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Review: American Horror Story Hotel: Devil’s Night

Halloween is upon us and AHS Hotel has brought us the best episode so far with Devil’s Night. Guest starring the wonderful Lily Rabe, this episode is part one of a two part Halloween special. It revolves around a yearly dinner hosted by Hotel Cortez’s resident serial killer/owner James Patrick March in which he invites the best killers in American history. We see the likes of Jeffrey Dahmer (Seth Gabel), John Wayne Gacy (John Carroll Lynch), Richard Ramirez (Anthony Ruivivar), the Zodiac Killer (who seems to prefer to remain unknown beyond the grave), and of course Aileen Wuornos (Rabe). Devil’s Night didn’t try to follow multiple storylines at ones but rather focused on two: the Devil’s Night reveries and The Countess’ deadly proposition to Alex Lowe (Chloë Sevigny). It was this focus that made this episode so much more enjoyable than the previous three; it’s this type of structure the show needs to keep up for the rest of the season.

Some of the most interesting characters of Hotel are the supportive roles. Dennis O’Hare as Liz Taylor and Mare Winningham as Hazel Evers are quite fascinating. While we don’t yet have a backstory for the fabulous Liz Taylor, we are treated to Evers’ tragic past. Her son is revealed to have been a victim of the Wineville Chicken Coop Murders in the mid-late 1920s; you might know this story better from the Angelina Jolie film Changeling, which is based on these events. Hazel herself has been an interesting background character. The loyal maid to James Patrick March and who is just as cruel as March himself despite not been actively involved in any of his murders. In this episode we realise her cruelty comes from anger and the need for revenge.

Alex and The Countess are both also seeing some important development. We know Alex loved her son Holden more than anything in the world (literally) but The Countess reveals she only takes children who are neglected or are bound for neglect. Alex contests this but this is a pointless argument as her son has already been turned into a vampire. So The Countess gives Alex the opportunity to join her son for eternity. This is a good development for a couple of reasons, not only does it give Alex drive and a purpose (other than a broken mother), it will also impact the dynamic between her and her husband. Also, it gives their daughter a very bleak future to look forward to. Last episode we saw Donovan turn his mother in an attempt to save her. At this rate half the cast will be vampires by the end.

While James Patrick March is still a bad, cartoony villain (can’t get over that accent), his at least seems to be making stuff happen. He has influence and charm and uses these to manipulate others like him. The dinner with the other serial killers was on the right side of comical. It wasn’t over the top gory, but rather it was a somewhat clever way to show us snippets of real life horror stories. And, as always, Lily Rabe was a much needed addition to the show. She has been a fan favourite since season one and it’s a shame she will only have a two-episode appearance but that’ll be enough.

Hopefully this marks a sign that AHS Hotel is beginning to get its act together. The show is in desperate need of focus and even if it, shall we say, ‘pays homage’ to other movies/shows before it, thoughtful direction can bring back the quintessential AHS atmosphere to the season.

 

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