October is the bearer of many gifts—fall weather, cheap vampire costumes, pumpkin spice lattes, and, best of all, brand-new seasons of FX’s horror anthology, American Horror Story. This season, subtitled Hotel, checks us into the palatial Hotel Cortez.
But unless you’re into sharing a room with grotesque naked people who like to pop out of dirty mattress, you might want to find a motel.
This season the anthology series has gone back to its West coast roots, shooting in California for the first time since season two in 2012, Asylum. With a new setting and fresh characters every season, show creators Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk have consistently taken AHS to darker places with more sinister themes in each wave: the first self-titled season was set in the haunted Murder House; Asylum in a mental institution; Coven in a school for young witches; and Freak Show in one of the last carnivals in the 1950s, becoming the only season to incorporate characters from previous cycles.
One of the biggest challenges for the show to date has been the question of whether or not it could keep upping the ante each year. After all, how much more sex, violence, gore and all-out chaos can one show bring to the table season after season and still shock audiences? A lot apparently, if Hotel’s premiere “Checking In” has anything to say. And much of it happens when Lady Gaga’s Countess Elizabeth is in the room.
During the premiere, a domino effect is started when Detective John Lowe (Wes Bentley) receives an anonymous tip from a potential serial killer that points him to Hotel Cortez, a grand establishment with early 1900s architecture and furnishings. Before the end of the night, Lowe, whose son had been abducted several years earlier, finds himself checking in to room 64. Luckily, the mysterious appearance of his son is there to welcome him.
What’s quickly apparent is that Hotel Cortez hides more sinister fiends than the murderer who mutilated a man, removing his eyes and tongue before gluing his pelvis to his dead girlfriend.
The show has always tried to recast some of the same people, and so far veterans like Sarah Paulson and Kathy Bates are once again at the forefront of the madness. The duo, junkie live-in “Hypodermic Sally” (Paulson) and front desk receptionist Iris (Bates), have been warring ever since Sally brought Iris’ son Donovan (Matt Bomer) there to shoot up, after which Iris pushed Sally out of a window to her death.
This being AHS, we’re not even going to ask what Sally’s still doing lurking around the hotel, making a strange creature with a knife-like phallus rape an unsuspecting tweaker, only to kill him moments later through unseen means.
If that were the only “what did I just watch?” scene of the night, it would still be an awesome premiere.
And then Murphy and Falchuk unleash their sexy weapons of destruction: the vampiric couple, Donovan and Elizabeth. Soon, a casual—OK, maybe not casual—night out at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery leads to eye-sex with an adjacent couple, resulting in a pasty-clad Countess and an air-clad Donovan having a foursome; a tryst that ends with their mouths and bed full of their victim’s blood.
“It’s not the getting ready. It’s the cleanup,” said Donovan, rocking some serious guyliner and verbalizing a sad truth for all relationships. Nevertheless, this succubus/incubus pair will easily be the most interesting ones to watch in upcoming episodes.
Hotel might scar you for life and make you never want to step foot into a rentable room again. That being said, what’s a little more terror for the price of an hour-and-a-half of sheer awesomeness?
American Horror Story: Hotel airs Wednesday nights at 10/9c on FX.
To contact Lifestyles editor Rhiannon Gilbert email firstname.lastname@example.org.