn’t have room for improvement. Four episodes have premiered, but with the rest of the episodes still pending, the most I can put my trust in is that the season will prove me wrong and shape up to be even scarier than the latter.