Posts Tagged ‘American Horror Story: Hotel’

I finally watched the final episode of American Horror Story’s seventh season (one day I’ll be able to give a review right after the season premiere or finale on my own cable package), and I have to say, this has definitely been an interesting season. When people heard that the new season was going to be about the 2016 American Presidential Election, after months of speculation that it would be about either a cruise or something else ocean-related, we weren’t sure what to expect. Would it be preachy and lean towards one end of the political spectrum or the other? Would Trump, Clinton, or some other political figure be featured as a character? And would Sarah Paulson play Trump (if she did, she’d be great at it, no doubt)? And as further details came out, namely that it would be about a cult that arose in the wake of the election and focused on people who felt isolated and galvanized by the election, we got intrigued. Could this actually work as a season arc? Could this be good?

Well, before I get into that, let’s go a bit deeper into the plot. Returning to a normal mode of storytelling after the reality TV show format of Roanoke and being perhaps the most down-to-Earth season in the show’s history, Cult follows two very different people who become intertwined in ways neither would believe. The first is Allie Mayfair-Richards, a business owner and mother with liberal leanings and crippling anxiety who isn’t dealing well in the post-election climate. The other is Kai Anderson, a charismatic young man who begins to gather a group of devoted followers around him as he pursues power in local politics. As their lives start to intersect, they’ll not only make permanent impressions in each other’s lives, they’ll make impressions in the very surface of American politics.

I loved this season. Yes, the first two episodes were kind of slow and clunky, more devoted to commentary than to actually scaring the viewer, but after that the story and scares really picked up. The writers kept things very intimate, so that while this may have seemed like a big story about national politics and American political culture on the surface, it felt incredibly intimate, letting us into the lives and minds of these people. As per usual with American Horror Story, the story was twisty as heck, keeping you guessing where the story would go from one episode to the next and being unable to figure out most of the time where things would go. And after the second episode, they managed to keep the political commentary from getting too over the top. In fact, I think they managed to capture the spirit of American politics very well in this season: confused, divisive, changing from day to day and week to week. Things come up and down, change and merge and break, and become so muddled that you don’t know how it all started. All this was captured very well in this season.

And oh my God, that ending! That’s going to stay in my head for a while.

Beware this guy. He is a villain par excellence.

I also really enjoyed the characters. Obviously, the two main ones are exaggerated distillations of the stereotypes of the liberal and conservative voters, with Kai representing some of the darker views of what Donald Trump is to some Americans, but they also feel like real people whom you want to watch and see where they want to go from episode to episode. Each major character is given time to develop so that they feel real to the viewer, and you feel their struggles and/or death. I especially love Beverly Hope, played by Adina Porter (who played my favorite character last season), whose struggles within her workplace, followed by her struggles within a cult that changes drastically from the time she joins to the time she escapes. Kai is also just terrifying to watch. You know what his final goal is, but you never know what to expect from him from moment to moment. He’s like a pinball, causing something every time he touches something. He makes for a great villain. And watching Allie go from this weak, paranoid woman to this strong, somewhat devious fighter was just stunning.

Now, were there any parts I didn’t care for? Well, as I said, the first two episodes didn’t jibe with me, they were more devoted to commentary and set up than actual scares. Those could have been done better. Another issue I had was that I felt the final episode was kind of predictable. I mean, once I saw where it started, I kind of knew where it was going to go (except for maybe that last scene). I expect better from American Horror Story.

I also didn’t care for Lena Dunham playing Valerie Solanas in the seventh episode. Now, I have nothing against Lena Dunham. I think she’s a great crusader for a number of important issues, and I admire her for the success she’s had in the entertainment business. But sadly, I’ve only seen her in a couple of roles, not enough to get a gauge on whether or not I like her as an actress. And in the seventh episode, she just felt miscast. The episode was written brilliantly, the character she played was interesting, but she just didn’t fit well into the role, to the point that she was annoying (I don’t mean that in a sexist way, I just mean she didn’t fit the role and it had a negative impact. Don’t go after me in the comments).

