Friday, October 16, 2015

American Horror Story Season 5 (Hotel), Episode 2: Chutes and Ladders

Sally wraps up someone in her mattress (I think it was the guy who was brutally raped last episode) she’s tearful and talks about him trying tio “cheat death”, probably another unsubtle reference to drug use.

Our remaining tourist is still imprisoned – screaming for help while the three vampy kids feed on her and kill her – her body now becomes Liz, Iris and the creepy Maid’s (who remains kind of creepily awesome) job to clean up. Thety have a fair collection of rotting bodies in the basement.

The 4 creepy kiddies then donate blood which is decanted and served to the countess by iris who is still desperate to see her son, Donovan – he’s avoiding her because he finds her pretty smothering. He’s also not in the mood to go out for hunting and art either, preferring a Netflix binge (I have days like that, you just want to spend some quality time with your sofa and TV and not even the promise of random mass murder can stir you). He also makes a side remark about lack of money so it looks like the Countess isn’t that flush

The countess isn’t a home body and goes out alone

Dr. Alex Lowe continues to be my hero, calling out and slapping down anti-vax parents putting kids’ lives at risk for no good reason. Someone get this lady a cheerleading squad.

Her husband, Detective John, is staying at the murder hotel for reasons that escape anyone with two brain cells to rub together (it must be awfully cheap) and even stays when he hallucinates/dreams the drill rapist in the ceiling and two zombies having sex in his bathroom

Then he gets the creepy kids playing in the halls and vanishing again. Ok, drill-penises on the ceiling, maybe, zombie fucking in the bathroom – well it may be a cheap hotel. But creepy blond kids? Why would you not check out right then and there?!

Sally and Liz offer him a drink while Sally tells him, surprisingly, that the hotel is a very very scary place.  They talk and they talk about John being ex-alcoholic (and the last time he had a drink when a tragic police case drove him to a binge and how he connects that to losing his son) and she talk about how she became and addict in quite poignant terms.

Off to work the next day with more hints about the serial killer John is chasing and a scary package –not a bomb as first suspected but what looks like an award statue with blood. Extra creepy.

He then goes home to find Will Drake, the new owner of the building holding a fashion show (along with a lady called Claudia from Vogue magazine) and invites John and Scarlet to the party (with his son Lachlan). He hasn’t invited Sally, much to her outrage since she lives there. Countess and Donovan also join the party – and the Countess quickly notices John

One of the models is a guy called Tristan who snorts some drugs before going out. He decides to play with the crowd, kissing one woman and starting a fight with a man when he tries to kiss him. He is briefly transfixed by the Countess and she is quite taken with him, saying he’s “full of rage”. Tristan’s boss is also not amused – less so when he deliberately cuts his face, saying he’s “done with modelling”

I’m watching all this and all I can think is “who is going to clean up all them damn feathers?!” You’re going to be finding the damn things scattered around for days! It’ll be worse than a shedding Christmas tree.

Tristan goes from cutting his face to breaking into Donovan’s room searching for more drugs and Donovan decides to eat him (showing incredibly hypocritical disdain for “junkies”) – the Countess stops him and Tristan flees to the lift – oh the lift, never ever take a lift when in a creepy creepy place

It dumps him in the creepy halls with food that turns magically rotten, doors opening and closing and strange noises and other staples of creepiness. He ends up in the room of a Mr. James March who decides to tell this random guy in his suite that he has something far better than cocaine. That would be murdering a kidnapped prostitute – Tristan refuses so James kills her himself and calmly has the maid clean the linens. He also pulls off his cravat revealing a rather nasty neck wound.

Tristan goes running again and ends up in the hands of the Countess and becomes a new pretty vampire and she runs through some details of what vampires (a virus, she refers to it) are before they have sex. And they don’t bite – they cut (no fangs for these vampires). Silver and stakes are bad, they can’t drink from the dead and not the “diseased, feeble or polluted”, sunlight isn’t lethal but weakens them.

More history – she was born in 1904 and she talks and flashbacks to her preferred eras. Apparently including the 1970s (aie, a century of history and you chose the 70s?! Vampires are evil or really do feel the need to angstily punish themselves). Donovan shows up and is, of course, super jealous. Donovan tries to degrade Tristan but the Countess points out his origins were less than salubrious – and that their relationship is pretty much ending. She has a morbid little speech about heartbreak to go with kicking him out. He makes one last please but she’s fully replaced him.

