American Horror Story: Hotel

American Horror Story: Hotel Information

American Horror Story: Hotel is the fifth season of the FX horror anthology television series American Horror Story. It premiered on October 7, 2015, and concluded January 13, 2016. The series was renewed in October 2014, with the subtitle Hotel being announced in February 2015. Hotel marks the first season to not feature series mainstay Jessica Lange. Returning cast from previous seasons of the series include: Evan Peters, Sarah Paulson, Denis O'Hare, Lily Rabe, Kathy Bates, Angela Bassett, Chlo Sevigny, Finn Wittrock, Wes Bentley, Gabourey Sidibe, Mare Winningham, Matt Bomer, John Carroll Lynch, and Anthony Ruivivar, along with new cast members Lady Gaga, Cheyenne Jackson, and Max Greenfield. Breaking from the anthological format, like Freak Show, the season is interconnected to the first and third seasons, and features an appearance by the Murder House, its original owner Dr. Charles Montgomery (Matt Ross), its realtor Marcy (Christine Estabrook), and the psychic Billie Dean Howard (Paulson), as well as the appearance of the witch Queenie (Gabourey Sidibe).

The plot centers around the enigmatic Hotel Cortez in Los Angeles, California, that catches the eye of an intrepid homicide detective (Bentley). The Cortez is host to the strange and bizarre, spearheaded by its owner, The Countess (Gaga), who is a bloodsucking fashionista. This season features two murderous threats in the form of The Ten Commandments Killer, a serial offender who selects his victims in accordance with biblical teachings; and The Addiction Demon, who roams the hotel, armed with a drill bit dildo.

According to creators Brad Falchuk and Ryan Murphy, thematically Hotel is much darker than previous seasons. Inspiration came from old hotel horror films and actual hotels situated in downtown Los Angeles with a reputation for sinister events, including The Cecil. The cycle also marks a return to filming in Los Angeles, where the first two seasons were shot. Hotel features one of the most expansive sets in American Horror Story history, with production designer Mark Worthington building two stories on a soundstage, along with a working elevator and stairway. In July 2015, FX launched a marketing campaign for the series, with most trailers and teasers touting Gaga's involvement.

Although the season was originally reported to consist of thirteen episodes (i.e. Asylum, Coven, and Freak Show), that number was later revised to twelve (i.e. Murder House). Hotel has received multiple award nominations; including an NAACP Image Award nomination for Bassett, Critics' Choice Television Award nominations for Paulson, Bentley, and Bates, and Golden Globe win for Gaga along with a nomination for the series itself.


The fifth season of American Horror Story focuses on the Downtown Los Angeles Hotel Cortez which has been recently purchased by New York fashion designer Will Drake (Cheyenne Jackson). The 90 year old hotel is haunted by demons and mysterious ghosts including the founder, James Patrick March (Evan Peters); heroin junkie Sally (Sarah Paulson); and the strap-on-wielding Addiction Demon. Staff and residents of the hotel include the 111-year-old "vampire" Elizabeth/The Countess (Lady Gaga) and her fleeting paramour, the former drug-addict Donovan (Matt Bomer), as well as Donovan's mother, the manager and front desk clerk Iris (Kathy Bates); the eccentric transgender bartender Liz Taylor (Denis O'Hare); and the Countess's vengeance-obsessed lover Ramona Royale (Angela Bassett).

As the season unfolds, the information and backstory of each character is revealed. Elizabeth was married to James March and had an illegal abortion at the Murder House (of AHS Season One) back in 1926. Ramona was a Hollywood actress who had a romantic past with Elizabeth, before the latter killed Ramona's new boyfriend in a jealous rage. Liz was formerly known as Nick Pryor and lived in Topeka, Kansas up until 1984 when she was given a makeover and christened as Liz Taylor by Elizabeth. Sally, after supplying Donovan heroin, was shoved out a window by an angered Iris. Finally, James tortured and murdered many visitors to his hotel, which he built with a series of secret chutes and hallways used primarily for covertly disposing the bodies of his victims.

The present and past stories of the Hotel are interwoven with the present tale of Detective John Lowe (Wes Bentley), who is first drawn to the hotel by a series of murders committed by a serial killer the victims of whom each exemplify a sin in violation of one of the Ten Commandments. As the season unfolds, it is revealed that certain past events"?including the earlier disappearance of Lowe's young son Holden"?are also entangled in the stories of the Countess and the Hotel Cortez.