And finally, I felt like the clown costumes could’ve used an explanation. Yes, the character Meadow designed the costumes, but why clowns? Why not a minority abused by the right, or ninjas, or just people dressed in dark clothing? It’s hinted that it has something to do with Twisty the Clown, who makes a surprise guest appearance in the first episode, but we never find out why the cult decides to commit crimes in custom-made clownsuits. I would’ve loved an explanation on that, especially since clowns figured so much in the advertising for the season (speaking of which, where are the bees? They show up a lot in the ads and the opening theme, but barely in the show proper).

This needed more of an explanation.

But other than that, American Horror Story: Cult was a great entry into the series. On a scale of 1 to 5, I give this season a 4.2, as well as the designation of my second favorite season so far (Hotel‘s still the best). It’s engaging, thrilling, and different from any other season so far. Plus it does a better job of talking about oppression and women’s empowerment than Coven ever did, so good on the writers for fixing that mistake. Check it out, and see it for yourself.

Now as for Season 8, details are scarce beyond that it will come out sometime next year, and that Sarah Paulson will return for her eighth consecutive season (yay!). I’m still hoping that I’ll eventually get an Orphanage or Academy/School-themed season. I’m curious as to how, if the theory about each season being a circle of Hell is true, how those themes might apply to those circles that are left. And I’m wondering who will be coming and going for the next season (Lady Gaga! Kathy Bates! Please come back!).

Well, that’s American Horror Story for you. It leaves you wondering up until the moment something happen, and then it blows us all away.

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I know, I usually try to get these reviews out a day after the movie or show premieres, especially with American Horror Story, because I have to stream it the next day (I don’t need another bill). Unfortunately, the past couple of days I’ve been busy with personal stuff and I didn’t really have time to deal with watching and writing reviews. The only thing I’ve seen for it was a review on Twitter by someone I follow, stating that the season opening was intriguing, but not outright scary.

Well, I finally had some time to watch and review the episode, so let’s get into it. American Horror Story: Cult begins with news footage from Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton’s campaigns, starting from when the Donald started running and ending with his election as President. From there, the story follows two very different characters: Allie (played by Sarah Paulson), a woman with an anxiety disorder whose phobias, including clowns and even objects full of holes, come back in full force after Trump’s election. The other is Kai (played by Evan Peters), a purple-haired Trump supporter who has some bizarre beliefs, including that Trump’s election is the beginning of a revolution. From the look of things, their lives are going to be intertwined in strange ways.

As the Twitter reviewer said, Cult‘s first episode is less scary than intriguing. There’s a lot of focus on how the election affects everyone. Allie, being married to and having a child with another woman, is understandably scared that her family will be torn apart under the new administration, and that activates her other phobias, to the point that it’s affecting her marriage and her son negatively. Kai, on the opposite end of the spectrum, feels empowered to speak his views loud and proud, even if not everyone is interested in hearing them. The characters are exaggerated  amalgamations of reactions from both sides of the aisle, but they do get to a lot of what many Americans felt post-election.

Speaking of which, there’s an interesting scene during the first half of the episode where Allie walks into a store, and starts up a conversation with someone, only to find out they’re a Trump supporter, even though at first glance, they didn’t seem like the stereotypical Trump supporter. I had an experience like that at a drug store during the primaries, where I made a comment about the Trump campaign, and a store clerk said he might vote for Trump. And like Allie, I felt a little perturbed afterwards, because I didn’t really care for some of Trump’s policies, and I thought someone working a minimum wage job wouldn’t either. But then you got to remind yourself that the Trump campaign drew people from a number of walks of life, which lead to his election. This scene portrays that well, to the point where I felt a little deja vu.

But as for scares, it’s pretty lacking. The design of the clowns is very freaky (especially when you’re not sure if they’re real or hallucinations), and Kai is freaky all on his own, but it’s not going to scare anyone used to horror scenery. If it were more like the opening of the fifth season, where every ten minutes there was a bloody, out-of-left-field scare or death. Here, it’s just not that impactful, they’re more concerned with setting up the story. And while that has worked in other seasons and in the first episode of The Defenders, here it just doesn’t work. After all, this is American Horror Story, and the setup needs to be balanced with that horror we were promised.

It makes me hope that in the next ten episodes it’ll really ramp up on the scares and make for a fun season. And it makes me hopeful that Colton Haynes’s character gets a lot of screentime (I love him whenever I see him in anything).

