Wednesday, November 13, 2019

AHS: 1984 Keeps It Tight & Wicked

Have I discovered the secret to enjoying American Horror Story, or was it just a good season? I went into 1984 with less than zero expectations after the abominations of Cult and Apocalypse. I assumed it would be tiresome affair of ostentatious turds hitting a bejeweled fan, and thus relegated it to a laundry folding show. After the first episode, I was frightened at how amused I was. There were callbacks to beloved 80s slashers and a cast of dumb teens that couldn’t make a good decision to save their lives. Then I continued having fun with episodes 2 and 3. Surely a fluke, or perhaps a flu. What the fresh hell was going on? Did they change showrunners? Writers?

No. AHS decided to give up its portentous nature and just have fun. 1984 took a campy approach with a killer serial vibe, chock full of delightful genre nods, radically self-conscious acting and often terrible dialogue. But it’s set in the 80s so it totally works. Also, it stuck to its main conceit, kept it simple, no weird twists or unexplained aliens, and delivered its most straightforward season ever.

However, once the show moved into the daylight episodes, it lost much of its momentum. Horror is so much easier in the dark. And yes, there’s plot holes you could drive a vacation RV through but that’s just the AHS we know and hate-to-love. It should also be noted that FX ordered a 10-episode season, and the AHS team barely managed to churn out 9 episodes – and it still felt too long. The paper thin plot of most slashers can only impart so much exposition before things get really dull. Less talky-talky and more stabby-stabby.

This season parted ways with recurring cast members like Sarah Paulson, Evan Peters, and Kathy Bates in lieu of a "younger cast" (Ryan's words not mine). I didn't buy Emma Roberts as the innocent girl-next-door for a single minute, but Billie Lourd, Leslie Grossman, and Angelica Ross rocked the deranged camp counselor vibe. Zach Villa as Richard Ramirez was terrifying and also uniquely funny, while John Carroll Lynch was an absolute revelation as Mr. Jingles. (Please build a season around him and Kathy Bates!)

We also need to talk about that ending. For the first time ever, AHS seems to have provided a relatively satisfying and – dare I say it – happy ending!? That’s hard to imagine given the body count, copious amounts of blood and all those trapped souls, but surprisingly some characters found a modicum of redemption. Whether it’s my nostalgia bias or my exhausting gaze through neon pink glasses, I found this to be the most awesome twist yet.

P.S. I also have to note the fantastic marketing campaign for this season. The TV teasers were really fun, and the print campaign provided greater diversity while also featuring screaming dudes! The best part was those opening credits and newly minted theme song. Fan of the show, Corey Vega, created a mock opening sequence for funsies, then posted it on Twitter where Ryan Murphy saw it and Corey him to consult on the final creation.

Friday, November 1, 2019

Halloween 2019 Wrap Up... Almost!

And that's a wrap on Halloween 2019... almost... we have two more nights of our Dia de los Muertos display since today and tomorrow are the actual Mexican holidays. We ended with a record-breaking night of 423 trick 'r treaters and an additional estimated 800 spectators. And we DIDN'T run out of candy!

Note to self: we used about 7 bags of candy.

Much like the Macy's Day Parade heralds in the Christmas season, the Midsummer Scream convention in Long Beach ushers in the wicked Halloween season. I attended this year and I met the lovely Miranda from, Mike from, and even hung out with my idol, Sam from the 2007 movie Trick 'r Treat. Next year the convention expands to THREE days so book those rooms now and see you there.

Something wickedly colorful came this way and right onto my lawn with a DREAM collaboration with Britta Peterson and Ghoulish Glen of We created a second incarnation of the Dia de los Muertos display we last ran on in 2015 at Britta's house. The Scream Team, as we call ourselves, had the challenge of adapting the show onto a brand new landscape. We also created a brand new feature: a Haunted Ofrenda (altar) featuring all kinds of ghostly activity from visiting relatives. Over the five nights leading up to Halloween, we've had an average of 30-40 visitors  and we have two nights remaining. 150 votes secured our win for the People's Choice Award in the city of Santa Clara's Halloween Decorating Contest.

The Scream Team's outing to the Winchester Mystery House: Unhinged Halloween attraction was also a high point with the amazing projections on the house itself. But I missed my chance at meeting Christine McConnell again! (She was also at Midsummer Scream.) I did however get to witness her work upclose and she created a large gingerbread replica of the house.

Another highlight was seeing The Stage's production of The Rocky Horror Show which featured a former student of Foothill College (where I work). I am so proud of our students, and especially so when I can personally witness the start of their careers! Sean Okuniewicz as Riff Raff stole the show in my unbiased opinion. I was very fortunate to hobknob with the cast and crew afterwards which was so incredibly inspiring.

However, the greatest gift this season was becoming a dad again to two precious kittens, Kika and Rocky. We lost two cats earlier this year, and the house has been too silent – and much too clean – for so long.

It's now time for a long winter hibernation of at least a week or two. Plans are already underway for next year's haunt and I cannot wait for it. But first, I rest.