Contains spoilers, obviously.
Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls. Gather up and listen carefully, for I’m about to tell you a story.
One night, Ryan Murphy sat down at his desk and thought to himself: 'Tis the time of the year again. I have to write a new season of American Horror Story. It needs to be better than Freak Show, which shouldn’t be too hard because oh boy, did I really mess up that one!'
At the same time, Brad Falchuk grabbed his pen, took out a stack of fresh A4 pages from one of the drawers, and placed them carefully on the kitchen table. He lit a Desperation at Midnight scented Yankee candle to set the mood and placed himself comfortably in a chair.
And there they were, both Murphy and Falchuk, ready to start writing. They looked absently into the distance and waited patiently for the muse to strike.
Clearly, it never did.
AHS is back and this time the story takes place in a hotel.
Much like with Freak Show, the theme has potential. But the thing with potential, boys and girls, is: it doesn't mean shit. See, I had potential once, my mama told me. And look at me now. I’m spending most of my time alone in my room, writing silly reviews on the internet.
The episode starts with a sub-plot that concentrates on two Swedish girls checking in to the hotel. It’s pretty much as exciting as it sounds, so I shall not evaluate. The only thing I got out of the first 10 minutes of the episode is that oysters, chicken livers, and kidneys have a lot of nutrients which, I admit, made me briefly consider running a healthy living blog.
With the incredibly dull storyline of the first hotel guests, we also get a glimpse at the new Kathy Bates reincarnation - the receptionist. From the very first moment it becomes evident that she basically plays the same character third season in a row. But hey, someone’s gotta, now that Jessica Lange is gone.*
*All hate mail including lengthy letters defending Lange as an actress should be addressed to my Myspace inbox.
The mediocre acting unfortunately doesn’t end there. Next in line, Max Greenfield. His character, who checks in to the hotel right after the Swedes, comes across as a mix between a puberty-ridden teenager from a ‘90s teen comedy, the ‘Ugh, whatever mom!’ look on his face included, and what I imagine Perez Hilton is like IRL. Here’s a rare picture of me reacting to Greenfield's appearance on AHS: Hotel.
And then, there’s Wes Bentley. Most likely the worst actor in the entire universe.
How do I know that? God told me. While watching the crime scene sequence, I rolled my eyes and said out loud: ‘Oh God, the guy who plays the cop is a TERRIBLE actor. It’s so sad to watch!’ And God quickly replied: ‘#Same’.
But don’t take my word for it. Here are some examples of Bentley’s ‘excellence':
Speaking of religion, Murphy and Falchuk desperately need Jesus in their life because they decided that that horribly graphic rape scene should be a thing. Especially that there was absolutely no need for a scene of this kind to take place at that particular moment in the plot. Or like, ever.
But the worst part, as Richard Lawson over at Vanity Fair nicely pointed out, is the fact that the scene comes off as slightly humorous and grotesque. Paulson, all dolled up and looking kind of rough at the same time, speaks softly to a walking (or rather laying) caricature of a gay male, played by an actor mainly known for his comedic parts and Veronica Mars. It is all so bizarre and surreal that you, as a viewer, have a hard time seeing all of this as a serious scene.
And once you find out that the rapist is 'The Addiction Demon who roams the hotel armed with a drill bit dildo,' you can’t possibly avoid snorting and rolling your eyes a little bit at this very inappropriate accidental SNL sketch.
That being said, it's still a freaking rape scene which makes this whole thing oh so problematic because rape should never be funny.
But if all that wasn’t enough, there is more (forced) intimacy for you to witness as the foursome scene makes for another moment of shame in this episode.
Let's not beat around the bush here. It was everything BUT sexy. Blame the camerawork, I say, but it really came out like a scene from a very badly executed porn film aimed at Wall Street bankers. You know the type - that American Psycho charmer with a ‘trust fund fuckboy' spark in his eye.
Which brings me to Lady Gaga, who in the first couple of minutes of her screen time makes it very obvious she’s a singer, not an actress. That being said, I suppose she does stand out in this sea of overall mediocrity and is basically running the show at this point. And it's both a bad and a good thing, depending on how closely you listen to her accent.
God, I miss Lily Rabe.
And finally, there’s Sarah Paulson. The only member of the original cast who somehow manages to pull off a different character each time around.
Everything was going well for her in this first instalment of the new season up until the very last few minutes of the episode and the very unfortunate 'shooting up’ scene. You can almost hear all the drug addicts of the world collectively groaning in the distance at how cringeworthy this line was:
Now, by a show of hands, who also has a problem telling Matt Bomer and Cheyenne Jackson apart and is deeply convinced that they are secretly the same person?
Thank you. The results will be published later this year in a scientific study entitled “All White Boys Look The Same: The End Of Modern Society”.
Here are some other things I noticed:
- If you’re making a show about a hotel, and especially if that hotel’s initials are 'HC', do not, I repeat DO NOT use ‘Hotel California’ as your soundtrack.
- Avoid at all cost layering the said song with a zoom out on the letters 'HC' when the chorus hits.
- Actually, maybe never use 'Hotel California' as your soundtrack if your show is about hotels in any way or form.
- Apparently if you film everything through a fish eye lens, include a lot of butt-facing tracking sequences, and throw in at least three ghastly dolly shots, a fax machine over at the Emmys headquarters prints out a piece of paper with “I’m super #edgy, please nominate me” written on it.
- The problem with green screen is that more often than not, it makes your show look like a student film with a production budget of $12.
And before you accuse me of being a negative, no-life individual (true) who just likes to hate on everything (also true), I shall say this: the set and costumes are pretty impressive. I love the Art Deco approach and the wooden inlay door are so far my favourite part of this season.
AHS: Hotel episode 01 scoresheet:
- Scary levels: +0.5
- Rape scene: -50
- Nice furniture: +11
- Wes Bentley: -20
- Chloë Sevigny comes back: +35
- Wes Bentley’s bad acting rubs off on her: -5
- Unnecessary Swedish screaming: -8
- Kathy Bathes' glasses: +14
What do these number mean? Who knows.
Follow me on Twitter @neyann.