On a scale of 1 to 5, I’m giving the first episode of AHS: Cult a 3.2 out 5. Good setup with believable characters and excellent tapping into America’s fractured post-election psyche, but definitely a lot more horror is needed.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. Join me Saturday at some point when I review another scary thing with clowns, IT. Prepare to float!

Today I wanted to talk about something that is becoming much more common in fiction these days, and that’s the twist villain. If you’re unfamiliar, a twist villain is when one character in a story seems to be the villain, but later on it’s revealed that another character, usually a character we thought was a good guy, is actually the villain. This twist villain is supposed to be a surprise, something you didn’t see coming while reading the story. Hence the name “twist villain.” The problem is, the twist villain is becoming such a common trope these days. In the past couple years, we’ve seen it in Disney films like Zootopia and Frozen; popular novels like Gone Girl and Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban; a couple of recent superhero films; and more than I can possibly name in this blog post. And when so many works of fiction are using the twist villain, we become used to not only seeing the trope but also the signs that a twist villain is going to be used (and trust me, there are signs), and then when we see the twist villain, we’re not very surprised. Heck, sometimes we even predict who the villain is well before it’s revealed.

Why is this trope becoming so popular? Simple: people want a good story. Good stories produce good memories and good profits. As standard stories of good vs. evil have been done to death, creators need to think of new stories and story elements to keep consumers interested in their work. One way to do that is a third-act twist, which when done right can really enhance a story. And a twist villain can be a very good third-act twist, if you’re careful with it.

Sadly, I find that a lot of creators aren’t careful with their twist villains, making the twist ineffective when it happens. Which is sad, because I love the idea of a twist villain. Heck, it’s one I might use in the future, if I haven’t used it already. A good twist villain can make your mind reel, make you look back trough a story to see if there were any clues and make you marvel at the genius of the creators for setting up that twist so well.

A bad twist villain, on the other hand, just leaves you feeling neutral at best (my reaction during Zootopia) and disappointed at worst (my reaction looking back on Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed). Which is why I’ve come up with a few tips for writing an effective twist villain. With any luck, these tips will help other authors (and myself) avoid making a bad twist villain.

1. Does your story really need a twist villain? Any time you want to include something in a story, ask yourself if it’s really needed. I swear, so many stories just add in elements that aren’t needed (*cough* lots of stuff from BvS *cough*). Ask yourself if your story can stand on its own without any of the extra elements. If it doesn’t, DON’T FORCE IT IN! Especially with twist villains.

2. If you’re going to leave clues behind, don’t make them obvious. You can have a twist villain without leaving a trail (Hans from Frozen, for example), but with twist villains, creators often like to leave little hints of who the real villain is. I think this is narcissism on our part; we like to show how clever we are. But that leads to us leaving some rather obvious clues, which our readers/viewers will pick up on and deduce the twist long before the twist occurs. Take Scooby-Doo 2: it was so obvious that the reporter was the villain! Why else would they include a reporter with poor ethical practices unless she was at least in league with the villains?

3. Have a good herring villain. A herring villain is just that: a herring to keep us off the real villain. In Frozen, the herring villain was the Duke of Weselton. He had obvious malicious goals, is willing to kill Elsa, and he was over-the-top, which felt right for a villain in this movie. Imagine our surprise when we find out he’s not the true villain, but Hans, who had no trail leading to him and was such a nice guy up till that reveal! A good herring villain will often lead to a great twist villain reveal.

Compare that to Zootopia or Wonder Woman: the former doesn’t give us a herring villain, which causes us to consider each character and eventually land on Ms. Bellwether, who has said some interesting things and has actually benefited from these events. The latter gives us a herring villain, but it’s a comic book movie, and the General doesn’t do a thing to make us think he’s a famous DC villain we’re very sure will make an appearance.

In short, have a herring villain, and make sure they’re set up in a way where people will actually consider them as the main villain, so the twist will actually be effective. To do that, be aware of what sort of story you’re writing. Often the story will have certain requirements for villains (motive, opportunity, etc), so make it seem like the herring villain has those. You’ll find your herring villain much more effective.

4. Do the reveal earlier than the third act. A lot of twist villains reveal themselves in the third act. Nothing wrong with this, but it’d also work if the reveal was done earlier. For example, Hydra was revealed as the villain in Captain America: Winter Soldier in the second act, and that was a really interesting twist, as we hadn’t expected it. If they’d done it later in the story, we might have actually figured it out by then, or there wouldn’t be enough time for exposition mixed with a great climax. So consider doing the reveal elsewhere.

