“I love Vin Diesel” is one of the first lines in American Horror Story: Hotel. It’s subtitled from Swedish; Ingmar Bergman would be proud. The fifth iteration of the American Horror Story mythos starts in Downtown Los Angeles. Locals recognize Downtown as a monument to ruined glory — fading remnants of postwar power structures, whole civilizations destroyed to make way for midcentury modern architecture and late-century globo-capitalism. Locals also recognize Downtown as a living monument of urban potential. Someday, celebrities will go to Skid Row — and not just to fight homeless people.
Our visiting Swedes don’t know any of this. They are young, blonde, beautiful. One looks a little bit like Ashley Benson; the other could be Laura Vandervoort’s less Canadian cousin. They have come to see the sights — “the sights,” in this case, meaning Universal Studios. Like most people who know the definition of “city,” they assume everything in Los Angeles is walking distance. Their taxi driver gives them the bad news: Universal Studios is 10 miles thataway, in Hollywood. (Actually, it’s in the Valley — but the Valley has always been at least as Hollywood as Hollywood.)
The distance is a problem. Still, nothing a quick Uber can’t fix. But maybe our Swedes haven’t heart of Uber. Certainly, they’re the last two hip human twentysomethings who don’t use Airbnb. Instead, they’ve booked into the Hotel Cortez, an opulent building full of carpeted corridors and devious doings. It’s the Overlook and the Chelsea. “It’s retro,” says Vandervoort. “Maybe it will be fun.” Benson’s skeptical. The receptionist is Kathy Bates, or “Iris” as the show insists, who’s just full of bad news. No refunds. No Wi-Fi. No cell service. On the way to their room, they pass a kindly maid carrying bloody sheets. “Terrible accident in room 51,” she says. “Just ghastly.” There are little blond children lingering on the horizon of every hallway.
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There’s a strange smell in the Swedes’ room. They discover that their mattress has been sewn shut; when they open it up, a bald man emerges, screaming. Iris immediately books them into a different room: 64. Benson promises to give the Hotel Cortez a bad review on Yelp. Then she walks into the bathroom, and sees Vandervoort covered in little blond children, their mouths dripping with blood. Yelp will have to wait.
NEXT: Murder Hotel