Cast and characters

See List of American Horror Story characters for more information


Special guest stars


  • Lennon Henry as Holden Lowe
  • Richard T. Jones as Det. Andrew Hahn
  • Shree Crooks as Scarlett Lowe
  • Lyric Lennon as Lachlan Drake
  • Jessica Belkin as Wren
  • Max Greenfield as Gabriel
  • Helena Mattsson as Agnetha
  • Kamilla Alnes as Vendela
  • Mdchen Amick as Mrs. Ellison
  • Anton Lee Starkman as Max Ellison
  • Christine Estabrook as Marcy
  • Darren Criss as Justin
  • Alexandra Daddario as Natacha Rambova

Guest stars

  • Roxana Brusso as Dr. Kohan
  • David Naughton as Mr. Samuels
  • John Carroll Lynch as John Wayne Gacy
  • Seth Gabel as Jeffrey Dahmer
  • Anthony Ruivivar as Richard Ramirez
  • Nico Evers-Swindell as Craig
  • Robert Knepper as Lieutenant
  • Jessica Lu as Babe
  • Kristen Ariza as Mrs. Pritchard
  • Mouzam Makkar as Nurse Leena
  • Matt Ross as Dr. Charles Montgomery
  • Charles Melton as Mr. Wu
  • David Barrera as Dr. Kaplan


|ProdCode        = 5ATS01
|Viewers         = 5.81
|ShortSummary    = Two Swedish tourists check in to the Hotel Cortez in downtown Los Angeles. They are attacked by a disfigured creature who was inside their room's mattress. Iris (Kathy Bates), the manager of the hotel, moves them to Room 64. Meanwhile, Detective John Lowe (Wes Bentley) is investigating the torture-murder of a couple. During his investigation, John receives a strange phone call telling him to go to the hotel where he will find a clue. At the Cortez, John falls asleep and wakes up with a vision of his missing son Holden (Lennon Henry). Heroin addict Gabriel (Max Greenfield) checks in and is violently raped by the Addiction Demon; before Gabriel dies, Hypodermic Sally (Sarah Paulson) appears and asks him to tell her that he loves her. Elizabeth (Lady Gaga) and Donovan (Matt Bomer) have a foursome with a couple they met. During sex, they slit the couple's throats and savor their blood. Will Drake (Cheyenne Jackson), the new hotel owner, arrives with his son Lachlan (Lyric Lennon). In a flashback to 1994, Sally and Donovan check in to the Cortez. Iris knocks on their door and argues with Sally for drugging her son. When Sally leaves disoriented, Iris shoves her out a window to her death. John Lowe arrives at the hotel with his luggage, and checks in to Room 64.
|LineColor       = 3F2100

|ProdCode        = 5ATS02
|Viewers         = 4.06
|ShortSummary    = Will hosts a fashion show in the hotel lobby with the help of Vogue editor Claudia Bankson (Naomi Campbell). Model and actor Tristan Duffy (Finn Wittrock), a drug addict and narcissist, stars in the show. He meets Elizabeth, who turns him into a vampire and the two engage in a sexual relationship. Donovan discovers them and becomes jealous, resulting in Elizabeth ending their relationship. John goes to arrest Iris, but she instead tells him about the hotel through flashbacks. The sadistic James Patrick March (Evan Peters) built the hotel in the 1920s as a place for him to torture and murder people. Eventually police find him, so he and his loyal laundress Miss Evers (Mare Winningham) commit suicide. Meanwhile Lachlan and Scarlett develop a friendship, and Lachlan shows her a room with an empty indoor pool that contains four small coffins for Elizabeth's children. Scarlett recognizes her brother, Holden, in one of the coffins and returns to the hotel the next day to talk to him. She takes a photo of herself with him to prove to her parents that he is still alive; when John looks at the photo, Holden is blurry.
|LineColor       = 3F2100

|ProdCode        = 5ATS03
|Viewers         = 3.20
|ShortSummary    = Tristan meets March and promises to murder Will after he reveals his plans for the revamped hotel. Elizabeth stops Tristan from killing Will and reveals that she plans to marry the designer and then murder him to gain his entire estate, because she lost all of her money in a bad investment. Iris is once again rejected as a mother by Donovan who convinces her to kill herself. Shortly afterwards, Donovan is kidnapped by Ramona Royale (Angela Bassett), an ex-lover of Elizabeth. Ramona aims to kill Elizabeth's children in revenge for her murdering Ramona's male lover. She releases Donovan, whom she sees has no worth to her due to his break-up with Elizabeth. Donovan checks back in to the hotel just as Iris has decided to end her life by overdosing on heroin supplied to her by Hypodermic Sally. Donovan bursts into the room and brings Iris back to life by feeding her his vampire blood. Alex serves John with divorce papers at the Cortez. There she is shocked to see Holden, who says "Hi, Mommy" to her.
|LineColor       = 3F2100

