TV Series Review: American Horror Story – Hotel

“How do you know all this?”
“I googled you. “
” That sounds obscene!”

American Horror Story (often abbreviated AHS) is an American anthology horror television series created and produced by Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk (Scream Queens). Hotel being the fifth season seems a strange place to start reviewing but it’s the most recent and so fresh in my mind, so why not start here.

The fifth season of American Horror Story focuses on the Downtown Los Angeles Hotel Cortez, The 90 year old hotel is haunted by demons and mysterious ghosts. The present and past stories of the Hotel are interwoven with the present tale of Detective John Lowe (Wes Bentley), who is first drawn to the hotel by a series of murders committed by a serial killer the victims of whom each exemplify a sin in violation of one of the Ten Commandments.


The 90 year old hotel has been recently purchased by New York fashion designer Will Drake (Cheyenne Jackson) and his son. Due to the founder of the hotel, James Patrick March (Evan Peters), Will Drake comes up against some trouble when trying to redesign the hotel. It seems that the original owner was one of America’s first serial killers and had designed the hotel to have many elaborate traps to kill and torture unsuspecting victims (based on the real life H. H. Holmes), from hallways with false doors to a laundry chute used for his victims’ corpses.


In an attempt to promote The Cortez, Will Drake hosts a fashion show in the hotel’s lobby. During this event, we see the ethereal, mysterious long-term resident and previous owner, The Countess (Lady Gaga). One of the models, Tristan (Finn Wittrock), catches her eye when he goes rogue on stage and – much to the jealousy of her current beau, Donovan (Matt Bomer) – she introduces him to her world: a world of immortality, vampirism and sex.


The rest of the series follows these characters and many others that are later introduced.
After the last series (Freakshow) being one of the worst, I was very pleasantly surprised by Hotel. This season had a wealth of likeable characters, with perfect backstories that I thoroughly enjoyed. For example Liz Taylor’s backstory in which we learn about the becoming of her true self is empowering to watch.


The series has its fair share of horrific and bloody moments, mainly involving vampirism or ghost on human murders, but seeing as it’s American Horror Story it focuses way too much on sex. I believe many of the sex scenes and some of the unnecessarily distressing scenes (the notorious rape scene) are just there for the shock factor and it focuses on that way too heavily. Unfortunately each season depends on using these scenes and as a result the audience has come to expect to see it every time.


One criticism I have is that I felt Lady Gaga stole a lot of praise (and even won an award) when I feel there were many other actors that deserved recognition much more. I understand it was her debut role and she was outstanding as The Countess, however I rated quite a few other characters/actors higher than her.

Firstly, James Patrick March (Evan Peters), he added some much needed humour into the show. After watching him in every season so far of AHS, he’s always been cast as a young heartthrob but he completely surprised me. His new role was refreshing and he was incredible. Playing both the comedian and the villain in my eyes, it was hard to hate him even though he was a true monster.


Secondly, Liz Taylor (Denis O’Hare), I mentioned before that her backstory was empowering, but likewise her entire persona is too. She’s bold, with scathing comebacks and witty remarks respectively. Her confidence in being her true self is invigorating, along with her empathy for each resident at the hotel. I truly got attached to her and if it was at all possible, I’d love to see more.


Other notable mentions are Iris (Kathy Bates), Sally (Sarah Paulson) and later in the season some very infamous serial killers are introduced and the actors really captured the demons they were playing – I was especially impressed especially with Lily Rabe’s character.


Overall, this was definitely my second favourite after the original season. Just as I mentioned previously, I was pleasantly surprised that Hotel was a big improvement on Freakshow. For the first time, I didn’t want an AHS series to end and to have to say goodbye.

The characters were what sold me on this season, I enjoyed them all, and it had two of my top interests; vampires and serial killers. Although Lady Gaga stole the spotlight from others, she definitely doesn’t drag the show down at all and is perfect as The Countess so don’t be put off and miss out on a visit to The Cortez.



  • Sally Powell

    Editor/Writer - Stay at home mum educating the horror minds of tomorrow. If it's got vampires or Nicolas Cage in it, I'm sold. Found cleaning bums or kicking ass in an RPG. (And occasionally here reviewing all things horror and gaming related!)

American Horror Story – Hotel
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