5. Try a variation on the trope. The twist villain, like most tropes, has a standard formula: something happens, one character seems like the villain, but another character is revealed at the third act to be the villain and why. Oh, and it’s usually not the protagonist.

Variations on common tropes have proven to be very effective in storytelling, so try something a little different with the twist villain, like these examples below:

  • It’s a villain, but which one? In Doctor Who series 8, we’re introduced to a character named Missy, who seems likely to be a villain, but we’re not sure what her deal is if she is. In the second-to-last episode, she explains that Missy is short for Mistress, making her a female regeneration of the Master, a well-known DW villain. A lot of minds were blown that day, believe me. The idea is you can introduce a seemingly new character into a long-running story, and then link them back to a previously-established character. Trust me, it works.
  • Everyone’s the villain! Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express ends with every suspect actually having some sort of hand in the murder. It made the novel a sensation back in the day, because it was a seemingly impossible idea, but it worked. So try something impossible and make it possible: everyone’s a villain, no ones’ the villain, or even two very good suspects with alibis both committed the murder. It could work.
  • The hero? American Horror Story: Hotel is my favorite season of the series, and this twist is one reason why. The protagonist, a police detective, is on the hunt for a serial killer, only to find out in the second half of the season that he’s the killer! Trust me, I did not see that coming until the reveal episode, and only by a few minutes! So making a hero or a character who nobody thinks of as a possible villain the villain can work very well.

And these are just some examples of variations that have worked in the past.

Twist villains are a trope that won’t go away anytime soon, but as long as we have them, we should write them as well as we write any other type of character or trope. Because if we’re not going to give people our best, then what are we actually giving them?

What are your thoughts on twist villains? What are some good tips for writing them well?

(The following review contains some spoilers. Reader discretion is advised)

It’s finally here. After months of speculation, of no subtitle or definitive casting list, we have the new season of American Horror Story…and I had to wait a day because I don’t have a TV and I work. That sucks, but you learn to live with it. Anyway, since Hotel ended, there has been rampant speculation as to what Season 6 would be. Rumor was we were supposed to get the theme earlier this summer, but after Orlando, the show’s producers decided to hold back, and instead tease us with multiple trailers that may or may not be related to the actual story of Season 6.

But as of last night, we have a theme, and it is Roanoke! Now for those of you not familiar with American history or who haven’t seen the show’s first season in full, let me explain: Roanoke was an early American colony on the North Carolina coast in the late 16th century. One day, ships from England returned to the colony after a long absence with supplies, only to find the colony mysteriously empty, with not a person in sight. There were no signs of plague or foul play, and the only indicator of what might have happened was a single word carved into a tree trunk: Croatoan. The strange circumstances around the “Lost Colony” has led to a number of theories, both credible and crazy, as well as numerous fictional works about the disappearance.

And it looks like AHS is tackling Roanoke’s legend this year, and they’re doing it in odd fashion too. Rather than telling it like a regular story, as they’ve done in past seasons, AHS is presenting season 6 as a Discovery Channel docuseries called My Roanoke Nightmare, which tells the story of a couple who move into an old house and start to experience strange, supernatural events, both through interviews in what I assume to be a studio, and through dramatic reenactments with actors (it’s very meta). And from the looks of it, it may not be your average haunted house story. Already there are plenty of hints that there’s more to this season than meets the eye, and with showrunner Ryan Murphy promising that this season will begin to tie up the series’ sprawling mythology, you know you’re in for something interesting.

So what did I think of the first episode? Well, it’s definitely intriguing. It’s not the fright fest that the first episode of Hotel was, but I think that’s intentional. This episode is meant to be a lure, showing just enough to get us interested in the story. Which it does very well, giving us a format and a setup that is different from the norm. And near the end, you’re given quite a lot of weird stuff that hints at a very dense story for this season, which will definitely make longtime fans want more.

