American Horror Story Hotel: Over-the-top Gore and Rape Does Nothing to Entertain

By Emma Klein ’17

TW: This review contains references to the season premiere of American Horror Story, which includes scenes of rape and brutal assault/murder. 

Stephen King writes in his book Danse Macabre that there are three elements of the horror genre used to scare: terror, horror, and revulsion.

“I recognize terror as the finest emotion and so I will try to terrorize the reader. But if I find that I cannot terrify, I will try to horrify, and if I find that I cannot horrify, I’ll go for the gross-out. I’m not proud.” –Stephen King

The newest season of AHS appears to be 100% revulsion. As an avid fan of seasons 1-3, which certainly have their own amounts of terror, horror, and revulsion too, I was shocked while watching the season premiere.

Episode one of Hotel seemed to go from brutal murder scene to horrifying rape scene to disturbing group sex scene without any plot development or significant storyline. Honestly, it reminded me of what I imagine soft-core death fetish porn might look like. “How is this even on television??” crossed my mind multiple times as I watched this show I had previously been anticipating with enthusiasm. It was a disappointment.

The most disturbing facet of the episode was definitely the three minute long rape scene, in which a heroine addict played by Max Greenfield (of New Girl fame) is anally raped by a demon that is supposed to represent the “horrors of addiction”. The audience sees the entire thing, conical (syringe-inspired?) dildo and all. It was extremely difficult to watch, and in my opinion, is an example of completely unnecessary violence.

american-horro-story-hotel-cast-152600

While AHS Hotel includes some beautiful imagery of the hotel set, and certain characters’ costumes and overall “looks” are gorgeously executed, the story of the first episode was incredibly flawed. Congrats Ryan Murphy, you’ve watched Kubrick films and you know how scary The Shining is! I appreciated the references to classic horror imagery but…the bottom line is, the episode lacked a good story. Beautiful, classic horror film imagery cannot make up for bad dialogue and a schizophrenic plot structure. Scenes between Chloe Sevigney and Wes Bentley (American Psycho and American Beauty collide on American Horror Story!) featured tired, on-the-nose dialogue. “Psycho” and “Beauty” are actually two words that perfectly describe Hotel and the people in it. I didn’t find myself connecting to any of the characters.

Also: Lady Gaga? You hire one of pop music’s most talented, performative artists, and you give her about ten lines of dialogue and practically use her like a prop? Come on. As much as some of your audience might enjoy the group sex scenes and Gaga’s crystal-pasty-covered-breasts, it was too much. Same goes for Matt Bomer’s ass. Just because it’s sexy doesn’t mean it belongs on a horror drama program.

Perhaps Murphy and AHS will be redeemed with the rest of the season, but just based on the first episode, I’m not too excited to watch the latest iteration of American Horror Story. In my mind, Asylum is still the best, and it’s still available on Netflix. So, if you want, skip out on Hotel and just watch the other seasons instead.