October 9, 2015

Review: American Horror Story season premiere

By Matthew Shircliffe–


Sex, murder, drugs and Lady Gaga seem to be what are circulating around cable television nowadays, and the fifth season of the terrifying anthological hit-series “American Horror Story” is no exception.

Each season of the series is own stand-alone story containing new set of characters, plot and location. The only similarity among the seasons is the cast remains the same, just as new characters.

The show proves to be more than a bloodbath and cheap thrills, as the depths and messages conveyed throughout the series can be interpreted as poetic. Tackling issues such as infidelity, depression, abortion, insanity, authority, corruption, discrimination and isolation (to name a few), the complexity of the series and gripping storytelling resonates with audiences.

This season takes place in present-day Los Angeles in Hotel Cortez, which is owned by Lady Gaga, managed by Kathy Bates and inhabited by many dead folks who, in parallel with the ghosts in season one, kill for sport.

One disappointment in the new season is the omission of mainstay series regular, Jessica Lange, which might dissatisfy fans due to her impact as she has propelled the show. She accumulated an abundance of Emmys with her brilliant acting. Now it is up to Lady Gaga to blow the fan base away the way Lange did.

“American Horror Story” has never been afraid to push the envelope. In the first episode of the season, the trend serves no differently. More gore, guts and enthralling imagery are back, as the show has always known just how to keep the audience on edge.

Like its preceding seasons, the writers leave the audience in the dark until the last possible moment. At times, the Oct. 7 episode was confusing and muddied. But if there is something I learned when watching AHS, it’s that you should never question the direction of where it’s going because there is always some sense of clarity and satisfaction when the dust has finally settled.

Without revealing too many plot details, I will follow the lead of the episode and keep this as vague as possible.

The season premiere follows detective John Lowe (Wes Bentley), who has been following a string of horrific murders by someone known as The Ten Commandments killer, who rationalizes his serial killings by ironically abiding to biblical teachings.

“Thou shall not commit adultery” is the commandment broken in this episode, when detective Lowe discovers a random pair of unfaithful lovers that are shown in a sex position. This scene provides one of the most appalling visuals to date. The girl on top is dead—with nails in her hands, pinned against the headboard—and the man on the  bottom is alive during all of this, and his eyes and tongue have been removed and his genitals are superglued to the inside of the girl, leaving him virtually immobile.

The killer then calls Detective Lowe saying that he will strike again, this time in room number 64 at Hotel Cortez, leading Lowe to the hotel.

After Lowe rushes over to finding nothing, he goes home to discover that his house was broken into. He found two men hanging with their stomachs ripped open, traumatizing Lowe’s young daughter and wife.

For his family’s safety, he decides to move out until the killer is caught, leading him to check into Hotel Cortez. As the episode concludes, Detective Lowe is the season’s main protagonist and has no idea what he got himself into. This season will account for more unsettling visuals as more horrors unfold.

As the cringeworthy images continue, sadism isn’t subtle at all in AHS. A heroin addict, giving off a douche bag vibe, checks into the hotel, and at that moment the audience knew he was going to be killed, but no one watching the episode could have predicted how.

The figure, who appears to be covered in candle-wax, comes into the junkie’s room with what appears to be a drill in between his legs (acting as his manhood) and sodomizes the junkie.  Nothing is assumed—it’s all shown on screen, and it is as bad as it sounds.

Clearly this season is going to be the goriest and most shocking yet, as AHS does not shy away from shock value. Two of the most brutal and gut-wrenching scenes in the entire series were in full form. It hurt to watch but was so difficult to look away.

The Oct. 7 episode introduced us to the main antagonists of the season—the Ten Commandments killer and the candle-wax figure.

Generally, the first episode of the season always starts off rather slow. But in a new season, AHS is hasty to jump into gear, racking up several deaths in one episode’s span. The episode had a vague story and did not explain much, which made it rather confusing. The writing entices you and prepares you for the next episode.

There is a lot crammed into the one hour and 33 minute episode, and not much is explained. It almost felt like two episodes in one.

However, I have never doubted the direction of this show. The season opened with an awesome episode with some peculiar moments. I recommend anyone who is new to the show to tune in and watch what could be the most unusual season yet.

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