While they’re partying Lachlan leads Scarlet away from the show to where the 4 vampire kids are kept in the basement in glass coffins. Yeah don’t disturb sleeping vampires, especially creepy kiddy ones. Just burn them. Honestly far more of these shows would be much more sensible if they would just kill things with fire when I say. But, of course, Scarlett recognises one of the boys as Holden, her brother

She comes back another day to find the coffins empty, she finds the hidden play room and sees her brother who recognises her – but hasn’t aged since the day he disappeared. He also doesn’t want to go home. She takes a picture and he tries to bite her – she runs and is grabbed by Sally who decides to spew broken teeth all over. For… reasons?

Scarlett runs home to where her parents are losing their ever loving mind over her being missing (since they already lost one child). She tries to convince them that Holden is still alive and that just calls lots of rage and guilt. The picture on her phone just shows a blur.

John goes to the hotel and arrests Iris who responds with innuendo before getting down to business pointing out how ridiculous it is to arrest her and agree to tell him everything. For a drink anyway. Much more civilised – though he refuses the drink. He asks about the hotel and she gives him the full history of the hotel – from it being built by James March, our evil sex-worker killer.

This comes with a flashback as well, to 1925 and his pretty bizarre plans and murdering people for funsies – which is what the whole hotel was designed for, easy ways to trap, hunt, kill people and dispose of the bodies. His wife helped him with the killing and equally enjoyed it. It looks like his wife was the Countess. The maid, Miss Evers, was also around back then, joyfully cleaning up the stains for him.

Despite the clean up he also had some brutal public murders along with his hatred of religion which got him exposed and caught (possibly betrayed by his wife). Which led to him and Miss Evers having a murder suicide. They’re very civilised about it (this may be the best scene of the entire show).

Room 64 was James’s office but of course John doesn’t believe any of it.

He does take the research back to his work on the serial killer – he thinks they have a serial killer possibly imitating his 10-commandment-based serial killing.

Back to Tristan browsing through Grindr and inviting a guy round for sex only springing The Countess on him before they can get down to anything and they murder and eat him. Tristan decides to take the time mid-murder to assure the Countess he isn’t gay

Yes, mid-brutal murder we had to have a “No Homo” moment. Really?

I say again that American Horror Story is excellent with its stunning visuals, beautiful scenes (and people) and even pairing the music really well with them. No-one can ever deny that it is a beautiful show and beautiful to watch and truly excellent at atmosphere… but sometimes I feel it spends so much time on that that it doesn’t really know what else to do. Like they have this wonderful picture in their head – and it is a great picture – but they then flail to put a story around that picture. And I sometimes wonder if it’s actually possible for these camera men to point a camera at a running person without moving it around like they’re on a small boat in a hurricane.

Other than the addiction theme, there just doesn’t seem to be a coherent focus. We have vampires and lots of people addicted to everything and a fashion show and random ant-vax rants and a serial killer who plays with mobile phones and now a guy randomly killing prostitutes (and can we get past sex-workers being used as disposable, nameless cannon fodder? You could have replaced that victim with anyone and had the same message of James’s depravity. Equally with the gratuitous rape in the flashback – he is murdering everyone left right and centre, there’s absolutely no need to throw in rape as well). And the guy is immortal or a ghost or reborn along with the happy sheet washer?

They’re definitely hitting the addiction theme hard this season – and not even slightly subtly. Donovan using addiction to escape his mother, Sally who seems almost entirely to be defined by being an addict. John is an ex-alcoholic, Tristan addicted to meth. While there are definitely storylines to explore here it does seem rather laid on thick. Everyone is addicted and addiction pretty much defines nearly everything about them. Also we have vampires – now it hasn’t gone there yet but vampirism has been used before as a clumsy comparator to addiction and I’m not a fan of the trope. It’s also not that nuanced or deep a depiction – the addicts are pretty much consumed to their addiction to a level where they’re not even people any more and often used for shock value – from Tristan’s random acting out to Sally alternating between random madlibs and tearful tragedy. It is the second episode only so we can certainly go a lot further with them (and we have suggestions already – John and horror driving him to drink, Sally and her own spiral, Tristan’s rage) so I haven’t abandoned hope it could be more – but American Horror Story rarely is more – just the shock value for funsies.