American Horror Story: 1984 premiere: “Camp Redwood” puts the camp back into teen slashers

Each week, we decide a brand new episode of the week. It may very well be good. It may very well be dangerous. It would all the time be attention-grabbing. You possibly can learn the archives right here. The episode of the week for September 15 via 20 is “Camp Redwood,” the primary episode of American Horror Story: 1984, the ninth installment of the FX anthology collection.

“Camp Redwood,” the primary episode of the brand new season of American Horror Story, subtitled 1984, takes us again to the ‘80s and again to summer time camp — with an emphasis on camp.

The anthology collection’ mix of horror and camp, the place over-the-top concern meets over-the-top social conduct, has all the time been one among its best belongings. What makes 1984 nice, proper out of the beginning gate, is that showrunners Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk know that no decade has ever married horror and camp extra successfully than the 1980s. From its practically orgiastic societal frenzy over Satanic Panic, proper all the way down to its decadent, zany teen slasher motion pictures, no decade was extra surreally performative about its fears.

Capitalizing on the current nostalgia for ’80s horror current in all places from Stranger Issues to It, 1984 returns us to that period for a gap episode that references the whole lot from a number of well-known horror movies to real-life ’80s phenomena, like serial killer Richard Ramirez. “Camp Redwood” is a far-fetched and enjoyable begin to the season, delivered with American Horror Story’s typical winking reverence to horror tropes of yore. It’s a quintessential ’80s horror throwback — and hopefully one that may dig deeper into the period’s tropes because the season progresses.

1984 deposits us right into a horror present with not one however two serial killers on the unfastened

1984’s story takes a bunch of acquainted ’80s horror tropes and throws them into the effervescent cauldron of excessive drama and stylized gore that American Horror Story followers ought to effectively be accustomed to by now. Collection common Emma Roberts is again as soon as once more, and in a change from her ordinary amoral blonde goth, this time she’s enjoying the sweater-wearing virgin who normally doubles as the ultimate lady of the traditional teen slasher film.

Roberts’s Brooke is pointedly lacking a backstory, however she’s received a wholesome sense of paranoia that saves her when she’s abruptly attacked by Richard Ramirez, the infamous “night time stalker” who terrorized Los Angeles through the summer time of 1984. She fends him off with a frying pan whereas he invokes Devil and guarantees that he’ll discover her once more.

Brooke has solely just lately moved to LA however she’s rapidly befriended by a gaggle of typical younger grownup inventory characters. There’s Montana, the aerobics-obsessed, closely eyeshadowed sexpot (performed by one other AHS common, Billie Lourd); Chet, the bitter jock who was virtually an Olympian (performed by precise Olympic skier Gus Kenworthy); Ray, the group’s primary stuck-with-these-white-people-and-not-sure-how-he-feels-about-it peacemaker (DeRon Horton); and Xavier (Cody Fern), the Methodology actor who’s so severe about his craft that he takes a job at an upstate summer time camp as an alternative of performing in commercials, main the remainder of them right into a traditional state of affairs the place deranged killers are on the unfastened and psychosexual morality tales play out deep within the woods.

It’s the identical setting the place, 14 years in the past, a Vietnam vet with a style for carnage broke into the camp and slaughtered a gaggle of teenagers. The one survivor, Margaret (Leslie Grossman), grew as much as buy the camp within the hope she may reopen it and erase her horrible recollections. However information of its reopening prompts the killer, hilariously dubbed “Mr. Jingles,” (John Carroll Lynch) to interrupt out of the native psychological establishment, Michael Myers-style, and menace the group, which now consists of camp nurse Rita (Angelica Ross) and musclebound counselor Trevor (Matthew Morrison).

Like most up-to-date ’80s homages, this one is stuffed with classic Easter eggs

Lengthy earlier than we even arrive at Camp Redwood, 1984 plunges us into the quintessential ’80s second by specializing in probably the most ’80s craze of all: aerobics. An prolonged credit scene introduces the season’s essential characters in freeze frames through the center of a leg-warmer-filled exercise session, full with tacky graphics and heavy synth music. It’s all very on level.

