Welcome back AHS fans!
We have finally reached premiere day after months of anticipation and we're ready to check into the Hotel Cortez! The first episode of the series is one of the best premieres for AHS and leaves me feeling that this is in the running to be one of the best seasons in the franchise - but before I rant about my adoration for the episode, let’s go back to the beginning. The premiere begins during present day with two Swedish young women arriving to LA with hopes of sightseeing and obtaining a Hollywood experience. When they walk in to the Art Deco style hotel lobby with crimson reds and deep golds, they find Iris the front desk employee (Kathy Bates). They realize there is a slight distance between their desired locations, but a not so friendly Iris informs them there are no refunds, so the girls will at least be staying one night... They wander the dim hallways that appear endless (and filled with children reminiscent of the Shining) until they find their room. The young women can't figure out where a less than pleasant odor is permeating from until finally their noses guide them to the mattress. They strip the bed and see stitching across the center of the bed and one of the girls decides to cut it open, which results in a terrifying disfigured person jumping out from its captive location and letting out a truly creepy shriek through it's rotted and razor sharp teeth.
The two tourists are next seen in the elevator with Iris in utter shock, but she convinces them to wait in room 64 until the police arrive for their statements. Before Iris leaves them, she informs the two that the room isn't usually available to guests - that's not a promising statement after such a horrific first experience. One of the girls wakes up to the radio turning on at 2:25 and realizes her friend isn't in the room with her. When she opens the door to the bathroom, she sees the two corpse-like children from the hallway drinking her blood and the girl rightfully screams in terror.
Detective John Lowe (Wes Bentley) is introduced while surveying a truly horrible crime scene with a man and woman in a compromising situation. The man’s eyes and tongue were removed and left in an ashtray, with the deceased woman straddling him (super glue was involved...) They realize the man was having an affair with the deceased, and pictures of his wife are scattered around them with their eyes scratched out of each photo. He returns to the station that evening and reviews other open cases that include a deceased man brutally murdered and sexually assaulted with no weapon found on the scene. He's cut short with a sweeter scene when his daughter face times him to fulfill their routine of reading together before she sleeps. When he is preparing to leave, he received a call from a muddled voice claiming responsibility for the murder earlier and he's going to repeat the process in room 64 at the Cortez.
At the hotel, a new guest awaits Iris in the lobby who is a druggie/socialite Gabriel (Max Greenfield) seeking a room. He instantly shows addict tendencies that quickly surface and he's clearly looking for a room to shoot-up. Iris appears disgusted and tells him she's feeling kind enough to give him room 64. I'm quickly learning that's that place you don't want to end up! A scraggly looking Sarah Paulson tells Iris she'll be claiming the new guest - ominous right? Gabriel shoots up and in his mental fog, notices the housekeeper in his room informing him she can remove any stain (including blood) and a faceless figure with a pale figure creeps out of the shadows. The creature attacks Gabriel and begins to sexually assault him with a drill bit dildo attached to its pelvic area. This is possibly the most disturbing scene in all five seasons of AHS and Greenfield was quickly introduced to the darkness that is AHS. Hypodermic Sally wanders in to his room and leans against the bed with Gabriel still screaming in agony. She tells him that it will all end if she just tells her he loves her. He complies and the creature seemingly vanishes before he dies in front of the mysterious Sally. (Her additional addiction is clearly love) While this was all taking place, John arrived to the hotel and made his way up to the room after the threatening phone call. When he walks through the door there is no evidence of the attack moments ago and nobody in the room... Except for the body of one of the girls from earlier who gasps, but that goes unnoticed because John made the of mistake (unless it's an outside influence) of laying on the bed an passing out. When he opens his eyes, it's once again the recurring time of 2:25 with the radio playing. He sees one of the children in the hotel run out of the room and he calls him by his name, Holden (more back story soon enough). John chases him down the hall in a panic but he disappears into the multiple maze like areas of the hotel.
Prepare yourselves because the next scene is something we've all been eagerly anticipating: the introduction of the Countess (Lady Gaga)! Through evasive and silent shots we see her turn a record on, apply her ruby red lipstick, put on an elaborate wardrobe with her apparent lover Donovan (played by Matt Bomer), and do a few lines of cocaine to start out her evening. The two make their way to a late night showing of the classic vampire film Nosferatu, and notice a couple who they begin to seduce. Gaga gives her best sensual vibes with a major nod to a sense of danger. The pair is enamored and follows them back to the Cortez, taking them back to their suite for a steamy foursome. Gaga makes her separate entrance to the scene with glittery pasties and covered in jewels before they all begin to conduct TVs darkest (and hottest!) partner swap. Donovan and the Countess share a look that cues them both in - and it's time to get savage. They use their gloves with a sharp blade on the finger tip to slice their throats open, and begin to feed from the wounds like animals. The two then lie on their blood soaked bed sharing a cigarette with our Countess quietly mentioning to call housekeeping. I love this twisted hotel already, but I would stay on the Countesses good side at all costs.
