When I first started recommending the kind-of-horror anthology to friends, I described it as sometimes being the best, sometimes being the worst, and sometimes even being both at once. I adore the high camp value of all that is a Ryan Murphy production.
The over the top, tongue in cheek, brazen, and yes even the maudlin; his productions are loaded with nostalgia and cheese and self aware scene chewing.
“American Horror Story” is never one to back down, unless the challenge is to give us a cohesive story, believable characters, or nuanced acting. In its fifth season opener, AHS really took the cake with a scene almost universally reviled for its in your face, trite shock value.
If you saw the episode, surely you know what I speak of because anyone I’ve spoken to about the episode jumps right to the awfulness of this scene.
In the first half of the episode we see a bleach blond Max Greenfield from “New Girl” sassing about the hotel (I don’t think I’ve seen him this swishy since “Ugly Betty”), and we wonder what’s going to befall his character after he checks into a room where one of our main characters, detective Lowe (played by Wes Bentley), has been told a murder would occur.
After Greenfield shoots up, we see a pale naked body appear behind him with the face grotesquely obscured by its own flesh.
Oh shit! He’s about to kill Schmidt!
When Greenfield sees the monstrosity, it flips him on the bed, lowers his pants and starts violently raping him with what resembles to be a pyramid shaped drill bit where its penis should be.
We get closeups of him screaming in pain, close ups of Greenfield’s (or a double’s) ass cheeks being pounded repeatedly by the bit, and then if this weren’t looking bad enough, in comes Sarah Paulson’s character, Sally, to make the whole scene even more confusing and hollow with cooing whispers, telling him to tell her he loves her until the life leaves his eyes.
We are left clueless as to what the hell is going on, but not in the good mysterious way that makes you wonder what they’re up to, but rather “why am I watching this? Because I’m pretty sure this rape scene was at least three minutes and seemingly has no point because there was no payoff either immediately or in the episode.”
I dare compare this to the infamous cult classic “I Spit on Your Grave,”(1978) where we see the longest rape scene in movie history. We’re subjected to seeing the main character repeatedly raped by several men along with changing sceneries in schlocky b-horror movie quality; a lot could have been cut out.
Another infamously long rape scene occurs in Gaspar Noe’s “Irreversible,” where a woman is brutally raped in a city tunnel. The difference between that and the other two, is that it is played for dramatic impact, to understand the character’s suffering, which led to her eventual death, which happened earlier in the movie as the story is told in backwards chronological order.
Not only that, but at the very end, we see more revelations that add onto the tragedy, as if rape really needs more context to be horrific.
In Horror Story, it was shallow shock value. I don’t know if these people matter, I don’t really care about them, all I see is a strange drug addict being maliciously raped to death. Why?
I’m not even certain the monster’s preferred method of killing is rape; for all of our sakes, I hope not.
The whole episode was a bit of a narrative mess, as should be expected from AHS by now, unless Jessica Lange’s scene chomping distracted you.
There are story lines sprouting out of nowhere with vague implications and no one to root for. At least before we had concrete main characters, here as of episode one here, it’s anyone’s guess.
Thank god we don’t have to be bogged down by another teen romance as an anchor though.
Not all was terribad in the premiere.
Lady Gaga’s introductory scene may be one of my favorite scenes in all of AHS.
It plays as a remix of a music video to alt rock band She Wants Revenge’s early 2000s hit “Tear You Apart.”
Gaga and Matt Bomer glam it up while prowling for a couple at a cemetery movie screening, leading them back to the hotel and finishing in a blood soaked four-way.
The actor who was the unsuspecting victim had a fantastic initial death face with blood perfectly splattered over his eye (too bad editing messed up continuity with the rest of the scene). This is what this season of AHS should be!
Even if it was predictable, it was still a gas to revel in its decadent over the top theatricality.
Other highlights included AHS vet and staple Dennis O’Hare (one of the few who’s been in each season) disappearing into the role of Liz Taylor, whom I do not yet know whether to refer to as a trans woman or transvestite, though I’m sure we’ll find out soon.
Kathy Bates got a nice backstory, killing Sally and finding Gaga looming over her dead son (Bomer), “Your boy has a jawline for days.”
Truer words, Gaga. Truer words.
The final scene probably gave the most hope, having our protagonist (?) Wes Bentley check into the Hotel Cortez as The Eagles’ “Hotel California” plays over the scene.
Other uses of the song have felt too on the nose, but somehow, here within the glorious mess that is “American Horror Story: Hotel,” it seems to fit perfectly.
The tune, actually describing a pit stop to hell among the landscape of purgatory, lends the episode more cohesion than any of the seemingly random hodgepodge in the rest of the episode.
This detective seems to have a one way ticket to purgatory and in searching for his lost son, whom Gaga’s Countess has transformed into some sort of vampiric “Village of the Damned” minion who survives on a cocktail of blood and sugar and video games (much like most gamers), he will never be able to leave.