And speaking of more, I get the sense that, like the story, there’s more to the characters we’re seeing. As the season is modeled after a docuseries, you don’t really see the people in it. You see a version of them meant to keep people interested in the show. You’ve got the interracial couple who we’re supposed to root for, as well as a sister-in-law who has a lot of baggage, and as time goes on, I’m sure we’ll get more characters who start out as versions of people who are meant to keep our interest in the story, but, in typical AHS fashion, their characters will go in directions that nobody will expect, and it’ll be both bonkers and totally amazing.

In any case, this season will conclude in November after ten episodes, just like a real docuseries, so I have a feeling that we’ll get a pretty fast-paced season compared to the past. I’m not sure if that’s a good thing (a few slow moments to develop characters are sometimes necessary for good storytelling), but it’ll definitely be different, and in an anthology series that has surprised and terrified us year after year, that’s definitely what we, the viewers, expect.

All in all, this is a solid start for the show’s sixth season. It’s not super-scary, but it definitely is interesting and I have a feeling plenty of people will be buzzing about the possibilities right up until Episode 2. On a scale of 1 to 5, I’m giving the first episode of American Horror Story: Roanoke a 4 out of 5. Good luck, AHS. I have high hopes for you this year. Don’t let us down.

Well, that’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I’m getting The Conjuring 2 from the library this weekend, so I’ll most likely be doing a review of that as well. Yeah, I’m not doing too well on that whole “two blog posts a month” thing, am I? Well, until then, have some pleasant nightmares!

(Again, slight spoilers on this one, so be careful going own. You may learn something you were hoping to be surprised about)

Well, we’re back. I’m listing the five greatest villains I’ve seen throughout the past year. Will your favorite appear on the list? Who will win the number one spot? And will I use a real person or one of my own villains (no on both of those)? Let’s dive in!

Also, check out #10-6 if you haven’t already.

5. The Society (Red Rising trilogy)

The society pyramid

Big thanks to Kat Impossible for introducing me to this series and getting me hooked on it.

Now, if you’re not familiar with this trilogy, let me explain the premise: imagine about 700-1000 years in our future, mankind has evolved and divided itself into colors: Blue, Green, White, Pink, Red, Obsidian, etc. And on the very top are the god-kings, the Golds, who use the system they helped create to become rich and powerful.

But even if the Golds are the ones who benefit most from this system, and even if there plenty of Golds who alone would qualify for this list (I’m looking at you, Jackal!), none of them on their own are the true villains. If you ask me, the Society as a whole–one that enslaves some of its citizens, and kills others in order for the strongest to survive and rule–is the true villain. It’s a system that takes the very essence of humanity and destroys it for the sake of economic power and prosperity, where those who are compliant can get power even if they’re not Golds or any of the other High Colors. The Society molds the monsters it creates, and the people who fight against it, all at once.

For that reason, I’m nominating an entire civilization for #5 on this list.

And if you haven’t read this series, I highly recommend you do. The characters are awesome, you never see where the story will go, and it constantly finds ways to surprise you and keep you reading. I highly recommend it for anyone who has a thing for science fiction, or just good stories in general.

4. James Patrick Marsh (American Horror Story: Hotel)

I said in my review that AHS: Hotel was my favorite season of the series so far, and March was a big part of that. Played by perennial series mainstay Evan Peters and based partially on real-life serial killer HH Holmes, March is a serial killer who builds the Hotel Cortez to be the ultimate murder palace. After his early death, he mentors other killers as a ghost, inviting people to stop in his hotel to learn the art of murder from him, and even doing a few kills here and there as well.

There are so many reasons to love him as a villain. For one, he’s just so much fun! He’s like Walt Disney turned into a murderer, full of old-fashioned charm and bravado. He’s literally the sort of person you would want to meet in a bar and have a drink with. Whenever March appears on screen, he steals the scene, and no one seems to have more fun with him than Peters himself, who looks like he’s having so much fun playing this murderous hotelier.

Another good reason to like this guy is that everything that happens in the show, you can trace back to him. Even when he was alive, a lot of his actions tended to have far-reaching effects, some of which are felt in the modern-day events of the season. I love a villain who only needs to flip a single domino and then sits back to watch the chaos unfold, and March does it with just a few words and a charming smile. His spot on this list is well-deserved.

