In the American Horror Story: Hotel recap for the season premiere we check into the Hotel Cortez where we meet a lot of new faces and kill a few of them….
By Damon Martin — Editor/Lead Writer
“We have a bit of everything. Some pay by the month, some pay by the hour, some of the old timers have been here since the dawn of time.”
~ Liz Taylor
The new season of American Horror Story: Hotel finally kicked off on Wednesday night and if there’s one thing clear after the first episode, this new iteration is going to be full of striking imagery, powerful music and a wide array of mind-altering murder scenes.
It’s also the first time American Horror Story has gone at it without series star Jessica Lange, but in her place steps pop star Lady Gaga, who takes over the lead role and acts as creator Ryan Murphy’s muse as he decorates her in lavish outfits and then strips them off of her again as her character is every bit a fashionista mixed with a dominatix.
Admittedly, like most seasons of the show, the first episode doesn’t give away too much in terms of overall plot or arc for what’s about to happen this year, but we do meet a colorful cast of characters including a heroin junkie ghost, an overbearing mother, a cop trapped in tragedy and a cavalcade of witless victims who step right into the hotel’s many traps. ‘
This season certainly seems like a throwback to the first year of American Horror Story affectionately known as Murder House where the real star of the show is where we’re at instead of what we’re seeing. And this unique boutique Los Angeles hotel has witnessed a lot over the years and something tells me this season we’re going to see a whole lot more.
This ‘from another era’ posh hotel is decorated with plush carpets, velvet couches, twisting, turning hallways and a new scare around every corner. Some of them are even locked inside the beds.
With that said, let’s recap the opening episode of American Horror Story: Hotel titled ‘Checking In’…
The episode opens with two Swedish blondes getting out of their cab to check into the Hotel Cortez, only to find disappointment when they discover that the online booking agent failed to mention this place was 10 miles away from their real destination on this trip — Universal Studios!
Unfortunately the Swedes don’t get much help in way of a refund from the desk agent Iris (Kathy Bates), who tells them that they won’t get their money back but since they already paid, why not stay at least one night?
A walk to their room treats the duel blondes to some erotic sounds coming from one room, a maid steaming some blood soaked sheets in the hallway and the bad news that there’s no WIFI and the entire hotel is a dead zone for cell phones. Enjoy your stay!
Inside the room, both girls are uneasy with their surroundings but it’s made even worse when a pungent stench has them lighting candles to try to mask the odor. When that doesn’t work they decide to investigate the source of the smell and when they discover the bed has been sewn up, the two of them cut it open to find out what’s hiding inside.
When a hand pops out and then a horrible, sperm like looking creature comes sprouting from within the mattress screaming bloody murder, they run for cover.
Iris apologizes for the inconvenience (cause that really does the job) and tells the girls they can stay in Room 64 until the police arrive to take their statements. A nap on the bed and a fast forward on the clock to 2:25 am has one of the girls waking up, wondering how she fell into such a deep slumber. What concerns her even more, however, is when she opens the bathroom door and discovers her goldilocks traveling mate lying on the floor, a pool of blood beside her and a kid straight out of Village of the Damned snacking on her wrist with crimson dripping down his vampiric lips.
She screams in horror and we are officially off and running.
Calling All Cars
Meet Detective John Lowe — he’s a hard boiled cop in charge of investigating some grisly murders around L.A. — the latest of which involves a couple forced to have sex before the woman is impaled and the man has his eyes and tongue cut out of his head. To make matters worse, he’s been plied with sexual performance drugs and super glued inside his lady.
Lowe doesn’t seem overly sympathetic to their plight outside of his keen detective skills figuring out that the man and woman were both married to different people and the murder scene had pictures of both of them with their significant others and they eyes cut out of all the photos. He deduced that they were doing bad things while their respective spouses were blind to their actions, but not anymore!
Lowe goes back to the station and he’s convinced that this murder matches up to another in town recently when an ‘Oscar blogger’ named Martin Gamboa turned up dead with all sorts of heinous things done to him — the worst of which was having some sort of gold embossed object rammed up his ass repeatedly until he died.
The only thing that can take him away from his focus is a Facetime call with his daughter to read her Little Women before bed. He even ignores a call of great importance to pay attention to his little girl, but on his way out of the station, Lowe gets a personal call on his cell phone this time instead.
