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Weird Review: American Horror Story Hotel (Season 5)

★ ★ ★ ★ (Provocative)
Air Date: 2015
Network: FX

DISCLAIMER: I’m a seasoned fan of American Horror Story, and as far as weird goes, this show never fails at pushing the boundaries. That being said, this show is definitely not for everyone, especially people who are sensitive to sex, violence and criminal behavior.

“This is the most vile and shocking content I’ve ever seen on TV. Ever.”

Tim Winter of The Parents Television Council

But family-friendly watchdog groups weren’t the only ones offended by the show’s fifth season. Vanity Fair called the show “garbage” in response to a tortuous anal rape scene in the first episode. Admittedly, the show thrives on graphic violence, with scenes that most viewers will, undoubtedly, find difficult to watch.

“The key is to judge American Horror Story on where it lives and breathes, in the realm of sheer, bizarre what-the-fuck-edness.”

Bryan Bishop of The Verge

I happen to agree. SO without further pandering to those more sensitive than I…here we have it.

The Review

The latest season of AHS is full of violent displays that will be seared into your brain, but where it really succeeds is finding the beauty in the darkness, making it at times hard to watch and at others impossible to look away.

Lady Gaga as The Countess

Lady Gaga shines as a visual performance artist, playing the bloodthirsty countess who owns the Hotel Cortez. Even amidst the dated backdrop of the Cortez, Gaga oozes sex appeal and style (you better believe she WORKS those hallways), but The Countess is more than a pretty face. She is the centrifugal force of the plot, her past loves and betrayals serving as the catalyst for most of the show’s murder and revenge.

Evan Peters as James March

There are, however, other forces at work in the Hotel Cortez, not the least of which is the spirit of The Countess’s late husband James March. Evan Peters plays Mr. March, stepping into what may be his best performance yet, wielding the perfect gentleman’s accent and a pencil stache to boot. As the story reveals the history of the Cortez, we learn that March was a wealthy businessman who built the Hotel Cortez largely to suit his sadistic, homicidal nature. Unfortunately for March, his work as a homicidal maniac was left unfinished when his serial killing spree (based on the Ten Commandments) was cut short by the cops.  (Foiled!) Rather than be taken alive, Mr. March committed suicide in the hotel and continues to haunt the halls to this day.

Sarah Paulson as Hypodermic Sally

The Hotel Cortez boasts a wide collection of souls — models, tourists, junkies, porn stars — but none is quite as alive as Sally, a heroin addict with abandonment issues that just. won’t. die. Full of loathing and longing, Sally sways between murderous and pathetic, desperate to feel loved, to feel connected. All she wants is to find her soulmate…and keep him with her at the Hotel Cortez…forever. Oh yes, and she also has the strange habit of sewing people into mattresses.

Wes Bentley as Officer John Lowe

When officer John Lowe arrives at the scene, Sally’s excitement is tangible. Unfortunately, John is a tad…distracted. His marriage is crumbling after losing a child (literally, John lost the little tow head at an amusement park), and he’s in the middle of investigating a brutal series of killings which seems to be following the Ten Commandments (Sound familiar?). Down and out, with nowhere else to go, John checks into the Hotel Cortez where he discovers much, much more than he ever expected–about himself and his family, but I found Wes Bentley’s performance in AHS: Hotel as dry and emotionless as a paper bag. He seemed dull compared to the glittering performances of the rest of the cast.

 

Denis O’Hare as Liz Taylor

Speaking of glitter….ahhhhhh, Liz.

Beneath all of its sex, murder and couture — Season 5 of American Horror Story is a tale of passion, transformation and self-acceptance. What begins for Nick Pryor as a decadent indulgence (a negligee and fur coat in the privacy of his hotel room) becomes a full-fledged lifestyle after The Countess intervenes. Liz has been at the Hotel Cortez since 1984, knows everyone’s secrets, shares desk duty with Iris (Kathy Bates) and tends the hotel bar. Denis O’Hare’s performance is absolutely to die for…and in the end it’s THIS mama bear (not The Countess) who truly shines.

Blizzy Blair

Blair Casey is an amateur hiker, perpetual note scribbler and news junkie. She lives in Fayetteville, Arkansas, with her husband and two cats.