Retrospective Review: “AHS: 1984” offers an 80’s nostalgia, but lacks the “American Horror Story” vibe—And It’s Not A Bad Thing!

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 1984 lacked a specific atmosphere that the American Horror Story franchise provides, it’s not a bad thing. On the contrary—it offers something new. 

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. 

Leslie Grossman as Margaret Booth / FX Networks.

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. 

The season 4 finale of “The Handmaid’s Tale” is the series’ most satisfying finale yet

And that’s where the spectacle begins. Miller and Liz Garbuz, the director of the final episode, orchestrate a true tour-de-force, brilliant in perception and execution. The creators serve us yet another surprise that forces us to stand up and clench our fists in anticipation.

The below article may contain spoilers for the season finale of The Handmaid’s Tale.

Do you remember how, after waking up from a four-year coma, Kill Bill’s Black Mamba finally exacts her vengeance on those who had wronged her and it’s both delicious and satisfying to watch? June Osborne (Elisabeth Moss) waited about the same amount of time. After years of torture, physical and mental abuse, and rape, enraged June demands justice. With the final episode of The Handmaid’s Tale, “Wilderness,” airing this Wednesday, the creators may have delivered the most satisfying and utterly delectable finale that will leave you with goosebumps.

In the final scene of the ninth episode, we discover that Fred Waterford (Joseph Fiennes) made a deal with Mark Tuello (Sam Jaeger) – the information about Gilead and its system for his and Serena’s freedom. While the man delivers the news to June, we observe her expression gradually changing. From the slight smile, it transforms into full-fledged rage when the woman runs after Tuello and screams, “That man is a fucking rapist and you know what he did to me! You know! You know what he did to those women! I’m going to fucking kill you!”

The Handmaid’s Tale — “The Wilderness” – Episode 410 — June draws on all her resources and relationships, risking everything to ensure her own kind of justice. June (Elisabeth Moss), shown. (Photo by: Sophie Giraud/Hulu)

The scene itself exudes rage, frustration, and anger. It easily translates into our world, where women are consistently let down by those who should have protected them and are forced to watch their oppressors walk free. We can feel June’s rage in every fiber of our being. In this and every other scene, Elisabeth Moss’ acting is riveting and enchanting.

In the season four finale, “Wilderness,” we see the main character struggling to accept that Fred is ready to jet off to Geneva to await his trial. When he returns, he will be a free man, as Fred tells Serena in one of the scenes. Luke tries to console June and even suggests that she should let it go (really, Luke?). However, it’s clear that the former Handmaid won’t rest until Fred has received justice for the actions he committed at Gilead.

Bruce Miller has a surprise for us just when we think it’s all over. June has a few more trump cards up her sleeve. Commander Lawrence is one of them, and he makes Tuello an offer: twenty-two women walking from Gilead in exchange for “our brother’s return.” It’s an indescribable feeling of pleasure and satisfaction to see confused Fred being escorted away in a van. It’s possibly the first time in an entire series that he’s treated at least a little bit like the women he oppressed – confused, scared, and unsure of what will happen next. Nobody, not even Nick (Max Minghella), tells him anything.

And that’s where the spectacle begins. Miller and Liz Garbus, the director of the final episode, orchestrate a true tour-de-force, brilliant in perception and execution. The creators serve us yet another surprise that forces us to stand up and clench our fists in anticipation. After the arrival in no man’s land, June appears in front of Fred with two items – a gun and a whistle; she demands the man to choose. 

Even in a dire situation that Fred finds himself in, bleeding from his nose, he doesn’t believe that June has what it takes to shoot him. But that’s where he once again underestimates the power and wisdom of women. After blowing the whistle, other formerly oppressed women, including Emily (Alexis Bledel), appear behind June. “Run,” she quietly says.

Our emotions seem to reach their apex, and we don’t believe that the joy can be any greater, but we are mistaken. Miller and Garbus go above and beyond in an aesthetically pleasing, highly evocative sequence to serve the long-awaited vengeance in the most satisfying way, both with narrative and direction. “It has to look like love. That’s what he needs,” June narrates as the chase begins. “Pretend you like it. Pretend you love it. Pretend you want it. He is your Commander. He is your whole world. Don’t run. Don’t kick. Don’t scream.”

June’s narrative intertwines with Leslie Gore’s “You Don’t Own Me,” which has become the series’ anthem. Fred ultimately receives what is known as poetic justice, just as the lyrics reverberate in our ears. Without a doubt, the overall composition of the scene is one of the most exciting and empowering scenes in the fourth season. The main character smiles contentedly and completes her revenge, much like Beatrix Kiddo serving The Five Point Palm Exploding Heart Technique.

Fred Waterford (Joseph Fiennes) and Serena Waterford (Yvonne Strahovski), shown. (Photo by: Sophie Giraud/Hulu)

June and others ultimately get what they’ve been waiting for. The character can finally move on, but that doesn’t mean her actions will be understood by those around her. For instance, Luke is struck by June’s appearance in the following scene. What will their future bring? What about the rest? When the season ends, a befuddled Serena is left hanging on Zoom, not knowing Fred’s fate. What will her reaction be? Is her safety jeopardized? What about June? Will she be able to heal and continue her search for Hannah?

The finale of the fourth season is the most satisfying yet. While the one of last season filled me with tears as the plane with children and Rita landed, this one filled me with utter satisfaction. Let’s hope that the cast and crew of The Handmaid’s Tale receive a slew of Emmy nominations this year, because they certainly deserve it. 

The Handmaid’s Tale is available to stream on Hulu.

The Film Nerdette Talks Pop Culture

December 4th, 2020

Welcome to my website! If you’re on Twitter or, more specifically, you’re interested in film and television and you’re on Twitter, you may have seen my profile while scrolling down. My name is Zofia Wijaszka and I’m a Los Angeles-based film and television critic. I am contributing writer for Awards Watch, First Showing, Nerdist, and many more publications. Before I moved to the United States and found outlets who let me contribute, I’ve written for Polish film portals such as Gildia Filmu, or local newspapers – all that while studying journalism and social communication with creative writing (sic!). Don’t ask me why.

My work varies. I can write a review of the new film with Margot Robbie, then you find me speaking about how Krampus is the best holiday film – seriously. My interest is mostly female characters in the pop culture discourse, but not only. Hence, you can find me talking about What We Do in The Shadows a LOT.

I’ve had this website for quite a long time – since 2016. I abandoned it, however, when I started my freelancing. But since sometimes I really want to write about something and there is no time to pitch said idea, I decided to revive my old website. And before you think you’ll find my old articles here, let me stop you right there and say – no way. The amount of overall cringe I have found was quite overwhelming and I don’t want to expose you to this.

My adventure 2.0 with the website will start with my review of The Prom which should go live this weekend or Monday so stay tuned if you want to learn my thoughts on Ryan Murphy’s new musical.