|ProdCode        = 5ATS04
|Viewers         = 3.04
|ShortSummary    = On Devil's Night (Oct 30), Richard Ramirez (Anthony Ruivivar) checks in to the hotel and goes on a murder spree. As the day goes on, more serial killers check in, including Aileen Wuornos (Lily Rabe), who meets John in the bar and attempts to kill him. He subdues her and learns of the other killers but thinks them as people in Halloween costumes. Liz informs John of March's annual Devil's Night dinner, where the most notorious American serial killers, who had previously checked into the hotel prior to their apprehension or death, come together and celebrate their crimes. There John again meets Wuornos, and is introduced by March to Ramirez, John Wayne Gacy (John Carroll Lynch), Jeffrey Dahmer (Seth Gabel), and the Zodiac Killer. During the course of the dinner, John witnesses the guests murdering a man who has been picked up by Sally. Meanwhile, Alex takes Holden home to diagnose what is wrong with him, only to see him kill their dog and start drinking its blood. After Holden wishes to visit his "other mommy", he leads her to Elizabeth, whom Alex confronts. Elizabeth claims John neglected Holden and explains that she took Holden away from his parents to "save him". Elizabeth offers Alex the opportunity, to which Alex slowly agrees, to become a vampire so she can spend the rest of eternity with her son.
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|ProdCode        = 5ATS05
|Viewers         = 2.87
|ShortSummary= Iris and Donovan meet Ramona and discuss on how to get revenge on Elizabeth and come up with making Iris their inside man as Elizabeth would never suspect her. Meanwhile, Alex feels sorry for her patient Max and turns him. The next day, Max feeds on his parents and goes to school and starts a strain of virus, infecting his friends who then feed on various teachers. John awakes again, this time scratched and in bed with Sally. She claims he practically dragged her into his room from the bar, where they had sex. John denies doing any of it and leaves Sally in the room. A pair of arrogant hipsters (Darren Criss and Jessica Lu) check into the hotel and frustrate Iris. She receives comfort from Liz, who details how she came to be an employee at the hotel. Ultimately, Iris brutally murders and feeds on the hipsters in a rage. Elizabeth and Holden meet Alex, and he notices she has been turned. Alex starts working as the children's new governess, and would do so long as she follows the rules.
|LineColor       = 3F2100

|ProdCode        = 5ATS06
|Viewers         = 2.64
|ShortSummary    = In a flashback to 1926 in the Murder House, Dr. Charles Montgomery (Matt Ross) meets with Elizabeth to perform an abortion. During the process, the baby attacks the nurse assisting Charles with the operation. When Elizabeth wakes up, he announces she had a boy. In the present day, it is revealed that Elizabeth keeps him in Room 33. John discovers Alex in the coffin and faints upon seeing her. John later checks out of the hotel and goes back home. Donovan returns, along with Ramona and Iris, with a plan to murder the children, however he backs out and goes to the penthouse in hopes to see Elizabeth but instead discovers Agnetha and Vendela, the two Swedish tourists, and the three have a conversation about finding their purpose after death. Meanwhile, Tristan and Liz begin a relationship, worrying about Elizabeth's reaction. Tristan and Liz tell Elizabeth and ask if they can be together, but Elizabeth instead kills Tristan.
|LineColor       = 3F2100

|ProdCode        = 5ATS07
|Viewers         = 2.64
|ShortSummary    = Two ghoulish figures are found in one of the barricaded corridors in Hotel Cortez. In 1925 Los Angeles a young Elizabeth gets into a relationship with actor Rudolph Valentino. He dies prematurely and Elizabeth marries James March. Valentino later appears and explains he faked his death and talks about the immortal gift. He changes Elizabeth, but a jealous March locks Valentino and his wife in the corridor. In present day, John Lowe checks in the Los Angeles hospital and finds a girl, called Wren (Jessica Belkin), who is accomplice to The Ten Commandments Killer. He wants to find out who the killer is, but the girl escapes, and is killed off in a road accident.
|LineColor       = 3F2100

|ProdCode        = 5ATS08
|Viewers         = 2.31
|ShortSummary    = After Wren's death, John heads to the Hotel Cortez and demands to know where The Ten Commandments Killer is. Sally leads him to Room 64 and reveals a secret room that March had built decades earlier, where she reveals that John is the murderer. Realizing what he has done, John goes to the morgue and confesses to Detective Hahn (Richard T. Jones). Through a series of flashbacks it is revealed that John had first visited the Cortez in 2010. He came into contact with March, who decided John was the perfect accomplice to continue his work. To get him to truly live in the world of darkness, March convinced Elizabeth to kidnap Holden. Distraught, John goes after Martin Gamboa, a child molester, and murders him. Sally almost lets John kill himself after realizing what he has done, but March saves him, claiming Sally can have him after John finishes all the murders.
|LineColor       = 3F2100

