The fifth season of American Horror Story is set in the Hotel Cortez in down town Los Angeles. Having been build in the 1930’s by a property magnate, the once glamourous hotel has become a vintage relic with some rather unusual long term occupants who are mostly on the wrong side of dead.
Central to the hotel are The Countess (Lady Gaga), a powerful vampire, her paramour, Donovan (Matt Bomer) and his mother, Iris (Kathy Bates) who works at the hotel as a way of staying close to her son. Then there’s James March (Evan Peters), the man who built the hotel and uses it as his hunting ground, Hypodermic Sally (Sarah Paulson) a junkie ghost and Liz Taylor (Denis O’Hare), its transgender receptionist.
Meanwhile Detective, John Lowe’s (Wes Bentley) marriage to his wife, Alex (Chloe Sevigny) reaches breaking point following the disappearance of their son and he moves into the hotel while he investigates a series of murders.
Soon John is seeing strange things in the hotel, including what seems to be his unchanged son and all the occupants realise their existence is at risk when a fashion designer buys the hotel and threatens to remodel.
Hotel, is a bit of a mixed bag. There are bits that are brilliantly creepy and dark and the way John’s connection to the hotel unfolds is gripping. It has an added bonus of James March’s story and his dark hotel design being loosely based on the truth and the Halloween episode where March entertains a load of serial killers is horrifying in the best way. I loved the central theme of parent-child relationships and felt like it was well explored and once again Kathy Bates, kills it. For me Hotel is O’Hare’s show though. Liz Taylor is going to go down as one of my favourite TV characters of all time. She’s bitchy and evil but also extremely sympathetic and loveable.
On the other hand there are a lot of threads that are undeveloped and don’t really tie up, for example the addiction demon and The Countess’ son. Some of the performances are a bit patchy. Lady Gaga is either brilliant or awful and Matt Bomer gets a little bit too into overacting. For the first time I didn’t feel Sarah Paulson’s character and both Chloe Sevigny and Angela Bassett are underused.
I am still undecided on whether those who die on the hotel grounds being trapped there forever is a clever nod to the mythology of Murder House or if it’s just a bit unoriginal. I get the impression though that the seasons are tying up more and more with character cross-overs so there is no doubt that it’s intentional.
I loved parts of Hotel and rolled my eyes at others. I would still recommend it but it’s no Asylum.