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REVIEW: ‘American Horror Story: 1984’ Episode 1: “Camp Redwood”

by Rex Meyer Disclaimer: This review contains spoilers for this episode of 'American Horror Story: 1984' Oh the 80s, a decade defined by trickle down economics, New Wave music, big hair, and the weekend slasher flicks teens would lie to their parents about seeing. And just like how many of those films turned out to be full of corny one-liners and over-the-top gore, Ryan’s Murphy new season of his hit FX series American Horror Story echoes these tropes in the best way possible.

Image from IMDb
American Horror Story: 1984 takes us back to the year, you guessed it, 1984, where a group of teenagers volunteer to help reopen Camp Redwood for the summer. Unfortunately for them, a homicidal maniac is on the loose and seeks to annihilate each counselor one by one. The season stars scream queen Emma Roberts with supporting talent including Billie Lourd, Matthew Morrison, and Cody Fern. But before all the goodies get spoiled, it's time to dive right into the premiere episode. In the vein of a classic 80s slasher, the opening scene of AHS: 1984 begins in the year of 1970 with a trio of teenagers—one male and two females—who are having a liaison of sorts until the sound of keys jingling alarms one of the women. A shadowy figure enters and proceeds to stab all three of the teens before revealing a wide shot of dead campers sprawled throughout the cabin. After showing a collection of ears the killer had made into a necklace, the classic AHS opening credits roll. The credits feature retro digital graphics, VHS tape glitches, and a revised theme song resembling 80s synth-pop, and AHS: 1984 slashes its way into a potentially excellent season. Already, this season has shown that is hyper-aware of what it is without trying too hard to replicate the horror films of the era. The atmosphere was chilling while the kills were outright brutal. A particular death depicted a knife going straight into a women’s eye and then ending with a white fadeout that was clearly an homage to Friday the 13th.  Emma Roberts portrays the young heroine named Brooke Thompson who recently has been a victim of the infamous Night Stalker, aka Richard Ramirez. She decides to join her fellow aerobics classmates in leaving Los Angeles for Camp Redwood in order to cope with the trauma she had endured after her encounter with the Night Stalker. Admittedly, the plot of the episode already seems thin and cliche but this is not necessarily a bad thing as many of the films from the slasher sub-genre contain this element as well. The inclusion of Richard Ramirez was very abrupt and didn’t seem to really fit into the context of the episode as a whole. Granted, they needed to give Brooke a reason for wanting to leave but the inclusion of a real life serial killer alters the tone. 
Image from IMDb
The supporting cast is hilarious when they mimic the character tropes of 80s horror. There is the jock named Chet, the promiscuous blonde Montana, the funny guy Ray and the wild card Xavier. Each character is over-the-top in their own way which really fits the campy tone aimed by the creators. Despite accidentally running over a hitchhiking hippie and receiving some ominous warnings from a gas station clerk, they continue on their trip. The group of counselors are greeted by the Camp Redwood staff and learn some terrifying news about the history of the camp itself.  Matthew Morrison, Angelica Ross and Leslie Grossman round out the rest of the wonderful cast with the latter brilliantly playing the conservative Christian camp owner Margaret Booths. At this point, the episode really delves into the core of the show by setting up the creepy camp environment followed by some snappy dialogue, pot-smoking and electric scares. Brooke’s paranoia settles in but she may not be totally wrong as the killer behind the brutal slayings of 1970, Mr. Jingles, recently escaped a mental asylum and is set on returning to Camp Redwood. 
Images: IMDb Featured Image: TV Movie Fix

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