|ProdCode        = 5ATS09
|Viewers         = 2.14
|ShortSummary    = Elizabeth reflects on her current situation and realizes that she only has space for those she can feel love for, and tracks down Valentino and Natacha. She plans to construct the Cortez as a shelter against the modern world for her and Rudy, but only once she murders Will. Alex tracks down the kids from the school massacre and finds all the bodies of their parents. She attempts to bring the children back to the Cortez, but they refuse help and escape. Meanwhile, Donovan tells Ramona they need to hurry their plans of vengeance since Elizabeth and Will are getting married that night. As Ramona is about to stab Elizabeth, Donovan betrays her and locks her up in the abandoned hallway inside a neon cage. Will marries Elizabeth in a private ceremony and immediately after the wedding, March introduces Will to Bartholomew. For thinking ill of her child, Elizabeth imprisons Will with Ramona and watches on a camera as a now freed Ramona slashes his throat and drinks his blood.
|LineColor       = 3F2100

|ProdCode        = 5ATS10
|Viewers         = 1.85
|ShortSummary    = Natacha accepts Elizabeth's invite to stay at the hotel, however Elizabeth kills her shortly after she arrives. Donovan goes to visit Rudolph at the motel and after a heated exchange, kills him. John and Alex rekindle their relationship by teaming up with each other to find the children who were turned as a result of Alex saving one of her patients with her own blood. They track them down and convince the children to come back to the hotel, and trick them into being sealed in with Ramona. Sally does not like the fact that John and Alex are back together and vows that she will kill him if John does not stay with her. Meanwhile, Liz seeks help from Miss Evers to help reconnect with her son, Douglas, and they invite him to stay at the hotel for a week with all expenses paid. Liz gradually connects with her son and Douglas admits he wants his father in his life, regardless if she is a woman. Iris and Liz were planning on killing themselves together, but Liz backs out. Instead she and Iris team up to take over the hotel, starting with shooting up the penthouse with Donovan and Elizabeth inside.
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|ProdCode        = 5ATS11
|Viewers         = 1.84
|ShortSummary    = Liz Taylor and Iris shoot at Elizabeth and Donovan, and Elizabeth escapes while Donovan lays dying. Iris and Liz move him outside the hotel to die, so he will not be trapped inside. Elizabeth ends up with Hypodermic Sally who pulls out the bullets and also revives her using blood from the towheads. Sally then reminisces about an old drug dealer of hers as well as a couple of musicians who were good to her in the 1990s. Iris and Liz discuss freeing Ramona as a weapon against Elizabeth. Ramona confronts Elizabeth, but Elizabeth convinces her old lover for one more round of sex and then she will let Ramona kill her. Elizabeth subsequently packs and is about to leave for good but she is gunned down by John while trying to enter the elevator. John's final kill is "Thou Shalt Not Commit Murder", and he presents Elizabeth's head as a trophy to James March. Elizabeth's ghost arrives at March's suite who tells her that he can finally forgive Elizabeth for turning him in to the police; she admits that she did not. Hazel admits that she called the police, so that she could have March to herself. March spurns Hazel banishing her from his presence.
|LineColor       = 3F2100

|ProdCode        = 5ATS12
|Viewers         = 2.24
|ShortSummary    = Liz reflects on the reinvention of the Hotel Cortez under new management. Liz and Iris lament the new problems that the murderous ghosts are leaving them with, and decide to resolve things before guests permanently stop arriving. Sally and Will decline to stop killing but March agrees with Liz and Iris that they need to stop defiling their home. More than a year after Will's death, Liz inspires Will to start sketching new designs, with Liz herself as the "face" of the line. Liz still misses Tristan, and Iris invites Billie Dean Howard to communicate with Liz's lost love. Liz discovers that she is terminally ill with prostate cancer and decides to die in the Hotel. The Countess slices open Liz's throat while the other ghosts watch. Only then, is she visited by Tristan, who has not wanted to interfere so that Liz can continue living her life. Ramona and Iris are dismayed by the effect the medium has had on the Hotel's reputation. John invites Billie Dean to the annual Devil's Night as the "party favor" of the year, and the ghosts offer her the choice of never mentioning the Cortez again, or she will be tracked down and murdered. Billie flees and John leaves the party to be with his family.
|LineColor       = 3F2100
}} }}



Conception and writing

On October 13, 2014, FX renewed the series for a fifth season for an October 2015 premiere. Network president John Landgraf stated that the season would necessitate a "huge reinvention" for the series. The season's subtitle was confirmed as Hotel in February 2015. The theme and Gaga's involvement were hinted in the previous installment as an image of a top hat, an arcane clue alluding to the 1935 screwball musical comedy film Top Hat, which is set in a hotel and features a song called "Cheek to Cheek", also the title of Gaga's duet album with Tony Bennett. Co-creator Ryan Murphy explained that the casting included a number of actors and singers, but would be a much darker season compared to the previous ones. Inspiration came from old hotel horror films and actual hotels situated in downtown Los Angeles, with horrific reputations. This included The Cecil, where the death of 21-year-old Canadian student Elisa Lam occurred. Murphy had watched a surveillance video of Lam in the hotel, in which she displayed erratic behavior just hours prior to her supposed death. It was around this time that the writing for Hotel was conceptualized, which included Murphy's personal phobia and fears, a fear that had not been explored since the first season.