3. Whitney Frost (Marvel’s Agent Carter)

Season 2’s villainess is definitely a unique woman, and that’s why she’s so high up on the list. An actress who moonlights as a world-class genius physicist for her husband’s company, Whitney has always been told that, as a woman, her value is in her looks, not in her brains, and is upset when her film roles start to dry up because she’s considered “old” (though if you ask me, her best days are still ahead of her). Because of that, she helps to develop, study, and eventually become one with a strange and destructive substance known as zero matter, which allows her to break down and absorb the people and objects around her. After that, she starts using zero matter to gain power, creating even more so that she can become even stronger.

What’s interesting is how she’s such a contrast from series’ lead Peggy Carter, and yet so very similar. Both are women, very pretty women, and because it’s still a male-dominated age, men continually underestimate them and think they’re better off as secretaries or housewives. However, Peggy proves herself time and time again by taking on the cases and getting the bad guys, while Whitney uses crime, her looks and brains, and zero matter as a way of gaining power in order to validate herself. She’s kind of a dark Agent Carter, in a way, and her evolution through the season and her war with Peggy Carter make for a fascinating battle of the beauties. For that, I give her #3 on this list.

2. Helmut Zemo (Captain America: Civil War)

The penultimate entry on our list is another Marvel villain, this time Baron Zemo’s film portrayal in Captain America: Civil War. Now, I know that the film version, portrayed by Daniel Bruhl, is extremely different from the comic book version. The thing is, I don’t read the comic books (too many continuities and canons to keep track of), so I really have only this version to go on.

And what a version it is. He goes to great lengths and does such elaborate things to carry out his plan. And what is his plan? Simple: to manipulate the Avengers so as to fracture them. And he does it! He breaks the Avengers apart with more fireworks than any boy band could muster, and he almost gets away with it! In fact he does, he just gets captured at the end. This probably makes him the most effective villain in the MCU, and definitely worthy of the Number Two spot on this list.

And he does it all because his family was murdered in Age of Ultron. That’s anger and dedication mixed with patience and intelligence. Seriously, the #2 spot is definitely deserved.

1. The Dread Doctors (Teen Wolf)

Teen Wolf has produced three members of this esteemed list, including last year’s #1 spot. And this year, without a doubt, goes to Season 5’s villains, the well-named Dread Doctors, who I knew as soon as I saw them were going to be somewhere high up on this list.

A group of long-lived mad scientists who have taken the supernatural powers of the world and bent them to their own purposes, they produce hybrids of humans and the various creatures that the show’s famous for. A mix of steampunk fashion, Dr. Frankenstein, Venice plague doctors, Darth Vader, and a few other things, they take teens from Beacon Hills and experiment on them. And all for a very sinister purpose.

Creepy, ephemeral, and willing to go to any lengths to reach their goals. I seriously wish I’d created the Dread Doctors before the show did (or wrote the novel about the Dread Doctors that appears in the show). They deserve the #1 spot, and if you haven’t already, I seriously think you should go online and find some footage on them. You might get some nightmares from it, but it’s definitely worth the risk.

 

That’s this year’s list. But tell me, what did you think? Did you enjoy the list? Any entrees you disagree with? Who do you think should’ve made the list? Let’s discuss.

I found this on Netflix, and after I saw it got good reviews online, I decided to check it out. And I think I got what I asked for with a series called Slasher.

Now, a little background. Slasher is a Canadian-American TV series partially inspired by American Horror Story (and believe me, it shows), as well as Agatha Christie novels and classic slasher movies. The production company’s plan with this show is to do it anthology style with a new story every year, possibly with a similar cast each season (see? The AHS influence shows). The first season’s story follows Sarah Bennett (Kate McGrath), as she and her husband Dylan (Brandon Jay McLaren) move into the house where her parents were brutally murdered by a man dressed like a medieval executioner back in 1988. In traditional slasher fashion, someone copying the original killer’s MO starts killing people, and Sarah finds herself forced to work with the original killer (Patrick Garrow) to figure out who the new killer is.

So how does it stack up?

Well, the first season does have a bunch of problems. The biggest problem is that it’s really derivative. Like I said, you can see the inspiration from AHS. In fact, it feels like an AHS knockoff, and not exactly a stellar one. The killer is also very derivative, his whole MO a ripoff of the movie Se7en with every victim being killed because they committed one of the Seven Deadly Sins. And the killer’s design? It actually reminds me of the protagonist of my novel Snake. I’m actually wondering if that’s not a coincidence! There’s also a character that I’m told is similar to one iconic character from Twin Peaks, an incompetent police department out of just about every film ever, and a few other things I can’t mention without spoiling the story.

