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UK Broad­cast Fox, fin­ished

US Broad­cast FX, fin­ished

Episodes Re­viewed 5.01- 5.12

Ac­cord­ing to writer- cre­ator Ryan Mur­phy, Amer­i­can Hor­ror Story: Ho­tel was in­spired by a vi­ral video of a woman be­ing pulled into a ho­tel lift ( by ghosts) be­fore van­ish­ing. That’s a fairly lit­eral el­e­va­tor pitch. And, if he’s not care­ful, it could be a good metaphor for the fran­chise as a whole.

De­spite the fact that a ho­tel seems the per­fect place for Mur­phy’s spook- show to set up shop ( AHS loves a fixed lo­ca­tion pop­u­lated by ephemeral char­ac­ters, whether it’s a haunted house mov­ing through eras, an asy­lum, a witch’s coven, or a cir­cus) this time he seems to treat the lo­ca­tion less like a scary B& B, and more like an all- you- can- eat buf­fet.

Amer­i­can Hor­ror Story gen­er­ally doesn’t so much throw thoughts at the wall to see what sticks as it does dump buck­ets of brains onto a build­ing un­til it caves in. This usu­ally means a near- im­pos­si­ble amount of ob­scure ref­er­ences, hor­ror homages and crazed char­ac­ters are to be ex­pected when em­bark­ing on new sea­son. But, this year, the ideas over­whelm the nar­ra­tive.

The high- con­cept – vam­pires, ghosts, creepy kids and se­rial killers ( and ghosts of creepy se­rial killers) re­side in an LA- based ho­tel which looks like it was car­peted by Stan­ley Kubrick – is solid enough.

But, for the first time ever, Amer­i­can Hor­ror Story’s au­di­ence isn’t of­fered a sin­gle fully sym­pa­thetic soul to fol­low, with only a trail of bro­ken peo­ple and blood- drained bod­ies lead­ing the way through the show’s maze- like cor­ri­dor of end­less plot- twists and baf­fling char­ac­ter turns.

The clos­est we get to a like­able

Gets to the half­way point and col­lapses of a heart at­tack

lead is ho­tel owner Lady Gaga’s glam- vamp Count­ess El­iz­a­beth, and she ends the opener hav­ing killed a cou­ple of in­no­cent hip­sters she picked up at a pop- up screen­ing of Nos­fer­atu. So, prob­a­bly not the first per­son you’d put on your wed­ding list.

Sup­port­ing play­ers have po­ten­tial au­di­ence ap­peal, but are ei­ther so side­lined ( De­nis O’Hare’s as­ton­ish­ing Liz Tay­lor) or mis­han­dled ( An­gela Bas­sett’s wasted blax­ploita­tion star turned vamp- war­rior Ra­mona Royale) that they’re frus­trat­ing for fans.

Sure, the show is ex­cit­ing to be­gin with – the thrilling first episode feels like it was crafted at 3am dur­ing a fever- dream, with enough iconic in­tro­duc­tions, mon­strous mo­ments and wide- eyed wail­ers to fill an en­tire se­ries. Un­for­tu­nately, you can only main­tain that pace for a lim­ited time be­fore you run out of breath. Ho­tel gets to the half­way point of the sea­son and col­lapses of a heart at­tack. View­ing fig­ures sub­se­quently sank over the course of the sea­son, with fans get­ting on at the pen­t­house level and step­ping off long be­fore they hit the base­ment.

With Mur­phy now fo­cus­ing on his new show Amer­i­can Crime Story, there was ev­ery rea­son to sus­pect sea­son five could’ve been Amer­i­can Hor­ror Story’s last ever year. A char­ac­ter even ex­claims in the fi­nal episode, “It was sup­posed to be the per­fect end­ing!”

Per­haps to right the fact that the con­clu­sion isn’t quite so per­fect, Mur­phy’s ru­moured to be re­turn­ing for a sixth out­ing. He’s ap­par­ently again look­ing to the in­ter­net for in­spi­ra­tion, us­ing eerie meme phe­nom­e­non Slen­der Man as a start­ing point. Let’s hope this means less flab on the show’s bones next time. Sam Ashurst

“Here’s to an­other sea­son! Maybe.”

Lady Gaga bagged a Golden Globe for her Count­ess El­iz­a­beth.

Don’t worry, it’s not real. OR IS IT?

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