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"American Horror Story: Hotel" is a bloody mess both literally and figuratively. Which should come as no surprise to anyone who has watched the previous four seasons of "AHS".
"Hotel" (Wednesday, 11 pm., FX) is positively awash in blood. Buckets of blood. It's gross. It's disgusting.
But it's not scary. Even what are clearly planned as the big surprises are telegraphed. You're neither shocked nor frightened when, for example, a couple of victims suddenly have their throats slashed.
Executive producers/writers Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk have clearly confused gore with fear, and they're not the same. There's plenty of the former, and the later is, sadly, missing.
As was the case in the previous four seasons, we're starting an entirely new story in a new location with new characters. A number of the actors are back, but not Jessica Lange unfortunately.
In her place, sort of, is Lady Gaga, who does just fine as a blood-sucking killer. The problems in "AHS" are not with her performance with the performances overall they're with the writing.
The story begins in the Hotel Cortez, a grand establishment in downtown Los Angeles that has seen better days. A couple of Swedish tourists check in, and they're quickly assaulted by some sort of zombie-ish creature that's been sewn inside their mattress.
And then things REALLY get bad for the two young women.
Then we get to see a gay junkie (Max Greenfield, "New Girl") raped by some sort of creature wearing an enormous metal implement.
Gaga stars as The Countess, who occupies the penthouse of the Hotel Cortez with her boyfriend, Donovan (Matt Bomer, "White Collar). They pick up another couple at a graveyard screening of a horror film, bring them back to the penthouse, have wild sex with them and then … well, you can guess what happens next.
By the way, "Amerian Horror Story: Hotel" pushes the limits of nudity and sex about as far as any basic cable show ever has. Maybe further.
There are familiar faces. Kathy Bates returns, this time as the front desk clerk and we do find out at least some of her backstory in Episode 1. Sarah Paulson is back, this time as a pusher who is the mortal enemy of Bates' character.
Chloe Sevigny is back, this time as the wife of the cop (Wes Bentley) who's investigating the crimes at the Hotel Cortez and their backstory is the most interesting thing about "AHS: Hotel."
And newcomers include Cheyenne Jackson, who stars as a fashion designer who is the new owner of the Hotel Cortez a bad decision if ever there was one.
"American Horror Story: Hotel" looks fantastic. The hotel itself is gorgeous, and there's a lot of great cinematography … some of it hidden behind those buckets of blood.
But as we've come to expect from Murphy, Falchuk and "AHS," the storytelling is derivative; the scares are non-existent; and it's all about style without much substance.