‘American Horror Story: 1984’ a perfect ode to 80s slasher films

For those obsessed with the horror genre and the 1980s, season nine of “American Horror Story” (AHS) already perfectly captures the mood, music and atmosphere of the 80s only two episodes in. The last two seasons of “AHS” were both intriguing and bold, commenting on politics and religion, but fans and critics agreed that it was losing its sinister touch and needed to return to its horror roots. 

Creators Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk decided to go back to the era when the slasher was born, referencing classic films such as “Friday the 13th” and “Halloween.” The first two episodes are packed with gore, corny lines, awkward editing, killer POV (point of view) and questionable decisions all cleverly mocking the 80s slasher film. 

The first episode begins in 1970, throwing viewers back into an environment eerily similar to Camp Crystal Lake, the infamous summer camp in the “Friday the 13th” series. While the young campers sleep soundly, three camp counselors begin engaging in a threesome – any horror fan already knows that if you engage in any type of sexual activity you most likely die. Within a matter of minutes, the three camp counselors and the young sleeping campers are all brutally killed by a serial killer named Mr. Jingles (John Carroll Lynch), leaving only one survivor unbeknownst to the killer (more on that later). 

Before you can fully process what just happened, the opening credits start to roll with the familiar “AHS” theme music playing, only this time there’s a synthesizer beat mixed with it. The images that go along with the music vary from aerobics workout videos to Ronald Reagan to cassette players, all hypnotizing about the decade we are about to be immersed in. 

Following the opening credits, we’re thrusted into an aerobics class in 1984 Los Angeles, where all the main characters are introduced. We’re first introduced to Brooke (Emma Roberts), who is new to Los Angeles and hoping to make friends through the class. Montana (Billie Lourd) notices Brooke’s interest in one of the males in the class, who happens to be in her crew. 

Brooke meets Montana’s other friends Chet (Gus Kenworthy), Ray (DeRon Horton) and Xavier (Cody Fern) and joins the crew. Xavier invites Brooke and the group to join him as camp counselors at the reopening of Camp Redwood to escape the traffic and chaos of Los Angeles as the 1984 Olympics are about to start.

Brooke refuses to go to the camp with the group because she wants to stay home. Until one night she awakens to “The Night Stalker” Richard Ramirez (Zach Villa), a real-life serial killer who threatened citizens in Los Angeles back in the 1980s and was eventually convicted of 13 counts of murder in 1989. Terrified to be alone in her own home, she decides to join the crew at Camp Redwood. 

As they arrive at the camp, the group meets the camp’s director, Margaret (Leslie Grossman,) who was the lone survivor of the massacre that happened at the camp in 1970. She also explains to the group that Mr. Jingles was arrested after the massacre and eventually committed to a mental institution after she was the star witness at his trial. The group also meets the camp’s laid-back activities director, Trevor (Matthew Morrison), and Rita (Angelica Ross), the camp nurse.

As the episode concludes, we see that Mr. Jingles has escaped the mental institution and is heading back to Camp Redwood to get his revenge on Margaret and the campers. We also see that “The Night Stalker” has followed Brooke to Camp Redwood, meaning there are two serial killers descending on the camp.  

The second episode features a couple of character backstories, including more about “The Night Stalker,” Richard Ramirez. There’s also a glimpse into Brooke’s past set to Billy Idol’s “White Wedding,” which shows she survived a massacre on her wedding day committed by the man she was supposed to marry. Driven by jealousy and paranoia, he shot his best man, Brooke’s father, and himself while standing at the altar after accusing her of cheating on him without any real evidence of that.

Margaret learns that Mr. Jingles has escaped the institution and is coming to Camp Redwood, but refuses to shut down the camp. She also has a run-in with “The Night Stalker” and has an odd, religious conversation with him about his backstory and tries to convince him to go after Mr. Jingles instead of Brooke. 

The counselors discover a dead body and try to flee from the camp, only to crash their van when Rita runs out in front of them. In the last moments before the credits roll, some of the counselors are locked inside the infirmary while the others are locked in Trevor’s cabin as someone, either “The Night Stalker” or Mr. Jingles, is loudly banging on their doors. 

The first two episodes of “AHS 1984” are packed with gore, satire and classic horror tropes while featuring a stellar cast. If the first two episodes are any indication of where the series is headed, fans of the horror genre and the 1980s are in for a treat with this ambitious season.