American Horror Story Hotel episode 6 review: Room 33

How terrifying can a baby really be? Er, pretty bloody terrifying judging by this week's episode of American Horror Story: Hotel...

This review contains spoilers.

5.6 Room 33

Lady Gaga’s got a thing with her fans. She calls them her little monsters. It’s a great fandom nickname, akin to the Kiss Army in terms of recognizability. After all, there’s a whole episode of The Simpsons based around Gaga’s schtick. It’s the worst episode The Simpsons has ever done, but that’s not the point. It’s a known quantity, and I have no doubt it’s been one of the inspirations for Countess’s collection of creepy children, alongside The Shining and Village Of The Damned. They’re actual little monsters, and she’s their mother.

Of course, she’s not just their adopted mother, she’s the actual mother of at least one child, courtesy of the good butchers at Murder House. That’s right, Countess visits Murder House in 1926 to get her child of three weeks extracted from her evil womb courtesy of Dr. Charles Montgomery (Matt Ross) and his associates. Thus is the origin of Bartholomew, the only blood child of the Countess and her pride and joy. He’s the one thing that keeps her living, and without him, well… someone like Ramona Royale would get to have some sweet revenge, with or without the help of Donovan (who skulks off to moon over the countess) and Iris (who shows up with both a gun and a cleaver to kill some albino vampire babies).

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I really have to give credit to Loni Peristere, this episode’s director. Baby Bartholomew could be nothing more than a joke, a goofy little killer baby like a toothless cable version of the children from It’s Alive. After all, babies aren’t generally killers, no matter how many sharp teeth you give them. However, in Peristere’s hands, Bartholomew becomes something more. He’s not terrifying, but he’s at least a threat, if only because it gives the camera an opportunity to scuttle around at floor-level. We get several Bart’s-eye-view shots of the baby stalking Lowe and Ramona, and the loose, fluid shooting style is a great reminder of The Evil Dead‘s forest monster. Later, when the baby sneaks into Lowe’s luggage like a cat and then proceeds to prowl around and menace Scarlett, the shadow of the baby is used to great effect, akin to the use of the shadow of the killer in M. It helps to turn the baby into something more menacing, even before the expected, horrifying reveal of just what little Bart looks like.

This is an episode heavy on terrifying elements, from the monster baby stalking the hotel to the concerted efforts to turn Lowe into a complete mental case, orchestrated by his wife Alex. There’s an interesting fact disclosed this week by Donovan to the ghosts of the two dead Swedish tourists Agnetha (Helena Mattsson) and Vendela (Kamilla Alnes). They have to find their purpose, or they’ll be forever stuck in a loop, either trying to go see The Fast & The Furious or, in the case of the hipsters from last week, screaming about a lack of kale at the Hotel Cortez. It’s not until Alex recruits them to her scheme that they find their purpose and are given the relative freedom to roam the hotel and frighten people.

The scene where the two try to kill someone to gain their freedom is really funny in a horrible way—they cut the throat of a random fashionista and one of the girls jumps on his back naked, basically riding him to the ground like a piggy-back gone horribly wrong. However, when they turn their attention to Lowe, seducing him and then somehow soaking him with blood like being sprayed with a fire hose, their cruelty frees them to enjoy the rest of the hotel, and all the other characters show up to taunt Lowe, like March and Ms. Evers, among others.

Another secondary plot in an episode full of them concerns the budding love affair between Liz Taylor and Tristan. Liz gets to feel like a beautiful woman, and Tristan gets someone who respects him as much for his mind as for his body. John J. Gray’s script continues Hotel‘s great use of Liz Taylor as a figure of pathos. That’s someone we care about, someone we like, and while he’s responsible for a lot of terrible things—or at least looking the other way while terrible things happen—he’s so kind-hearted and funny and well-played by Denis O’Hare that it’s really easy for us to look the other way, too. We’re on Liz’s side.

Of course, viewers are much more forgiving than Countess would be, since she’s not a person who feels human emotions the same way we do. During her discussion with Liz and Tristan, it’s interesting to hear Countess confirm my theory that she’s a vampire as much emotionally as blood-based. Different emotions taste differently, and it’s interesting to see just how that would play out with someone like Countess, picking first Donovan and then Tristan based on one strong emotion or another. However, like eating the same meal every day, you eventually get tired of having the same main course. That might explain why Countess gets bored and discards her lovers periodically; I love pizza and could eat it every day for a week or two, but eventually you’ll want a salad.

When all you can do is trade in, that leaves behind a lot of jilted, scheming lovers, like Donovan and Ramona. Human break-ups are bad enough, but when you’re a blood-thirsty monster breaking up with another blood-thirsty monster, there’s no such thing as ‘let’s stay friends’. A bad break-up or infidelity usually leads to a quick slash of the throat.

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US Correspondent Ron Hogan is rooting for Liz Taylor more than anyone else in the case, save perhaps for Mr. March and Ms. Evers. Find more by Ron daily at Shaktronics and PopFi.