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.

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