The craziest TV show around returned to UK screens last night, with American Horror Story: Hotel launching itself in some style.
Packed full of the gory and the grotesque, and now with added Gaga – the opening episode was an astonishing statement of intent that had all the shocking moments and twisted humour we’ve come to expect, while also attempting new and interesting things.
Here’s thirteen creepy things we learned.
(Warning: Spoilers for the episode ahead)
1. It’s crazier than ever
From the moment two unsuspecting Swedish tourists are left shrieking when a rotting, deformed corpse-like man tears himself out of a sewn-up mattress, it’s clear that our stay at the Hotel Cortez is going to be utterly demented, even by AHS standards. And that’s before we even get to the mutant rapist with the bladed strap-on. Which brings us on to the fact that…
2. It’s more brutal than ever
If the horrific murder scene the cops roll up at is anything to go by, this season is not going to be for the squeamish. Nailing a pair of lovers to a bed, gouging out the man’s eyes and tongue and leaving him alive with his dead fellow adulterer is certainly one way to get our attention.
3. It’s inspired by Se7en
Already it’s clear that Hotel is riffing heavily on the seminal David Fincher thriller, with the aforementioned crime scene and ghastly, themed punishing of wrongdoing; though here the serial-killer is seemingly inspired by breaking of the Ten Commandments, rather than the seven deadly sins. Nasty.
4. It’s also inspired by The Shining
Perhaps not surprising, given its setting, but the Cortez certainly shares its style of decor with the Overlook, those long, suspenseful tracking shots down hallways are classic Kubrick, and there are lots of creepy little kids standing ominously at the end of corridors.
5. Don’t mess with Kathy Bates
Anyone who’s ever seen Misery doubtless knows that, but seriously – the diminutive, bottle-glassed receptionist may not look dangerous, but behave rudely to her and you can expect a traumatic stay in ‘Room 64’. Her character clearly has more going on though; the reveal of why she hates drug-use so much later in the episode is a terrific moment.
6. Sexy vampires!
Lady Gaga has joined the cast as a seductive bloodsucker with cool mind-control powers, and we’re introduced to her and her similarly gore-happy lover via an amazing sequence – sleazily and superbly backed by the She Wants Revenge song ‘Tear You Apart’. It culminates in the messiest four-some ever committed to television. “Call house-keeping” indeed.
7. Sarah Paulson’s got a badass new role
Seemingly channeling Blade Runner in the fashion stakes, the AHS regular has dispensed with her previous kinds of parts – serious and determined; or vulnerable and innocent – to take on a much more visceral presence. As the ghost of a junkie, whispering in the ears of a tortured ‘guest’ or clashing enigmatically with Bates’s stern matriarch, she’s a sensual and mysterious creature here.
8. Lady Gaga’s calling the shots
The pop star’s fierce vampire seems to be well and truly in control of the Cortez. She’s seen rebuking a terrified Bates at one point, twisting the new owner around her psychic little finger, and she even has a secret room full of her ‘children’, complete with retro video games embedded in the wall.
9. Wes Bentley is on the comeback trail
As the wide-eyed detective on the case of the grotesque serial-killer, and now a reluctant resident of the Cortez after seemingly becoming a target himself, Bentley – who you may recognise from his early role in American Beauty – is enjoying a deserved career resurgence at the moment. Following a memorable guest appearance in last year’s Freak Show, he’s now on board as a central feature of the cast. And damn fine he is too.
10. The serial killer plot is completely compelling
Just who is the individual behind the biblical murders? What’s their motivation, what’s their connection to the Cortez, and why are they so determined to play games with Bentley’s haunted cop? We can’t wait to find out.
11. Some of the ensemble cast are yet to appear
Unless they were hiding in plain sight, AHS regulars Angela Bassett and Evan Peters weren’t featured in the first episode – despite being mentioned in the credits. Just who they will play in the unfolding drama remains to be seen.
12. The soundtrack is fantastic
We already mentioned the cool impact of ‘Tear Us Apart’, but having ‘Hotel California’ to play us out felt both fitting and evocative. More of these musical choices please.
13. There are plenty more horrors to come
We’ve already had glimpses of lots more freaks and nightmares inhabiting the Cortez, and can only imagine what fresh abominations are likely to emerge. “I’m going to feed that thing in Room 33,” teases Bates at one point. God only knows what lies in store.
American Horror Story: Hotel is on FOX, Tuesdays at 10pm.