The upcoming season that we're doing is much more horror-based; it's much more dark. It's about a theme and an idea that's very close to my heart that I've always wanted to do that's a little bloodier and grislier I think than anything that we've done before; it's straight horror this year. Murder House, I thought, was a very primal season because everybody's great fear is about the bogeyman under the bed in their house, and this feels similar to me in that when you check into a hotel, there are certain things beyond your control... Other people have the keys to your room; they can come in there. You're not exactly safe, it's a very unsettling idea.
Murphy and some of the cast appeared at the 2015 Comic-Con International and revealed further information about the series. "[Angela Bassett, Kathy Bates, Matt Bomer, Sarah Paulson and Evan Peters] are bad boys and girls this time." Regarding the season having no primary character, Murphy confessed that "the thing that's different about the season is that before we've always been very driven by the Jessica Lange character. She was always the lead character... This year, it's a true ensemble and I think we have more male parts and more male stories. The Wes Bentley part is really big, the Matt Bomer part is really big; Evan Peters and Finn Wittrock are really big. [But] that's not to say that the women aren't either."

Co-creator Brad Falchuk explained that like the first and second season of the series, Hotel would explore the "trapped" horror trope, though the actions would not be limited to just within the premises. "This season, the horror is sneaking out of the hotel," he added explaining that the plot would revolve around the hotel in the center, with a more noir like ambience. Named as Hotel Cortez, the titular structure was built by James March in 1930, who was created as a rich and charming but deeply psychotic character. The season features two tormentors, The Ten Commandments Killer, who is inspired by biblical teachings, and The Addiction Demon, who wields a drill bit dildo. They are in the vein of previous seasons' Bloody Face and Rubber Man, respectively. The Halloween episode, "Devil's Night", features a dinner with "the biggest serial killers of all time", including Wuornos and John Wayne Gacy.

Set design

The Hotel's two-story lobby set, along with a working elevator, was constructed over the course of seven weeks. While no particular hotel served as inspiration, production designer Mark Worthington was influenced by Timothy Pflueger and William Van Alen when selecting patterns and schemes, stating, "Tonally, I thought Art Deco would make sense for the horror genre because it can be dark and spiky and odd and the composition is strange. It's beautiful, but it isn't necessarily inviting." The hotel consists of labyrinthine structures housing March's murderous fantasies with dead ends, secret rooms and includes plot-lines corresponding to it. A painting of Hernn Corts, after whom the establishment is named, hangs in the reception area. Worthington and his team had a hand in creating even the smallest of details; such as hotel insignias for the light fixtures, bar coasters, and a venus flytrap column carving that reflects the nature of Gaga's character. The staircase was structured in such a way as to not pull focus from the elevator, which will serve as prime location. The exterior of the set was inspired by the James Oviatt Building in Downtown Los Angeles, while the interior decorations were modeled from the Cicada restaurant situated inside the Oviatt.


In February 2015, it was announced that American singer Lady Gaga had joined the show. Murphy stated she wanted her role in the series to be "evil". He also explained that Hotel would be devoid of any musical numbers. Instead Gaga's character, Elizabeth/The Countess, is a fashion icon and owner of the Hotel Cortez. Created as a glamorous socialite character, The Countess maintains her beauty by imbibing human blood. Murphy was so pleased with Gaga's performance that he invited her back for the yet-to-be-confirmed sixth season of the series, before Hotel had even made its debut. In March 2015, series star Jessica Lange definitively announced that she would not be returning for the fifth season. During PaleyFest 2015, it was announced that Matt Bomer and Cheyenne Jackson would co-star. Afterwards, more castings were confirmed, including Sarah Paulson, Evan Peters, Kathy Bates, and Angela Bassett. Murphy tweeted about the latter's involvement in Hotel, including a plotline with Gaga, as a character called Ramona Royale, an actress and former lover of The Countess returning to the titular hotel for revenge. Chlo Sevigny, who was a recurring special guest in Asylum, returned to the series for Hotel, playing the wife of Wes Bentley's character, a detective.

In May 2015, it was announced that Max Greenfield would also be joining the cast, in a role later revealed to be that of an addict. Greenfield had to dye his hair platinum blond for the role. His is intertwined to that of Sally's (Paulson) and together with The Addiction Demon feature "the most disturbing scene" the show had ever produced, according to Murphy. In an interview with Vanity Fair, Paulson described Sally as someone who is "selfish and greedy", with hygiene problems. The next month, Murphy announced that Denis O'Hare would return as a cross-dressing bar worker in the hotel. He also confirmed that Finn Wittrock would return in the new role of Tristan Duffy, a male model who is involved in a love triangle with Gaga and Bomer, and later a fated love of Liz's. Wittrock explained that the character might have similarities to his previous Freak Show character, Dandy Mott. In July 2015, Murphy stated that Coven alum Emma Roberts would return for a few episodes toward the finale, after completing filming on her Fox series, Scream Queens. Her character would be associated with James March (Peters). While promoting Queens in September 2015, Roberts spoke about her role with less certainty, but optimism, stating, "'s just everything you could dream of and more. Everything you could nightmare about and more. Granted, things over there are always changing, but I definitely want to go back to it. If it still stands, what Ryan told me, everyone's in for a great shock." However, she later confirmed that she would be unable to return, due to her demanding feature schedule. Furthermore, she did state that Murphy and her had already discussed about a "devilish" role for her in the forthcoming season six.

