Review: ‘American Horror Story: 1984’ could become a new slasher classic

Emma Roberts in the trailer for American Horror Story's 9th season: '1984' (Photo via YouTube.)

You can tell fall is coming when the temperature starts to lower, the sun sets a bit sooner and, of course, when American Horror Story returns. Marking the beginning of “spooky season” once again, the show’s ninth season, 1984, premiered last night.

So, while everyone is prepping their bodies to ingest as much pumpkin spice as possible, 1984 is making viewers stay in summer mode for a bit longer. This season mimics Friday the 13th with a sleepaway camp setting, and it has the potential to channel the best of 80s horror films.

Brooke Thompson (Emma Roberts) joins a group of four friends in escaping the craziness of Los Angeles in the summer of 1984. The group gets jobs as camp counselors, despite being the exact opposite of the sober, religious lifestyle that camp owner Margaret Booth (Leslie Grossman) promotes. She is reopening the infamous Camp Redwood, the sight of a brutal massacre of nine campers. Right before the session begins, the original murderer, Mr. Jingles (John Carroll Lynch), escapes from the nearby mental institution and begins stalking the grounds again.

Ryan Murphy wasted absolutely no time in giving viewers the nightmare fuel they watch the show for. The original mass murder is shown vividly in the opening sequence, setting the tone for a hot, bloody summer. Mr. Jingles’ signature is also particularly disturbing. He severs his victims’ ears, a continuation of a habit he started as a soldier in the Vietnam War.

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While 1984’s premiere was certainly freaky, it wasn’t scary in the way that previous seasons have been. To no one’s surprise, it mimics many familiar cliches originating from those classic slasher films. It’s easy to accurately call out exactly what will happen as the episode unfolds. A new take on these predictable horror tropes is definitely appreciated, and viewers have no reason to believe that Murphy’s version will become anything less than satisfying.

Even the counselors embody these cliches. Brooke is the epitome of a conventional horror movie character. At the end of the episode, after nearly dying at the hands of murderers twice, she still leaves the cabin alone. Ridiculous moments like these are familiar, but remain oddly hilarious.

Murphy is relying on AHS veterans Emma Roberts and Billie Lourd to make this season a success. Yet, Roberts is straying from her usual bitchy, queen-bee character, as Brooke is more conservative and passive. Murphy does bring back the familiar though, as Lynch was also the terrifying Twisty in Freakshow. After feeding the audience’s fear of clowns, he is now placing the eeriness of Michael Myers in Jason Voorhees’ territory.

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Matthew Morrison is a surprise addition to the cast, playing another Redwood counselor. Some viewers may also find it difficult to see him as anyone other than the iconic Mr. Schuester from Glee — another Murphy classic — especially with his thick mustache and those very small and very tight shorts.

I, and many others, would have loved to see Evan Peters rocking that outfit instead. This is the first season without the series regular, and it will be interesting to see how 1984 fairs without him. While it is easy to miss Peters and Sarah Paulson, every new season of American Horror Story means adjusting to cast additions and exits.

1984’s premiere shows huge potential for another disturbing season fueled by campfire stories, steamy camp hookups and lots of blood. It will be exciting to see how Murphy continues to play with the classic horror elements too. This is sure to be an interesting summer.

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