Review: American Horror Story: Hotel – Chutes and Ladders

Well, it didn’t take long for Hotel to disappoint. The season 5 premier wasn’t particularly the strongest but it felt like it may have been returning to its roots, to what made Murder House good. But if Chutes and Ladders showed us anything, it’s that the show will probably be unremarkable. Maybe it’s just that after five seasons we know what to expect and we know the format of the show. There aren’t any surprises anymore. Or maybe it’s just lazy story telling. If this season relies on rape and drugs as a main source of horror then we’ve reached the peak back in episode one.

In this episode, we follow a number of currently disjointed storylines, which may remain that way throughout. We begin with a fashion show where The Countess (Gaga) finds a new boy toy (Finn Wittrock) and turns him into a vampire. This of course means Donovan (Bomer) has been cast aside. From the looks of it, it seems like this will become a standard vampire story (think Interview with the Vampire).

At the end of the day Gaga just isn’t a worthy replacement for Jessica Lange. She is not particularly bad in the role, especially since TV isn’t her medium of choice, yet she isn’t really adding much. No doubt there’ll be a scene in the future where Gaga serenades the cast so we have that to look forward to.

Then we have our police story, which seems to be “inspired” by Se7en, except the killer is using the Ten Commandments instead of the Seven Deadly Sins. Its companion storyline (i.e. the detective’s family drama) is basically a creepy child plot device designed to add a sense of humanity to the character. But in reality it’s a plot point that will most likely leave us unsatisfied.

Lastly, we are introduced to Evan Peters’ new character James March, the 1920s builder and owner of Hotel Cortez with a hugely sadistic side. The role may be a challenge for Peters because it’s very different to all the others. It’s over the top but played a little too seriously to be intentional bad; his accent leaves much to be desired. This could be as bad or worse than his character in Coven.

It was a comparatively slow second episode with the horror relegated to a couple of jump scares or run of the mill gore. There was a lot missing from this episode. Honestly, it felt like a bunch of storylines have been taken from movies and TV and dumped into an hour and ten minute episode. Even Coven managed to maintain the AHS atmosphere we’ve grown to love. Yet here it was absent. It’s still too early to tell whether it will continue in this vein (a very real possibility) or whether it will pick up.

The cast also doesn’t seem to be pulling their weight, at least not to the level of previous seasons. It may be an error to compare this season with past ones, but seeing as though a recurring cast is part of the show’s main features it’s something we can’t overlook. The hope that this season will be one of the better ones is unfortunately rapidly diminishing.

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