TV Review: ’American Horror Story: Hotel’ 5×02 “Chutes and Ladders”

We were promised more gore, more horror, more sex, more scares. This episode of American Horror Story: Hotel delivers on all of these but the scares. As a fan of the AHS anthology, despite some mistakes on Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk’s part, I’ve come to expect some of the campiness surrounding a televised horror show. The creators cannot honestly develop a true horror story for the small screen. The closest they have come to creating real, jump-in-your-seat scare moments was in the first season, Murder House. AHS: Hotel attempts to recreate those suspenseful moments but falls short in the delivery. Nonetheless, this episode proves that it is on the right track to be an entertaining season.

Here’s what happened to your soon-to-be favorite characters on last night’s episode:

Hypodermic Sally (portrayed by Sarah Paulson) has some great moments, where Paulson’s acting chops are really put to the test. She starts off by sewing Max Greenfield’s Addict character into the mattress, allowing us a bit into her demented psyche. Later, as she taunts Detective John Lowe (Wes Bentley) into having a drink with her, because he’s sober now, she delivers a haunting soliloquy on her feelings on getting high. The episode later introduces Naomi Campbell as a Vogue editor attending a fashion show that is being held in the Hotel Cortez’s lobby. Paulson’s dramatic “why won’t you let me in” sequence made me crack a smile, in appreciation, and not in pity, of her acting choices. One of the moments of “horror” that we are left with is when she finds Detective Lowe’s daughter, Scarlett, running around the halls of the Hotel and Sally’s rotting teeth fall to pieces and blood in front of the little girl. Gross and gore-y? Yes. Scary and frightful? Not so much.

This episode delves a little deeper into Detective John Lowe’s past. He was driven to alcoholism by the violent nature of his job, responding to homicides in Los Angeles. After a violent death of a father and his two children, Lowe goes on a two-day bender before returning to his family. The day that his son, Holden, goes missing on the beach is the day he swears off alcohol, believing it was his fault for his son’s disappearance. Because he’s staying in Room 64 at the Hotel Cortez, where a number of horrific and gruesome acts have taken place, he has multiple dreams sequences in the room. Again, Murphy and Falchuk attempt to scare us using intense imagery of the rape monster we encountered in episode one and an undead, rotting couple having sex in the room’s bathtub. But instead of coming off as frightful and cringe-worthy, I felt cheated and shortchanged. As the episode progresses, his daughter Scarlett sees her long-lost brother Holden (who is now one of The Countess’ vampire babies) who is on a mission to prove his existence. Her parents are in an uproar when she’s missing for several hours, but the family is unhappily reunited later on. Chloe Sevigny’s Alex Lowe is a house-call doctor for the rich and famous in West Hollywood. The show’s creators do a good job, albeit a subtle one, at introducing current events into the series; like when Dr. Lowe is treating a young boy with measles because his mother didn’t want to vaccinate him for fear of autism. She, of course, blames her husband John for Holden’s disappearance but is desperately trying to save her marriage by saying otherwise.

AHS Hotel_Countess and Donovan

As a sci-fi and fantasy junkie myself, I was most excited this episode to learn a bit of history about the vampiric Countess, played by Lady Gaga. So here’s the scoop: Yes, she is a vampire. No, they “don’t bite, they cut” their victims to get to their blood. The vampirism is explained as a virus that strengthens the immune system providing everlasting vitality to those who succumb to it. Indeed, they can be killed by bullets and stakes but if they are careful, they can be true immortals. The sun doesn’t kill them, but reduces their vitality. She says that drinking from the dead and the sick is akin to getting the flu, and that by being careful, one can have the most erotic of experiences drinking from another. She was born in 1904, her maker is long dead, and her favorite time to have lived in was the late 1970s, where everyone she knew was a vampire and she could feed openly in the disco clubs of that time. All of this is explained because she turned a cocaine-addicted male model, Tristan Duffy (played by Finn Wittrock, last season’s villain Dandy), into her latest vampire suitor. Earlier in the episode, when Donovan (Matt Bomer) makes a sarcastic remark about staying in to binge-watch House of Cards instead of going to a gala with The Countess to hunt, she realizes that her boredom with him has set in and it’s time for a new boy toy. She and Tristan are seen mid-romp in several rooms, in several positions, all over her penthouse when Donovan, Tristan, and her have a confrontation about this new situation. Instead of keeping them both to herself, like I thought she was going to do, she casts Donovan out explaining that heartbreak is the best high of all, better than drinking from the purest of blood.

AHS Hotel_Countess

We are treated to several guest appearances this episode. As mentioned before, Naomi Campbell is a Vogue editor, but let’s be honest, her beauty should stay on the catwalk and in photos, not on the screen where she has to open her mouth and act. Like her character on FOX’s Empire, she can only play the “model / fashion editor / socialite” because that’s what she is already. Her little to no acting ability really puts a damper on the scenes she’s in. Next, the ever-popular Evan Peters finally makes it to the screen. He plays James Patrick March, the sadistic original owner and builder of the Hotel Cortez. March is a 1920s, self-made millionaire socialite, played with transatlantic accent and all. He built the Hotel for the rich and famous with murderous tendencies, himself included. He indulged in bludgeoning the workers who helped build his Hotel and murdering girls, that he slept with, in front of his wife. The Laundress, Miss Evers (played by Mare Winningham), was his loyal minion, always laundering his bloody sheets. Together, they committed suicide before the local PD could apprehend either of them.

The episode ends with Detective John Lowe putting together a theory of the current atrocities happening throughout the city and how they are tied to the Hotel: someone is copying and finishing James Patrick March’s killings. They are all deaths following the Ten Commandments. Finally, new vampire Tristan uses a hook-up app to find a tall, bearded, “lumbersexual” to feed on. They make out in the elevator and start to get it on in his and The Countess’ penthouse, when she arrives to revel in the new little monster she’s created.

American Horror Story: Hotel airs Wednesdays at 10pm on FX.

Mauricio is a New York City-based creative producer whose content spans film, theater, web, and live events. When he’s not obsessing over a color-coded spreadsheet, you can find him in a movie theater or a coffee shop catching up on his latest TV guilty pleasures. A graduate in marketing and motion picture production, he’s a foodie, a Disney enthusiast, and a travel junkie.
  • Adalberto

    Already in love with this season <3