Later in July, Richard T. Jones joined the cast as Detective Hahn, a homicide detective, for an eight-episode arc. That same day, Helena Mattsson announced that she had also joined the series in an unspecified role. Series alum Lily Rabe portrayed infamous serial killer Aileen Wuornos during the Halloween installment and the finale. With her appearance in the season, Rabe is one of three cast members to appear in all five seasons (along with Paulson and Peters) of the show. Naomi Campbell was cast as a fashion editor who does not get along with Gaga's character. In August 2015, Murphy revealed that Mdchen Amick joined the season as a "mother of a boy who becomes ill", and shares screen time with Alex Lowe (Sevigny). Later in the month, Darren Criss was announced to guest star as a hipster that has conflicts with Iris (Bates), while Mare Winningham joined as the laundress of the Cortez, who works closely with Mr. March, in the 1920s. Christine Estabrook returned to the series as Marcy; the realtor who sold the first season's Murder House to the Harmons. Gabourey Sidibe appeared in the eleventh episode as her Coven persona Queenie. Paulson also reprised her first season role of psychic Billie Dean Howard, appearing in the final episode of the season.


Principal photography for the season began on July 14, 2015, in Los Angeles, California, marking a return to where the series shot its first two cycles (Murder House and Asylum). According to the Los Angeles Times, creative reasons, not economic factors, was the deciding key for moving the series from Louisiana back to Los Angeles since Hotels story is connected to the city. Murphy revealed a six-story hotel set was being built on the Fox lot. A dummy set of the hotel was built at Comic-Con, showing an Art Deco style building from the 1920s, inspired by the old Hollywood era. Murphy announced at the TCA Summer Press Tour in August 2015 that he would be directing the season's Halloween episode, "Devil's Night", marking the first time in series history that he will helm more than the premiere. He stated he would direct it "because I love the script so much, when we finished it I said, 'I can't give this to anybody else'." However, ultimately Murphy did not direct the episode. In an interview with Entertainment Tonight, Murphy spoke about Gaga's entrance scene, confirming it to be about six minutes long and describing it as "like a silent movie with no dialogue, and lots of blood and nudity".

Greenfield recalled that Murphy wanted to push the limits of the scenes between him, Paulson and The Addiction Demon, while admitting that it was scary. Paulson described it as a normal day of shooting for her since she was accustomed to the theatrics surrounding the show. She added, "None of it's crazy to me. I walk in and I'm like 'Hello conical dildo demon person'. I don't even think twice." For The Countess and Donovan, who both suffer from blood lust, Murphy was insistent on chainmail gloves being used as their weapons of choice. Costume designer Lou Eyrich created the custom gloves in the mold of armor, deriving inspiration from artist Daphne Guinness; "We wanted it to look both rock-n-roll but old at the same time. But then the nail that pops out with diamonds on the edge to slice you," said Eyrich.

Filming also took place at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, in front of Chris Burden's art installation called Urban Light, where Gaga was seen in a floor length pink gown shooting scenes. Media reported that the filming involved a party scene with Gaga walking through the installation while singer Dinah Washington's "Coquette" played in the background. Entertainment Weeklys Tim Stack spent three days on set, where he witnessed the filming of a foursome/murder scene, involving Gaga and Bomer's characters. Murphy recounted Gaga's day of filming stating, "You write a foursome for her and you expect a lot of questions. She never did that. She showed up and she was wearing diamond pasties, a Band-Aid on her hoo-ha, heels, and a black veil that Alexander McQueen made for her on the day before his death." Additional filming for the exterior shots of the Hotel Cortez took place outside the James Oviatt Building. Other locations include the lower level of the Los Angeles Theatre at 615 South Broadway, The Majestic Downtown at 650 South Spring Street acting as John Lowe's office, the Loews Hollywood Hotel at 1755 Highland Avenue filming The Ten Commandments Killer murder scene, and Hollywood Forever Cemetery, where scenes with Gaga and Bomer were shot. Also used was the house from the first season located at 1120 Westchester Place.

