‘American Horror Story: Hotel’ Condemned

american-horror-story-kathy-bates-pro-001Ryan Murphy’s “American Horror Story” series is flickering out in glossy repetition. Its latest incarnation, “AHS: Hotel” (FX, 10 p.m.), like its predecessors, is production-designed to within an inch of its life; peopled with pretty, often indistinguishable faces; ready with the flowing blood and fish eye lens to make it weirder; trying to shock you with the sex and drugs if not the death.

But boredom is more a result than fear in a variant that is much less immediately vivid than its earlier versions. A scary hotel, even one overdone in art deco, is not a new idea. And while there are doubtlessly fearsome places in downtown L.A. for a one-night room, the Hotel Cortez, which has seemingly had every square foot renovated, does not seem one of them.

One is reminded in its design of “The Grand Budapest Hotel” with its multi-level lobby and ornate elevator (where much more interesting things were going on). When you try to spook people with tiny twins staring at the ends of the hallway, you’re just being lazy with “The Shining” steals.

“Hotel” mostly seems to suffer from the takeover by Lady Gaga, whose very presence turns it into a big lurid music video (although one for Marilyn Manson maybe). She’s the central demon of this domicile, apparently, sitting in her lair and organizing death ’n’ sex scenes. She’s as alluring as a cold fish, with teeth.

But there are a lot more odd things going on in the hotel, which seems unusually empty. Two Swedish tourists are unhappy it is so far from Universal Studios and has no wifi (they end up in cages for their complaints).

A police detective, who seems unsurprised by the sickest murder scene maybe seen on television (one that reflects poorly on those who even thought of it), ends up going to the hotel to seek a killer and ends up taking a nap. (He lives in a very dark world, where nobody ever turns on the lights, even at his unconvincing police station).

Then somebody else comes in and says he’s buying the place.

It is a very long hour.

From his days on “Nip/Tuck” through to “Glee,” Murphy has been known to draw in viewers only to toy with them and treat them with contempt soon enough. This time the repulsion begins with episode one (and with his “Scream Queens” also on, at Fox, it’s almost like overkill).

Once more he includes actors he likes, though it is one of the more thankless Kathy Bates roles as main desk mama. Poor Sarah Paulson is moving into the crazy aged broad role wisely Jessica Lange abandoned (a role once developed in B-movies for late period Joan Crawford and Betty Davis). Denis O’Hare, poor guy, had to shave his head and wear a dress. Chloe Sevigny seems wasted as concerned wife of the cop. And Angelea Bassett, as in “American Horror Story: Freak Show,” won’t show up for another episode or two.

Then there are all those guys who look exactly the same, from Cheyenne Jackson to Mat Bomer to Wes Bentley. Murphy has a type.

And as if to stave off the accusations of cliche by bringing it up first, they actually play “Hotel California” before the end of the episode.

If it wasn’t so ready with the brutality, had an ounce of fun, or some semblance of content over style, this “Hotel” might be worth checking in for an episode. But it is not.

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