Like Saw movies in the 2000’s, a new season of American Horror Story has become a fall tradition this decade. Since its debut in 2011, Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk’s horror anthology series has entertained and polarized fans. Across its eight seasons, American Horror Story (AHS) has roller-coaster’ed in terms of quality. From the good (Murder House), the great (Asylum, Coven), to the underwhelming (Hotel), AHS remains a fall television staple. Yet for a series defined by a ‘kitchen sink approach, it’s surprising Murphy has waited so long to tackle the 80’s slasher. Now the wait is over. AHS 1984 premiered on September 18th with its first episode, Welcome to Camp Redwood.
Welcome to Camp Redwood Cuts to the Chase
If you were worried that Murphy and company wouldn’t get slasher movies right, Welcome to Camp Redwood quickly puts those concerns to rest. Within the opening minutes, a raincoat-wearing killer disrupts a camp counselor threesome. Yes, it’s an impressively brutal death scene that would make Tom Savini proud. What follows is an impressive assemblage of classic slasher lore. Everything is here. Tragic past event. Check. Do bad things happen in an isolated, terrible place. Of course. Teens having sex, drinking, and doing drugs. Check. A virginal, ‘Final Girl’. Cue Emma Roberts. How thorough is AHS 1984 in its homage to slashers? Welcome to Camp Redwood even includes the old local gas attendant who issues the warning of doom.
Just count the 80’s pop culture references in the ‘totally radical’ opening credits sequence.
All of these tropes are affectionately packaged into an episode that drapes itself in 80’s nostalgia. Just count the 80’s pop culture references in the ‘totally radical’ opening credits sequence. Maybe you’ll even get the reference to ‘Scream Queen’ Jamie Lee Curtis’ aerobics movie stinker, Perfect. Just the spandex alone makes the episode worth watching. Amidst these cultural reference, Welcome to Camp Redwood also begins carefully setting out its potential twists and red herrings. Though the episode sets Mr Jingles’ up as its killer, The Night Stalker and an anonymous phone caller are thrown into the mix. This is all but ensures the season may not go in the direction you expect.
AHS 1984 Loaded with Horror Movie Easter Eggs
Aside from the 80’s pop culture touchstones, AHS 1984’s premiere episode loads up on the slasher movie references. Diehard horror fans will delight in picking them out. Not surprisingly, Friday the 13th has its fingerprints all over Welcome to Camp Redwood. And ‘Mr Jingles’ escape from the asylum patterns itself after Halloween. Another less familiar slasher trope – the ‘deranged war veteran’ – is reminiscent of B-movie entries like The Prowler. Not content to just reference 1980’s horror, you may catch subtle references to some of the slasher-lite movies of the late 1990’s. It’s difficult not to see the comparisons between Mr Jingles and I Know What You Did Last Summer’s killer.
Break Out the Spandex and Teased Hair for AHS 1984
Judging a series’ potential from one episode is always a risky venture. And Ryan Murphy’s series – AHS included – have a tendency to go off the rails as they progress. Homages to past horror movies and 80’s nostalgia will only carry the season so far. Subsequent episodes will need to carve out their own direction and story. Fortunately, Welcome to Camp Redwood suggests that there may be more than a few surprises this season. But one episode into the season, AHS 1984 promises enough bloody fun to hook audiences.