O'Hare revealed that he had filmed three episodes by September 2015, with his scenes involving Bomer, Sevigny and Bates mostly. "We're kind of doing it piecemeal. You'll do five days on this one, three days on that one. You know, they always start out rocking. There's no warm-up. You're in it," the actor explained. He later went on to compare the aesthetic to Murder House, stating, "It feels like season 1 in many ways... and I think it's because we're back in LA. You can't help it!" He also revealed that his character, Liz Taylor, would be wearing a dress that Lange was supposed to wear in Coven. The actor explained that for his part, he had to shave his body including his head, and wear eye make-up, since the character was inspired by actress Elizabeth Taylor's films like BUtterfield 8 (1960) and Cleopatra (1963).


In February 2015, Gaga tweeted a link to the first promotional video for the upcoming season with the caption "Make your reservation now. #GagaAHSHotel" announcing her presence in the season and the official title. In July 2015, a promotional trading card was unveiled by Entertainment Weekly, available at Comic-Con, where after entering the hotel set built there, one could receive the trading card with a promotional key. The first official teaser for the season was released later that month, showing Gaga's long-nailed hand ringing the bell at the front desk. In August 2015, FX revealed the premiere date of the season along with a new teaser poster, showing an Art Deco peephole on a wooden door, beyond which an obscure image revealed a blond woman putting a body to bed. Later that month, Entertainment Weekly exclusively unveiled two teaser trailers of the season, entitled "Beauty Rest" and "Do Not Disturb", set to singer Heidi Feek's cover of Elvis Presley's 1956 single, "Heartbreak Hotel".

On August 26, Entertainment Weekly revealed exclusive cast photos, along with character descriptions. Gaga also took to her Twitter account to release another photo, showing her as The Countess with three cherubic blond boys, who are seemingly sucking on bottles of blood. The singer captioned the image: "We are family. Meet my magical children. HOTEL #AHS." Murphy released three new teasers through his Twitter account, titled "Towhead", "Sleepwalk", and "Jeepers Peepers", all set to "Heartbreak Hotel". Jef Rouner from Houston Press complimented the teasers, describing them as "things of fleeting, awful beauty. So far I've seen six for this season and at least one of them is creepier than every episode of Coven combined... Each one of these is usually less than 15 seconds long and they are murderously effective. I find myself wanting to watch the show again." On September 10, 2015, an extended teaser was released, featuring a psychedelic tour of the hotel, with cameos by most of the cast. Few days later, two more trailers were released, one showed the hand of an addict, with a keyhole in place of the needle point, while the other, titled "Above & Below", portrays Gaga as The Countess, with several psychedelic intercuts inside a hotel, featuring Rammstein's "Du hast".

American retail chain Hot Topic announced on their Instagram account that starting September 28, 2015, they will launch a clothing and apparel line based on Hotel, that will be sold in-store and online. On September 16, 2015, a featurette was released, giving more details about the season and showing some footage. An actual scene from the season, released in October 2015, showed Bentley's character resting in the Hotel, while Greenfield's character hiding underneath his bed. Same day the title sequence of the season was released by Murphy, consisting of the same soundtrack like previous seasons, intercut with scenes of a dirty hotel and the Ten Commandments written across a wall. Jacob Bryant from Variety was impressed with the clip, saying that "The opening credits for [American Horror Story] have always managed to be unsettling, but season five's creepy credits might top the list."


Critical response

American Horror Story: Hotel has received mixed reviews from critics. The review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes gave the season a 58% approval rating with an average rating of 6.8/10 based on 55 reviews. The site's consensus reads, "Favoring garish style over effective storytelling, the fifth American Horror Story strands a talented cast at Ryan Murphy's Hotel." On Metacritic, the season was given a score of 60 out of 100 based on 24 reviews, indicating "mixed or average reviews".

Dan Fienberg of The Hollywood Reporter gave a positive review, writing, "Early on, Hotel hasn't hooked me with its storytelling, but it's always fun to see what the series does with its repertory acting company and with new additions. Throw in the normal grotesquerie and visual panache and that should keep me going for a while, even if all of the humor appears to have been funneled into Scream Queens." Amber Dowling of TheWrap also gave a positive review, saying, "It's a visual, visceral romp into what is being set up to be another haphazard foray into the world of horror, as imagined by Murphy and his writing counterpart Brad Falchuk. The show has rarely made sense in terms of story, and this is no exception." Willa Paskin of Slate called this season a "promising new start", saying, "AHS: Hotel more obviously resembles the first two, better seasons of American Horror Story than it does the latter, lesser two."

On the other hand, Matt Zoller Seitz of New York Magazine found the episode "confusing, tedious, annoyingly precious, and often ostentatiously brutal", but also praised it for being "darkly beautiful, deeply weird, and (sometimes) exhilarating." Although Scott D. Pierce from The Salt Lake Tribune praised the production design and the cinematography, he said "the storytelling is derivative; the scares are non-existent; and it's all about style without much substance." Mike Hale from The New York Times complained that it "suffers from the absence of Jessica Lange". IGN's Matt Fowler gave a rating of 5.9 out of 10, criticizing the episode as "mediocre" and concluding "all weight and meaning is gone".

