ByEJ Moreno, writer at
Creature. Filmmaker. Asshole. I make fun movies!
EJ Moreno

Watching American Horror Story is somewhat of a chore for casual fans. The hardcore lovers of horror seem to understand it but what about those who are just in it for the ride? Well I have the 5 biggest things you need to know when it comes to exploring the Hotel Cortez.

5. Cult Horror Films

Never shy from making reference to great horror work from the past, Ryan Murphy is becoming the new king of “homage”.

This new season of American Horror Story seems to back that claim.
The list of films that AHS Hotel makes not so subtle nods to is endless.

Starting with the obvious, Hotel seems to have massive inspiration from 80’s horror hits The Hunger & The Shining. The Hunger stars Catherine Deneuve & David Bowie as glamorous youth obsessed vampires feeding on the nightlife. Reminds me of how fashion driven & maniacal The Countess & her lovers Donovan & Tristan are.

It almost seems like if 1980’s The Shining was never released, AHS Hotel would have no muse. Our beloved Hotel Cortez shares many traits to The Shining’s Overlook Hotel; from the elaborate carpet patterns to a bartender driving an recovering alcoholic to drink & kill, there is so many hints to the 80’s horror film.

One of my personal favorite moments of the show was the introduction to The Countess in the premiere. Gaga strolls to the park to watch a movie and find a mate, the movie screening at the park? 1922’s silent film Nosferatu.
The vampire creature creeps down the hallway in the silent film while The Countess and her lover seduce a couple in the park and later feast on their blood during sex. Not exactly like Nosferatu but what a remarkable use of the film.

4. True Crime

Sometimes real life can be the scariest thing.

AHS Hotel uses infamous moments of murder and mayhem from the past to their advantage when it comes to plot & character. Even an entire episode this season was dedicated to great American killers who somehow found their way to the Hotel Cortez. That episode featured killer clown John Wayne Gacy, Florida’s Aileen Wuornos, the California creeper Richard Ramirez, and good ol’ boy Jeffery Dahmer.

Lady Gaga’s Countess character is heavily based on Elizabeth Báthory, the vicious murderess that bathed and feasted on blood in the late 1500’s. Dubbed a female Vlad The Impaler, Elizabeth Báthory said the blood made her feel healthy and young…much like our beloved vampire queen The Countess.

Let’s not forget fan favorite Evan Peters who takes on the role of Mr. James March, the original owner and creator of the Hotel Cortez. The character of March is obvious a reference to “America’s First Serial Killer”, H. H. Holmes. In 1893, Holmes built a hotel in Chicago that was designed to attract possible victims for his growing blood lust. Mr. March seemed to enjoy that idea and has built his own hotel of horror in California!

3. Gay Culture

A controversial pick for this list but there is something about American Horror Story: Hotel that screams “GAY!”

Maybe it’s the fact fashion model turned vampire Tristan used an app eerily similar to gay hook up app “Grindr” to attract a candidate to kill or maybe it’s the sexual fluidity of almost every character in the show.

Here’s a little gay recap to sum up my point:
New Hotel Cortez owner Will Drake is gay but in love with The Countess. He likes to have model Tristan in their bedroom time. Tristan is straight and in love with Liz Taylor, who may or may not be a transgender woman. The Countess has an ex lover named Donovan who teamed up with another ex lover named Ramona Royale, an actress seeking revenge. Add in some dead bisexual Swedish girls & the fact that the lead actress is gay icon Lady Gaga and you can see why I think it’s a melting pot of sexual freedom.

Ryan Murphy has given anyone in the LGBT community a chance to see their culture infiltrate American households each week. Something like this rarely comes around and come on, who doesn’t love a little glamour with your gore?

2. Pop Music

Sometimes a great soundtrack is just as important as an amazing score. Great directors like Quentin Tarantino, Martin Scorsese, John Waters, and Paul Thomas Anderson love using music that is catchy during their impactful scenes. This is something the team at American Horror Story also does very well. When the music begins to engulf the scene, it really begins to feel like a music video. Each episode features at least one massively recognizable song to accent a must see moment.

When The Countess & her lover Donovan are wrapped up in a bisexual bloody orgy, the raunchy song “Tear You Apart” is the murder score. The promotional video for the season had German Metal band Rammstein singing their wicked tune “Du Hast”. These are perfect songs for the perfect moment.

This season also feels like lyrics from The Eagles classic “Hotel California”, a song they even featured in the first episode to drive home the point. With guest who check in but can never check out, both Hotel’s are centered around man who enters a hotel in California and meet strange characters that whisk them away in a surreal and terrifying journey. Like The Shining, you can’t create a project about hotels and not be inspired by “Hotel California”.

1. Past Seasons of American Horror Story

While each season of Horror Story may be a different plot with (sometimes) different characters, the series seems to weave together little references to other moments in past seasons. Hotel is no different; even going as far to have the realtor for the Hotel Cortez also be the same realtor who sold the Harmon’s Murder House all the way back in season 1.
Someone should really take her license to sell property.

The Murder House realtor isn’t the only connection to Season 1. Recently, Lady Gaga’s The Countess visited Charles Montgomery, the twisted abortion doctor who originally owned Murder House. Going back inside Murder House was a bit surreal as the gap between each of the seasons is closing.

Will this be a chance to fit a surprise cameo in from Jessica Lange as she could easily pop up as one of her many infamous characters? I could see her third season character Fiona Goode having a wicked good time in one of the haunted rooms at the Hotel Cortez.


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