Did anyone ever tell you that you look like a character I created this one time?

Another problem is the protagonist, and the actress who plays her. Kate McGrath’s acting in this series is wooden and emotionless, to the point where I want to pull out my phone and find something a bit more animated. Not to mention McGrath’s Irish accent breaks through her attempts at whatever the Canadian equivalent of the General American accent is. As for her character, I find it hard to sympathize or connect with her. I get that her parents were brutally murdered, and that she’s got more than a few reasons to investigate these murders, but other than that there’s not much to her character besides her ability to make and act on connections the police can’t. She feels more like a construct or an idea of what the final girl in slasher stories can be than a real person.

So with all that, is there anything positive about Slasher? Actually, quite a bit.

For one thing, it’s interesting. Fault it for how derivative it is and for the wooden lead, but the show’s writers know how to set up an interesting story. Every character has secrets, and it’s fun to watch those secrets get opened up and divulged to the other characters and the audience. You’re also kept guessing on who the killer is until the final reveal, and there are a bunch of other twists that keep the story feeling fresh and exciting. And there are scenes that are both heartwarming and heart-wrenching. There was one scene in the seventh episode that particularly got to me, and the way it was done was just so artful and well-done. So despite it’s derivative nature, it’s good to see that they can keep an audience interested in the story. Especially an audience that goes through a lot of trash trying to find gold and therefore knows all the cliches.

And while the lead isn’t that great, some of the other characters are just a lot of fun. Dylan Bennett has an interesting character arc in relation to his job as a journalist, the events unfolding around him, and their effects on his marriage. And Christopher Jacot as gay real estate agent Robin is always a blast to have on screen. I think I fell a little in love with his character. Patick Garrow’s incarcerated killer Tom Winston is surprisingly likable and sympathetic. And Dean McDermott as Police Chief Iain Vaughn is also a nasty character I love to hate, and the twist his character takes in the show is thrilling, to say the least.

And this is just a small thing that I really liked, but there’s an interracial couple in this story that’s actually somewhat functional and doesn’t make race the focus of their drama. Whenever I see interracial relationships on American television, it’s always portrayed as something filled with drama, and the race thing comes up in a big way at least once. There’s none of that here. Even better, it’s a black man and a white woman. I’ve seen the reverse a couple of times on TV, but this might be the first time I’ve seen it in any medium. Props to the show for portraying diverse backgrounds and experiences and not making it a huge deal. That’s still something others are having trouble with, as the fact that I’m pointing it out makes evident.

So what’s my final verdict of Slasher? Well, I think a 3.0 out of 5 seems right. Yes, it’s not the best horror show out there, nor is it the best attempt to turn a slasher into a TV series (*cough* Scream was awesome, and I’m so excited for season 2 *cough*), but it keeps your attention and has more than a few things going for it. Assuming there’s a second season (no word at this time if there will be one), there’s a good chance that the people behind the show will learn from the problems of the first season and fix them for the next one.

Oh, and for those of you who’ve seen AHS: Hotel, you may notice more than a few similarities between this show and that season, enough to make you wonder if there was plagiarism involved. Turns out, both shows’ stories were conceived and filmed around the same time. It’s just that one aired after the other. It’s a weird coincidence, but a totally innocent one.

I reviewed the premiere episode, and I reviewed the previous two seasons after the season finales. I’m reviewing this season, and speculating on the sixth season. And here’s what I have to say: Hotel has replaced Asylum as my favorite season of American Horror Story. And given my high standards, that means something.

Honestly, it’s hard to pin down a favorite part or moment to Hotel, so I’ll try to get in as much as possible. First, there’s the story. With AHS, it’s really hard to pin down where the story will go or how things will play out, who will live or die at the end (though I kind of saw how the first season was going to end at a certain point), and Hotel continues that, keeping me guessing right up until the last episode. I couldn’t even tell who the Ten Commandments Killer was until the show decided to scream it at us right before John Lowe finds out, at which point I was like, “I should’ve seen that twist coming! They’re really that good.” Not only that, but the writers manage to keep things interesting even in slower moments. Okay, not all the slower moments, there were a few moments in some early episodes where I got a little bored with the pace, but other than that, the writers told the story well, kept our interest, and even scared us a bit.

