AHS: 1984 – “Camp Redwood” Review

Another fall, another season of American Horror Story.  The long-running anthology series is now beginning its 9th season, and for many, it’s hard to remember a time that September wasn’t accompanied by a new season.

Now, with Stranger Things, The Goldbergs, and so many others making 80’s nostalgia all the rage, it’s no surprise that American Horror Story is going back to the year 1984!

One of the first things we all noticed was this kickass opening credit sequence. Between the synth music and VHS quality visuals, it oozes 80’s nostalgia!

Synopsis (Spoiler Free)
The episode begins with a flashback to 1970 when the deadly massacre first occurred at Camp Redwood.  In addition to giving us our opening scare, it serves as the perfect tribute to the slasher genre, which seems like it will be a dominating theme this entire season.

From there, we jump to 1984 and meet our cast of characters (including several AHS alumni): Brooke (Billie Lourd), an overly enthusiastic aerobics instructer; Xavier (Cody Fern), a typical 80’s jock; Brooke (Emma Roberts), a shy and quiet stand in for the audience, and many more.

Brooke seems odd as first, as she has unusual knowledge about serial killers, only to have a run in with the infamous Night Stalker, Richard Ramirez himself (Google him if you’ve never heard of him).

Finally, they descend upon Camp Redwood to serve as its summer counselors.  As they arrive, AHS completes another item off the slasher checklist as the gas station attendant warns them that they will all die there.

Crazy Ralph was the original harbinger of death in Friday the 13th!

Upon arriving at Camp Redwood they meet a slightly stereotypically sassy African American nurse named Rita (Angelica Ross), as well as their Camp Director Margaret (Leslie Grossman).

Her almost zealot like devotion to Christianity seems weird to them at first, but it makes more sense when she reveals that she is a survivor of the original Camp Redwood massacre of 1970.

All the while, the infamous “Mr. Jingles” (who was allegedly responsible for the earlier murders) escapes his captivity from the local mental asylum.  As the counselors prepare to receive the children for the camp, they also live with the looming terror of what’s to come!

This series has been known for some of the strangest killer names (Piggy Face, Bloody Face, Twisty), but Mr. Jingles takes the cake! Especially since it’s also the name of the cute mouse from The Green Mile.

Analysis
American Horror Story has done several decades in previous seasons, but none have felt quite as authentic as this.  Perhaps it’s because the 80’s has a lot visually and stylistically to go with it, or perhaps Ryan Murphy just really likes that decade.

In many ways, this episode felt like one giant homage to slasher films, which is probably going to continue for the entire season.  As previously mentioned we had the harbinger of death at the gas station, as well as a camp that’s just being reopened.

It’s easy to see the inspirations from Friday the 13th, The Burning, Sleepaway Camp, and many others.  Also, the asylum scene where they discover Mr. Jingles is missing felt taken right out of the original Halloween.

We’ve yet to see if the series intends to merely mimic these tropes to be a slasher itself, or if plans to subvert them and do something creative, but time will tell.

The episode did a decent job of building suspense and dread, but most slashers are only 90 minutes long. So we’ll see if they can make this work for an entire season.

Overall, it was a strong premiere episode that horror fans will appreciate.  It’s no secret that American Horror Story has had its ups and downs as far as seasons go, but so far, this one is poised to be one of the better ones!

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