The voice on the other end describes the murder scene Lowe witnessed earlier today and he says it’s going to happen again at the Hotel Cortez in Room 64 so he better hurry.
Lowe rushes to the hotel and Iris gives him permission to look around. From there he looks around Room 64, but doesn’t find anything. He decides to lay his head down to take a rest when the clock fast forwards to 2:25am and when Lowe awakens he fails to see an almost dead body laying under the bed (more on that in a moment) but spots a little blonde boy staring at him from across the room.
“Holden?” he asks before chasing the little blonde boy all around the hallways until he disappears.
Lowe returns home where we meet his doctor wife (played by Chloe Sevigny) as she’s about to go out on a house call. Lowe decides to have sushi with his little girl when she mentions having a dream about ‘him’ but not being able to see his face any longer.
Flashback five years and we see Lowe and his wife along with their little girl and a little boy named Holden. Lowe takes the boy to ride on a carousel while he takes a phone call but when he turns around Holden is gone and apparently never found again.
While at dinner, Lowe gets a text from his wife in an emergency with an address and a plea for help. He jets off to the address with another cop in tow as an alarm from inside goes off. He tells his daughter to wait in the car and tells the cop to keep an eye on her. Inside, Lowe searches around every corner until he sees a shadowy figure at the end of a hallway. Lowe gives chase but the man gets away.
Outside, the cop is distracted by a movement in the woods nearby and he goes to investigate while Scarlet decides to go look for her daddy. As she makes her way inside, Scarlet finds a room where two men are tied up to rectangular structures with their intestines hanging out. Scarlet screams bloody murder and Lowe gives up his search to find his little girl to make sure she’s OK.
Back at home, John knows the text didn’t actually come from his wife but now he knows this serial killer is aware of his personal life and the people closest to him. He’s moving out for now and putting cops on his wife and daughter at all times. His wife says she loves him dearly, but admittedly is glad he’s leaving because his face is a constant reminder of Holden because they look so much alike.
Lowe packs a back and decides to check into the Hotel Cortez for an extended stay and his room — you guessed it — Room 64.
Everybody Loves Sally
When a blonde frosted junkie checks into the hotel for a night, a herion-chic resident named Sally takes dibs on him after he pays Iris for the room. Iris and Sally clearly don’t like each other and we’ll find out why in just a few moments.
The glam-rock wannabe goes to his room and immediately shoots up with his drug of choice before his eyes start playing tricks on him, but then in a moment of panic he realizes this horror scene is all too real.
An all in white creature that looks like Rubber Man from the first season of American Horror Story mixed with something out of Silent Hill emerges from the shadows but his most telling feature is a strap-on with a silver bladed dildo attached to it. Apparently this creature shops at the same place as John Doe in Seven. The creature immediately attacks the junkie, flips him over and you can imagine what he does with that sharpened dildo.
Sally eventually walks in while the poor guy is screeching out in pain and she seeks to sooth him with a few calming words.
“The more you scream, the more he likes it. Tell me you love me. Say it! Say ‘I love you, Sally’ and it will all go away.”
Something tells me, Sally is all too familiar with the feel of this cold steel inside her own body. She wasn’t speaking to the guy as torture, but almost as a sort of comfort in his moment of need. The junkie ends up under the bed (where John Lowe is sleeping) before he awakens in a panic. Whether he’s alive or dead or dead/alive remains to be seen.
Later in the episode, we reconvene with the blonde Swedes from the opening of the episode and they are chained up in some kind of chamber after being stripped down to their underwear. Iris is chastising them about coming to her hotel and using all kinds of illicit drugs and now she has to clean out their systems with a mixture of livers, hearts and all kind of other raw organs. Just a she’s about to force feed one of them, Sally enters and tells Iris to stop being so crass.
Iris says that Sally is the beginning and end of her misery before she leaves to go feed ‘the thing in Room 33’. In her absence, Sally releases one of the girls and tells her to run. Run!
The girl flees the room and tries to escape but just as she reaches the door, the Swedish tourist runs into The Countess aka Lady Gaga, who makes one quick swipe with her razor-bladed finger and slits her throat clean across. Iris shows up in a panic and promises this sort of thing will never, ever happen again as she quivers in front of the Countess. Iris is even more pissed at Sally after this latest mishap, but their history goes back more than 20 years as it turns out.
