The opening credits of American Horror Story: 1984 make one thing absolutely clear: this season is going to be different and it’s going to be fun! The series’ iconic theme song has been run through an ’80s synthesizer once or twice and the dark and grisly images which have adorned the intros to previous seasons have been replaced with pastels and workout videos dripped in just a little bit of blood. The series has been in desperate need of a makeover for years, and the decade, the costumes, and the characters of this season are prolific series creator Ryan Murphy’s strong suit.
Emma Roberts is playing against her traditional role this year as Brooke Thompson, the polite and restrained final girl type who doesn’t present any of the sass Roberts is usually known for on screen. Billie Lourd shines as Brooke’s exact opposite. She plays Montana Duke, a glammed-up toughie who knows how to party. The two series veterans head to Camp Redwood with the returning Cody Fern, Gus Kenworthy, and Deron Horton. The characters’ period-appropriate dialogue and over the top high fives are as exaggerated as their wardrobe, and the season projects the kind of 1980s that existed only in the most flamboyant Van Halen videos… and it’s really darn fun to watch! While homages to the decade have completely flooded the market, American Horror Story: 1984 stands out by making sure to have a good time rather than worrying about making the time period seem cool by today’s standards, or even believable. This is a neon-soaked thrill ride, and viewers are supposed to just sit back and enjoy the goofy show!
That’s not to say American Horror Story: 1984 is all fun and games, though. The series is fashioned after the slasher classics of the era it portrays, and it doesn’t shy away from kills that look like they came right out of a long lost VHS copy of Friday the 13th deleted scenes. The cinematography of the opening scene alone is pretty much perfect in how it balances a vintage creative slasher kill with excellent camera work. So far, the over the top gore of previous seasons has taken a back seat to stylized action and creative weapon-focused cinematography.
Even the storytelling this season is far superior to typical American Horror Story fare. Leslie Grossman’s Margaret Booth is the current owner of Camp Redwood who also happens to be a survivor of the vicious serial murders which took place there in the previous decade. Usually, American Horror Story homages are about as simple as taking a sequence from a beloved horror movie and then shamelessly retelling it in a new setting. The twist that Booth reveals, and the way her role in the original massacre is portrayed on screen is simply chilling, and it elevates the material beyond simple homage and into legitimate horror storytelling.
That isn’t to say the entire premiere is flawless. American Horror Story has a special talent for starting off strong and then squandering all of the good will it earned by taking ridiculous twists and turns as future episodes drag on. Instead of just focusing on a fictional slasher called Mr. Jingles- played by John Carroll Lynch- someone thought it was a good idea to bring real-life serial killer Richard Ramirez into the storyline too. For a season that excels so well in escaping from drab reality, this plot point seems out of place and I’m hoping it doesn’t get out of control.
The season premiere of American Horror Story: 1984 is so different from previous seasons and so much fun to watch that it has the potential to attract a variety of new viewers. This season is worth giving a shot, especially if you’ve grown tired of what the franchise has traditionally offered.
Stay tuned to Horror News Network for complete coverage of American Horror Story: 1984 as soon as it breaks!