John arrives to his home for a lukewarm conversation with his wife that shows us the two are strained, but hanging by a thread for now. Iris enters a dark room and begins to prepare a healthy concoction she plans to force feed the tourists from earlier, who are trapped in an odd shaped cage with lights surrounding it. Sally also enters and takes over the responsibility for Iris after accusing her of having no sympathy. Sally appears to have her own agenda and releases one girl, telling her to run (and she totally ditches her friend). The girl makes it all the way to the door, and is stopped by the vampiric Countess who slits her throat with her glove (and an ensemble that’s on point) telling Iris this cannot happen again. Detective Lowe takes his daughter out for dinner, and she begins to shed light on their back-story by explaining she can't remember someone's face unless it's in a dream (they also had a son). John becomes frozen in time and ignores her request to hang up photos of him once again. He snaps back to reality when he receives a text message from his wife that provides an address and a plea for help. They rush to the address where the police also arrive and the house alarm sounds. The detective enters armed with his gun, and leaves his daughter in the car with an officer (who gets distracted by a rustling noise). The killer takes the chance to call john and remind him of his promise to kill again. John sees a creepy and shadowy figure in the darkness wearing a trench coat and hat before running away. He tries to pursue the figure until he hears his daughters scream from discovering two men strung up and gutted. This poor little girl has something new to dream about apparently...
A flashback sequence takes us to a Sunny Santa Monica in 2010 with John and his family. He lets his so ride the carousel and gets distracted by a text message conversation with an unknown person, but he appears smitten, so first guess is he's a cheater. When he turns back around, his son Holden is missing. Back in present day, John explains the situation to his wife and she breaks down in fear for their safety. She also admits that she doesn't hold him responsible for the new incident or the past, but because of his resemblance of their missing son she can't stomach to even look at him. Ouch, that's a sad situation on all parts. A familiar face (Marcy the realtor from Murder House) introduces the Cortez to a new future owner of the building (she also states the Harmon's family dog has since passed, RIP.) Will Drake (Cheyenne Jackson) is the new buyer and takes him and his son on a tour of the building, with Iris feeling concerned and irate for their uncertain future at the Cortez. They enter one suite and stumble across a nude Donovan (no complaints) who is confused by what's going on and he rushes to the Countess to warn her. Will and the others soon follow into the room and she introduces herself while turning her seduction methods back on and complimenting his contributions to fashion. Will feels like the building has a lively energy that he desires, and decides that it's the place/investment for him. When Will goes to finish his tour, his son stays to look through the countesses records - but she takes him on a slight detour. She tries to befriend the child and shows him a secret room after stating they'll be great friends. The room is stark white, has massive video game monitors, and candy dispensers (I think that’s what it was?) All of the children shown earlier are present, and they all have a - well dead look to them. She walks around the corner and introduces Will's son to Holden, yes the son of Detective Lowe! Unfortunately for Holden, he's not looking too lively at the moment.
Donovan later returns to the hotel and is met by Iris (who we learn is actually Donovan's mother)! We're then shown a scene from 1994 of Iris watching her son enter the Hotel Cortez with Hypodermic Sally, and she follows hoping to stop him from using with her. Liz Taylor, not the real Liz of course, (Dennis O’Hare) is posted at the front desk and requires a little cash for information. While she tries to negotiate, Donovan manages to overdose (after sharing needles with Sally) and Iris discovers her son’s body with a heartless Sally walking out on the grieving mother. She stops to stare out a window while still tweaking, and Iris shoves the troubled addict out the window and lets her fall to her death. “Hotel California” begins to play with the (possible) reveal that these are all souls trapped in the hotel, and Iris returns to the room where the countess is draped over her son, "your boy has a jawline for days" she says while sliding her finger across the prominent feature. Now we get to speculate on what possible deal/arrangement could have been made involving Iris. Back to present day, John finds himself leaving his home after the tension with his family, and the unanswered mystery of the Cortez. He takes himself back to the historic hotel and checks out a room as his new residency - and it's none other than room 64. That concludes the first episode of American Horror Story Hotel and I'm instantly addicted (like the eclectic characters). This was one of the best opening episodes of the series, and I can't wait to see what trouble the Hotel Cortez has prepared for its guests.
Overall Grade: With many horror series appearing on TV today, AHS Hotel brings true horror to television like a weekly film. That solidifies the premiere deserves an ‘A’
Aedan's Final Thoughts:
-Lady Gaga enters the world of American Horror Story without a hitch. Her seductive and sensual demeanor in combination with her deadly character makes a fascinating character to discover. Congratulations on such a tremendously entertaining premiere Gaga!
-Sarah Paulson plays a character unlike anything she's done before, and her cold, drug-addicted character Sally flourishes because of the talented actress.
-I've been awaiting a hotel horror series in this capacity since my early days as a horror buff (because of all the potential horrors!) and Ryan Murphy made sure there was a major payout. Much appreciated Mr. Murphy!
- The foursome scene that turns into a bloodbath was one if the most memorable scenes, the chemistry between the countess and Donovan is more than evident.
- I think I can speak for everyone when I say we'll be a little extra cautious when it comes to hotel beds...
-Every character has individually interesting stories and I'm excited to discover what will occur over the course of the horror series.
-Ryan Murphy has two quality programs on television right now, he's yet again proving how strong of a showrunner he is.