It seems Sally is a long time resident of this hotel dating all the way back to 1994 when we first meet her as she welcomes a boy named Donovan (played by Matt Bomer) to her room. Sally wants to share some of her special drugs with him and while he’s searching for a score, his mother Iris wants nothing more than to save her son.
Donovan and Sally shoot up, but a few moments later he’s passed out, comatose on the bed. When Iris finds them, it appears Donovan is dead and Sally doesn’t exactly express much sympathy only telling the grieving mother that she took the same drugs and she’s doing just fine. Iris finally snaps and pushes Sally out the window where she crashes down several floors to the concrete below.
Now you know that Sally in the current story is long since dead, which means the Hotel Cortez apparently possesses the same kind of power that the Murder House did back in season one. It appears Iris is trapped there as well, which means maybe she’s dead also?
When she returns to the room to check on her son, she finds Donovan in the embrace of a beautiful blonde woman caressing his cheek and the first words out of her mouth are telling his mother how he has a jawline for days.
Enter the Countess.
I Wanna Tear You Apart
The real introduction to Lady Gaga’s character comes during a series of shots with the soundtrack provided by the song “Tear You Apart” by She Wants Revenge.
The scene begins with the Countess and her boy-toy Donovan leaving the hotel and arriving at the Hollywood Forever Cemetary for a late night showing of Nosferatu. It doesn’t take long for the powerfully beautiful couple to lock eyes with two more people occupying an adjacent blanket. A few stares, winks and suggestions later and they are all piling into the hotel elevator on the way to the penthouse.
The four-person orgy begins between flashes of skin, thrusting and gyrating, and it all looks rather erotic until the Countess and Donovan kiss and simultaneously plunge their sharpened gloves into the couple’s throats before drinking them both dry. A few hours later over a cigarette while the two of them are still naked, covered in blood and laying on top of their victims, the Countess taunts Donovan for almost passing up on a night out.
The Countess: “And you didn’t feel like going out tonight”
Donovan: “It’s not the getting ready — it’s the clean up.”
The New Owner
Finally we reach a call back to season one as Marcy — hell’s personal real estate agent — who also sold the Harmon’s the murder house once upon a time is now the realtor for the sell of the Hotel Cortez. She shows up with a new owner in tow and his name is Will Drake and he’s a single father with a little boy named Lachlan. Marcy is in a mood today because she just had to put her dog down — the same dog that once belonged to the Harmons. When Iris and Liz Taylor (Denis O’Hare) wonder what’s going to happen to them with this hotel being sold, Marcy more or less tells them to fuck off.
During the tour of the hotel, Marcy reaches the penthouse where she runs into a very nude Donovan, just waking up from his night out and across the hall they meet the lovely Countess, who is already more than aware who Will Drake is, the dresses he’s made for Michelle Obama and his art-deco designs to take over the Hotel Cortez.
It seems she’s the person selling the hotel but her interest is more in his son Lachlan than the man himself. She offers to give him a tour of the hotel and a very special room where he finds the blonde headed vampire children all playing video games and as his eyes gape open at the ultimate kid’s playground, complete with candy machines all around, The Countess turns to one child named Holden (yes, that Holden) and says that they have a new guest.
What We Know So Far
It isn’t much but it seems The Countess is some sort of vampire, who sustains her age and beauty by imbibing the blood of her victims. It looks like she saved Donovan from death when he overdosed with Sally all those years ago so he’s not trapped in the hotel, but it certainly looks like his mother is there to stay. Maybe Iris is dead or just gave up her life in order to save her son?
It’s clear this hotel is a living, breathing entity just like murder house where you check in but never check out again.
Sally is definitely dead and she’s certainly a chain smoking ghost. John Lowe is about to get into mind-fuck of a world in this hotel as he searches for his serial killer and we haven’t even met the characters played by Finn Wittrock, Evan Peters or Angela Bassett yet! Can’t wait to see what happens when more doors are opened inside the Hotel Cortez!
SOUNDTRACK TO EPISODE 1
“Never Land (A Fragment)” by Sisters of Mercy
“The Eternal” by Joy Division
“Tear You Apart” by She Wants Revenge
“Hotel California” by The Eagles
Tune into the next episode of American Horror Story: Hotel on Tuesday night at 10pm ET on FX