The glorious time of the 80s was not only great because of the legendary music, or eccentric clothing. It possesses its richness and interest thanks to many slasher films created at that time. Such films as Friday The 13th or I Know What You Did Last Summer inspired another season of the franchise. As a person born in the 90s, with an old soul who’s in love with Etta James or Siouxsie and The Banshees, the love for the 80s shouldn’t come as a surprise. And although Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk’s AHS:1984 lacked a specific atmosphere that the American Horror Story franchise usually provides, it’s not a bad thing. On the contrary—it offers something fresh.
1984, California. Brooke Thompson (Emma Roberts), Montana Duke (Billie Lourd), Xavier Plympton (Cody Fern), Chet Clancy (Gus Kenworthy), and Ray Powell (DeRon Horton) meets at the dance aerobics class supervised by Montana. Shortly after, the group decides to sign up as counselors at the infamous Camp Redwood, where a gruesome massacre transpired fourteen years ago.
As the group listens to Donna’s story (Angelica Ross) and chats by the fire, they have absolutely no idea that Mr. Jingles, aka Benjamin Richter (John Carroll Lynch), escapes an insane asylum and follows the path to his past, tightly connected with God-fearing camp owner, Margaret Booth (Leslie Grossman). At the same time, another famous serial killer travels to Camp Redwood to kill the victim that escaped him back in Los Angeles.
The plot takes its time and, as a result, possesses a few snoozes here and there. Some scenes seem to be quite monotonous, but they prove to be beneficial for the story in the end. The narrative is cheesy, campy, and cartoonish, but it’s exactly what it’s supposed to be—a reflection of the 80s in horror, the existence and evolution of slashers and brutal serial killers.
The season is not without stumbles, but good elements win over the flaws. The script is imaginative and enjoyable as the blood splatters everywhere and body parts fly all over the place. Nonetheless, 1984 still seems to be less bloody than, for example, Hotel or less suspenseful than Asylum.
Murphy and Falchuk blend their legendary cast with new faces, creating an unusual combination. Characters are well-crafted and maintain their momentum where it’s necessary. Although the lack of the scream queen of the television or, for others, Sarah Paulson this season certainly takes its toll on the season. The character development varies from one role to another. Chet and Ray’s characters are the setting for Margaret, Nurse Rita, or Brooke, who are at the forefront of the plot.
What easily focuses the attention is a phenomenal, hyperbolic performance of Leslie Grossman as a religious freak, Margaret Booth. Her eccentric wardrobe filled with tailor-made suits, a hairstyle like Ivana Trump, and the exaggerated statements about God will remind you of your weird aunt who comes to visit you now and then and decides to control your life for the five-hour visit span. Alongside Grossman, Angelica Ross, likewise, deserves applause. Previously known from her role in Pose, Ross’ character is a career-driven woman with an ambitious yet intriguing fixation for serial killers and their anthropology. Ross’ nurse Rita, aka Donna Chambers, would be a great conversation starter on the topic of how far you can go in the name of science and your family.
A great surprise was the role of Roberts as a shy, young Brooke Thompson. The last name is no accident; it’s a little ode for Wes Craven’s The Nightmare on Elm Street and Heather Langenkamp’s character. The role was a nice change for Roberts to play someone other than the ignorant, entitled type she’s known from, for example, in Coven or Wild Child. We also need to thank the casting team, who selected Zach Villa as a young Richard Ramirez. Both him and John Carroll Lynch did a magnificent job in the season.
The excellent, greatly written 80s nostalgia manifests itself in many different elements—neon-styled lighting and the feeling of restlessness create a perfect setting for horror and 80s fans. However, it would be nothing without a fitting soundtrack. The music tones are mostly led by Billi Idol, his White Wedding, and even more cult songs.
The season provides much fun, especially for the fans that seek nostalgia in cinema and television. That is precisely the essence of AHS: 1984—the fantastic narrative that is a return to the slasher culture and the subgenre’s birth. Although it’s not the best entry to the franchise, it’s certainly a success among the fans.
AHS: 1984 is streaming on Netflix and Hulu.