‘American Horror Story: Hotel’ Reveals the Monster in ‘Room 33’ and Connects the Dots to ‘Murder House’
Tonight’s episode of American Horror Story: Hotel finally takes us back to the ol’ Murder House, but unfortunately our trip there is all too brief, as we have more pressing matters back at the Hotel Cortez. Specifically, with what — or who — is residing in “Room 33,” and it’s…well, it’s really not that big of a deal. It’s just kind of okay.
First things first, our own Erin Whitney was mostly right in her prediction of how Lady Gaga’s Countess connects Hotel to Murder House. Yes, back in 1926 our vampiric Countess found herself knocked up and paid a visit to a certain Dr. Montgomery for a certain procedure. In what sets off a fairly basic homage to It’s Alive, the procedure goes wrong, the vampire-baby-Infantata thing kills a nurse, and the Countess goes home with a blood-sucking monster, also often known as a “child.”
AHS hasn’t been particularly overt about whatever’s hanging out in room 33, and I can only recall one offhanded comment about it way back in the premiere. Like pretty much every other plot thread this season, The Thing in Room 33 appears as if we’ve accidentally bumped into an ongoing narrative at the halfway mark. Same goes for the sudden relationship between Liz Taylor and Tristan — it’s the kind of thing that makes you wonder if your DVR missed an episode.
It’s also the kind of thing that makes you wonder why you need to care. It’s increasingly difficult to make it through scenes involving Detective Downer’s family drama, the All My Vampire Children soap opera, and the uncanny medicated mannequin valleys of Matt Bomer and Cheyenne Jackson. This series has somehow managed to make Chloe Sevigny, of all people, into a walking coma, even more boring now that she’s a vampire and faces no real conflict.
The big “event” of this week’s episode is what’s inside room 33, which isn’t at all surprising — yes, it’s the vampire baby, and yes, it never grew, and yes, it has a name. Bartholomew. If you’d like to get blackout wasted, you can take a drink every time Angela Bassett says “Bartholomew,” which is about 20 times in two minutes. I’m sorry, but now you have alcohol poisoning.
Ryan Murphy and director Loni Peristere play coy and show an unnecessary amount of restraint in hiding Bartholomew’s physical appearance until the end of the episode. It’s a cute but slight riff on It’s Alive, but if you have even a passing familiarity with the 1974 film, then this whole Baby Bartholomew thing is hardly effective. Sometimes I wonder if American Horror Story is just built on references its audience isn’t familiar with, or with which they’re only superficially acquainted. Maybe it’s more effective for someone whose only knowledge of The Hunger or The Shining or Village of the Damned comes from a YouTube video embedded in some listicle of the best horror films.
“Room 33" opened with such promise, taking us back to Murder House (with Matt Ross!) and reminding us of the good times we once shared before taunting us with the derivative buildup to an uninspired reveal. So much of the episode feels like we’re trudging along, marching toward an inevitable conclusion (Detective Downer is the Seven Deadly Sins killer, obviously) and hitting all the perfunctory beats along the way.
Even Denis O’Hare’s wonderful, heartbroken performance as Liz Taylor opposite Lady Gaga’s icily somber Countess in that third-act confrontation couldn’t wake the rest of this episode up. And both of them somehow managed to make me genuinely care despite Finn Wittrock’s best attempts to destroy the moment with his terrible, terrible acting.
- “Orphans like you like girls like me ‘cause it’s like having mommy and daddy both in the room.”
- “You’re never going to see Vin Diesel in 3D.” THE HORROR, THE DISTINCTLY AMERICAN HORROR.
- What an absolute waste of Darren Criss.
- “Who is he?” “This stupid guy with a big hard-on. We were trying to find our purpose.” This may be the realest thing ever said on AHS.
- “This is my breakdown, I’m gonna have it!”
- With only a few episodes left, I am struggling to make it to the end of American Horror Story: Bret Easton Ellis Edition.
- More Evan Peters, please and thank you.