The show also managed to get across its main theme to us the viewers very well. Whereas Freak Show hit us over the head with its theme of “the other”, this year’s theme, “addiction” is given to us with a bit more finesse. Yes, there are lots of shots of needles and all that, but you also see it in the interaction of the characters, how certain characters cling to each other like a lifeboat in the middle of the ocean, and how other characters act as merciless and heartless as drug dealers to the people who need them. Besides the actual shots of heroin, the closest they ever get with giving us the addiction theme overtly is in episode 6, where one character reams out another about how she uses men, but that’s it. You really get multiple layers of the theme throughout the season, all done with a skill and complexity that I hope I can someday do with my stories.

Absolutely loved this character.

And then there are the characters. Oh my God, these characters are just so great. My favorite is Evan Peters as James Patrick March, the Hotel Cortez’s founder. He’s such a fun character, like a twisted, murderous Walt Disney, and he steals every scene he’s in. Not only that, but Peters looks like he’s having so much fun every time he’s on screen. Not surprising, considering this is such a different role than anything he’s handled on the show (or maybe in anything he’s ever been in). I also adored Lady Gaga as the Countess. I’ve said it a million times by now, but you forget that you’re watching Lady Gaga when she’s on that screen. She becomes her character, and it’s a magical spell that doesn’t break after the credits roll. I really hope she comes back next season, because she is so talented and fun to watch.

The rest of the cast is also a ton of fun. Denis O’Hare as transgender Liz Taylor is just divine, and totally a woman I would invite out with me on a night of wild partying. Wes Bentley (call me!) does a great job embodying John Lowe, who is a little flat as a character until the big twist about him is revealed, and then he’s just amazing fun. And the hotel itself is a character all on its own (how can it not be, when the word”Hotel” is part of the title?), with the most beautiful sets and an atmosphere all its own. It’s like meeting someone at a party, someone with looks and personality that everyone is drawn to, but if you get too close you see an all-consuming darkness.

Okay, that’s a good description of a lot of serial killers, but you get the idea. I like the hotel. The one character I disliked was Dr. Alex Lowe. Now her actress, Chloe Sevigny, was in Asylum as Shelley the nymphomaniac, and she had such a personality in that season, but here she plays her character like she’s bored most of the time. I know she’s going for frustration and depression at life’s injustices, but it feels more like boredom here. So yeah, not a fan of Alex.

I do have some complaints about this season, as much as I did love it. One was that the entity of the Addiction Demon was so underutilized in the story that if you got rid of it the entire season would be unaffected. I mean really, that thing was scary, so why wasn’t it used more? Not enough actors to play it? Too much time in the make-up chair?

I also could have used a bit more Finn Wittrock in the show (please marry me). I mean he’s such a great actor, he played two separate characters in the same season, and I was willing to forgive him for a bad accent on one of them. But hey, that might just be my problem. I do like handsome actors. Hopefully he’s around a lot next season.

On a scale of 1 to 5, I’m giving American Horror Story: Hotel a 4.9 out of 5. It’s near perfect as a season as AHS has produced yet, and I cannot wait to see how they try to top it next season.

Seriously hope she’s coming back!

And speaking of next season, what could it be? We’ve had Murder House, Asylum, Coven, Freak Show, and Hotel. Where could they go next? If I were a betting man (and I only occasionally buy lottery tickets), I’d say we might see something set at a private school. Schools are great places to portray a horror story, a lot of the regular actors look like they could be high schoolers, and I could imagine Gaga, who may come back next season, as an English teacher who has an affair with a student. I somehow doubt it’ll be anything involving a prison or a camp: the former is too similar to Asylum, and the latter is being done by the guys behind Once Upon a Time. Perhaps we’ll get something with a political bent, or maybe they’ll try to do a period piece in the 19th or 18th century (plenty of untapped potential there). Or maybe something involving a trial, that would be interesting new territory. In any case, a story set at a school, particularly a private one, is my bet.

Well, we’ll find out soon enough. Possibly very soon, if they release a promo like they did after Freak Show. In any case, I cannot wait.

What did you think about AHS: Hotel? Enjoy it or hate it?

What are your guesses for Season 6?