Monday, 2 March 2015

'American Horror Story': A Sad But Interesting Week

by Hope Hopkinson

Following up from my previous article, which detailed various theories about the links between the four existing seasons of FX’s anthology show American Horror Story, I thought it would be appropriate to continue with a discussion of what can only be described as the show's most interesting week in the media of the year so far.

Ben Woolf
Primarily, and with regret, we heard news this week of the death of AHS actor, Ben Woolf. The 34-year-old, who brought to life the roles of 'Infantata' and 'Meep' in Seasons One & Four respectively, was hit in the head by the mirror of an SUV last Thursday (19th) and, as a result, was sent into intensive care at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. He passed away from a stroke on Monday. The actor and part-time primary school teacher had suffered from pituitary dwarfism from a young age, and had spoken out previously about his condition and what came with it in relation to his career and lifestyle; encompassed into a heart-wrenching two minute video:

Many of the cast and crew of the show paid their respects and shared their memories of Woolf on social media, including Naomi Grossman ('Pepper'), Kathy Bates ('Delphine LaLaurie' and 'Ethel Darling') and executive producer Ryan Murphy.
With relation to 'Freak Show', Woolf summarised that, "We are all freaks in our own way. If there were no freaks, then everyone would be normal." The energy which Woolf gave to the series, the mystique he brought to the storylines whilst subtle, was incredibly integral to the power of the series. His appearances in the show, whilst often brief, helped strengthen the psychological integrity of the story. Not only will he be missed for his acting and the general aura he brought to the show, but also as a family man and pre-school teacher.

On a considerably lighter note, Wednesday brought about some completely different news revolving around the show, in particular, the next instalment. For American Horror Story fans who aren't additionally following a certain extravagantly dressed pop songstress on social media, this revelation wasn't immediately prevalent. However, word quickly spread as it does, and two major insights into the next season were revealed. Primarily, we were shown that none other than Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta (more commonly referred to as Lady Gaga) would star in the next season, through a short promotional video posted on her Twitter account ( This will be Gaga's first television appearance of the sort, and I am incredibly intrigued to see what she will bring to the already diverse cast.

Secondly, and definitely more interestingly, through the video posted by Gaga, the theme for Season Five was revealed to be none other than 'Hotel'. Admittedly, I was rather disappointed at first glance, as continuing from previous titles ('Murder House', 'Asylum', 'Coven' & 'Freak Show'), 'Hotel' did not seem at all compelling. However, when considered further, there were some interesting hypotheses raised from the online fanbase, of which I will evaluate two of the most popular.

1)    In the past, executive producer Ryan Murphy has talked of how he likes to reference the techniques and themes of various classic horror films within the show. Interestingly, one he has talked of heavily is Stanley Kubrick's The Shining, based upon Stephen King's novel of the same name. As this is set predominantly in a hotel, would it be safe to expect some Shining-esque content in Season Five?

2)    A more reliable, and perhaps definite assumption would be one that links back to Season Four. Within
H H Holmes
this season, there is a minor recurring theme, one that would go unnoticed by a casual viewer. Ryan Murphy revealed that a black top hat motif, found on various coffee cups and serviettes throughout 'Freak Show' was "an arcane clue, but very purposeful." From both this and the theme of 'Hotel', a very reasonable assumption has been flying around, suggesting that both of these go to suggest a season based off one of America's first serial killers, H.H. Holmes. For those who are unfamiliar, in 1893, Holmes built and opened "The World's Fair Hotel" in Chicago, a labyrinthine building in which he orchestrated various gruesome death traps for its visitors. It is also worth mentioning that besides murdering what could potentially have been over 200 victims, Holmes was known for wearing none other than a black top hat. You do the Math. Although it is doubtful that Murphy and co would present an exact replication of Holmes' vicious legacy, the concept would be one that would fit the show's notoriously unsettling and twisted format perfectly. It is additionally safe to assume that this will take place in the present, due to the show's set pattern of alternating time periods.

In conclusion from these theories, we really don't know what we can and can't assume. American Horror Story is a show notorious for its plot twists and unexpected revelations, so, despite the general consensus on the matter, it wouldn't be at all too difficult to envisage the season's premiere to introduce a premise unthought of by anyone. Until then, if you know of any alternate hypotheses or have a fitting one of your own, feel free to share it in the comments, as, whether right or wrong, all we can do in anticipation of the October airing date is speculate and share ideas.

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