Gaga's performance has received mixed reviews from critics. Matt Zoller Sietz of Vulture called Gaga "terrible here in the way that Madonna was terrible in a lot of her '90s films, at once too poised and too blank." David Weiland of The San Francisco Chronicle said Gaga "makes an enormous visual impact, but the minute she opens her mouth to deliver a line, it"?s obvious that acting just isn"?t one of her many talents." Ben Travers of Indiewire wrote that he "wouldn't go so far as to say Gaga's talent adds much to the proceedings, but her presence "? and the manner in which its captured "? certainly does." On the other hand, Emily L. Stephens from The A.V. Club and Jeff Jensen of Entertainment Weekly both gave a B- rating. Stephens praised Gaga's first appearance as "slickly exploitative and hellishly effective" while Jensen described her as "the show's most potent symbol for all of its themes about our Bad Romance with fame, fortune, sex, sex, and more sex, materialism and consumerism, the denial of death and the corrupt want for cultural immortality". Brian Lowry of Variety praised the look of Gaga's character as "gloriously photographed" and felt her addition to the show was "extraordinarily well-timed".


Hotels premiere episode, "Checking In", was initially watched by 5.81 million viewers. After factoring in delayed viewing, the episode rose to 9.1 million, with 6.13 million in the 18-49 demographic, while combined linear, nonlinear and encore viewing, it drew 12.17 million viewers through October 11. Variety stated that "Checking In" could become FX's most-watched telecast, with the 60 full data tabulated. Through its first four episodes, Hotel averaged at 3.7 rating in 18-49 adult zone and 6.9 million viewers total, which is up by 7% and 1% from previous installment, Freak Show, respectively, pacing ahead of the average ratings of all prior installments on a Live +3 basis.

Awards and nominations

Main article: List of awards and nominations received by American Horror Story
In its fifth season, the series has been nominated for 28 awards, eight of which were won.

Year Association Category Nominee(s) Result
2015 MTV Fandom Awards Feels Freakout of the Year Lady Gaga joins American Horror Story: Hotel
2016 20th ADG Awards TV Movie or Limited Series Mark Worthington (for "Checking In")
Short Format "? Web Series, Music Video or Commercial Zach Mathews (for "Hallways")
47th NAACP Image Awards Outstanding Actress in a TV Movie, Mini-Series or Dramatic Special Angela Bassett
42nd People's Choice Awards Favorite Cable Sci-Fi/Fantasy TV Show American Horror Story: Hotel
Favorite Sci-Fi/Fantasy TV Actress Lady Gaga
20th Satellite Awards Best TV Series - Genre American Horror Story: Hotel
Best Actress - TV Series Drama Lady Gaga
68th WGA Awards Long Form - Original Brad Falchuk, John J. Gray, Todd Kubrak, Crystal Liu, Ned Martel, Tim Minear, Ryan Murphy, Jennifer Salt, James Wong
73rd Golden Globe Awards Best Actress - Mini-Series or TV Film Lady Gaga
Best Mini-Series or TV Film American Horror Story: Hotel
6th Critics' Choice TV Awards Best Actor in a Movie or Limited Series Wes Bentley
Best Actress in a Movie or Limited Series Kathy Bates
Best Supporting Actress in a Movie or Limited Series Sarah Paulson
27th PGA Awards Outstanding Producer of Long-Form TV Brad Falchuk, Ryan Murphy, Brad Buecker, Tim Minear, Jennifer Salt, James Wong, Alexis Martin Woodall, Robert M. Williams Jr.
18th CDG Awards Outstanding Contemporary TV Series Lou Eyrich
52nd CAS Awards TV Movie or Mini-Series Brendan Beebe, CAS
Joe Earle, CAS
Vicki Lemar
Brendan Beebe, CAS
Joe Earle, CAS
Doug Andham, CAS
Judah Getz
John Guentner
Make-Up Artists & Hair Stylists Guild Awards 2016 Mini-Series or TV Movie Period and/or Character Make-up Eryn Krueger Mekash, Kim Ayers, Sarah Tanno
Mini-Series or TV Movie Period and/or Character Hair Styling Monte C Haught, Darlene Brumfield, Frederic Asperas
Mini-Series or TV Movie Period Special Make-up Effects Eryn Krueger Mekash, Michael Mekash, David Anderson
Commercials and Music Videos - Best Make-up Kerry Herta, Jason Collins
Commercials and Music Videos - Best Hair Styling Nicole Alkire, Marissa Smith
Fangoria Chainsaw Awards 2016 Best TV Actress Lady Gaga
Best TV Supporting Actor Evan Peters
Best TV Makeup/Creature FX Eryn Krueger Mekash, David LeRoy Anderson
7th Dorian Awards Campy TV Show of the Year American Horror Story: Hotel
42nd Saturn Awards Best Horror TV Series American Horror Story: Hotel

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