From there, the premiere fills with ’80s hallmarks: huge hair and even larger glasses, the compulsory soundtrack of INXS and Rockwell, phone cubicles that value 1 / 4, males sporting brief shorts. Then we’re transported to Camp Redwood by way of a green-and-orange-striped van. It’s all fairly nostalgic — in case you low cost the true ’80s serial killer tossed into the combo.

Between the frequent dialogue of aerobics and the frequent dialogue of the 1984 summer time Olympics, one of many episode’s dominant themes is health, which is bizarre sufficient that it’s sort of attention-grabbing. It permits for a hilarious cross-cut sequence between archival footage of runners in the true 1984 Olympics opening ceremonies and photographs of Brooke working haplessly via the woods as she’s chased by Mr. Jingles.

American Horror Story has all the time been a horror trope fest, and 1984 upholds that custom. This season, the teenager slasher film will get its due, and “Camp Redwood” begins sturdy with references to the pioneering summer time camp bloodbath film, Friday the 13th, and to Halloween’s serial killer asylum escapee (at one level a well-known Halloween homicide is briefly recreated). There’s additionally a major homage to 1 movie that post-dates the period we’re in: Along with his ominous raincoat and bum leg, which drags noisily on the bottom as he walks, Mr. Jingles will remind loads of ’90s youngsters of the villain from I Know What You Did Final Summer season.

Is there extra to our chaste heroine than meets the attention? Most likely!

Extra usually, there’s an entire lot of typical ’80s morality in play as teenagers who take pleasure in sexual experimentation are rapidly and gorily dispatched for his or her sins. However such a simple premise appears too one-note for American Horror Story — and already there’s room for doubt.

Given what number of villains Roberts has performed on the present prior to now, each the media and followers have famous her change to enjoying the virginal good lady on this go-round; however few appear satisfied that the nice lady act is on the extent, and as I watched, I couldn’t assist however consider one other traditional summer time camp horror heroine with a mysterious facet: Angela from 1983’s Sleepaway Camp.

Simply two ladies with an entire lot of lacking backstory and an inclination to panic round intercourse.
Robert Hiltzik/Scream Manufacturing unit | Kurt Iswarienko for FX

I’ll chorus from saying rather more concerning the remaining lady in that notoriously twisty film, however it appears precisely just like the sort of mesmerizingly over-the-top supply from which American Horror Story takes inspiration. At a look, Sleepaway Camp has lots in widespread with Friday the 13th, probably the most evident of 1984’s influences. However Sleepaway Camp is arguably extra wickedly humorous and ingenious. (Let’s face it, the unique Friday the 13th is sort of a snoozer.)

Each movies are set at summer time camp, each characteristic an unknown serial killer, and each revolve closely round camp amorous affairs and the perils of teenage intercourse. Within the case of Sleepaway Camp, adolescent sexual awakening is lethal. And although 1984’s Brooke is way older than the standard teen slasher heroine — she’s attending neighborhood faculty — she appears fairly regressed. She’s extraordinarily chaste, abstaining from weed and most alcohol, and freezing in uncertainty when offered with any sort of sexual advance.

After all, this is summer time camp, so who is aware of how lengthy Brooke’s virginal entrance will final — particularly now that she’s being pursued by not one however two serial killers.

The extra attention-grabbing query, for me and probably many American Horror Story followers, is whether or not Brooke is all she appears. Isn’t it just a bit too handy that she was attacked by Richard Ramirez instantly after listening to her mates discussing him — after which encountered Mr. Jingles proper after studying about how he murdered a gaggle of campers years earlier than? We all know Mr. Jingles actually did escape of the asylum, so we’ll give her that one — however personally, I’m sensing that Brooke could also be an unreliable narrator.

And that’s fantastic with me. I’m all the time up for a remaining lady who isn’t fairly the sufferer she first seems to be. Fortunately, American Horror Story: 1984 has 9 extra episodes with which to complicate its dichotomy of villains and virgins. Convey on the time journey!