TV Review: American Horror Story (Fox) – Season Nine – AHS 1984

Created by Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk and aired on Fox in September 2019, AHS 1984 takes place in LA during 1984 and focuses on a young group of summer staff members at Camp Redwood, which is ready to reopen after a massacre involving the infamous Mr Jingles.

Overall Series Review:

Heavily influenced by classic horror films such as Friday the 13th, Nightmare on Elm Street and Halloween, AHS 1984 begins as a homage to the slasher genre and relies on the cliche horror tropes and stereotypes that we are used to seeing to brings together their best qualities and build on them with a fresh approach.

It certainly isn’t a completely clean take on the genre, but it isn’t a spoof, either. Instead, it uses the predictable premise to set up a much broader concept. But wasn’t every new Friday the 13th and Halloween instalment pretty much exactly the same as the last one anyway? That’s why the influences work so well here, as the series plays out like a fresh instalment of one of those films, even showing more modern influences of the latest 2018 reboot of Halloween.

It does move away from this basic premise eventually, giving more twists than probably all of the previous seasons combined. But with so much going on, it’s hard to appreciate the depth to it at the time of watching. When you look back on the series, the quality of the writing and complexity is definitely all there, it’s just not so obvious when there’s so many characters and timelines to piece together.

The series also lacks some of the bigger cast members who we have come to love, instead relying on the younger cast members including Emma Roberts, Billie Lourd, Cody Fern, and Leslie Grossman. They are a remarkable bunch of actors, there’s denying that, but there’s definitely something lacking without the bigger leads. As the first series that doesn’t feature Evan Peters, as well, I missed his presence most of all.

Not only does it lack some of the more iconic cast members, although more and more cameos make their way in as the series goes on, this latest season doesn’t have the same sense of disturbing, creepy, and bone-chilling darkness to it, either. Based on slasher films, it relies on jump scares and gore rather than more paranormal and psychological attributes, so it doesn’t have the same effect that other seasons have had so far.

Whilst it’s certainly one of the weaker seasons in the series so far, it’s also the most fun, although that’s not necessarily a word that we link with American Horror Story. The best thing this latest series does is to connect all of the seasons together, albeit rather vaguely, which I will go into more in my review of the 100th episode.

You can buy series 1-6 on DVD here

Episode 1: ‘Camp Redwood’

The first episode is a great homage to 80s horrors and the influences of classic slasher films are obvious, opening up almost like a new instalment in the Friday the 13th franchise. It has everything you would expect – the creepy petrol station owner, a late-night swim, teens experimenting with alcohol and drugs, spooky tales around the campfire. But there’s obviously some other influences thrown in there, too, and I’m hoping we see more of these 80s pop culture references throughout the rest of the series.

I’m also loving the cast as the younger stars step up and take over. It’s great to have John Carroll Lynch back, as well, as he plays a role that he’s more than suited to (no offence, Lynch!).

Whilst there’s still a lot this series needs to do, I love having a good horror series to watch through October and can’t wait for it to continue.

Episode 2: ‘Mr Jingles’

Not so much goes on in this episode, although it does give some interesting backstories. We learn more about Brooke (Emma Roberts) which explains a lot about her character, but it also opens up the possibility that a lot of what is going on in her head. However, we’re always made to think that in slasher films, until everyone inevitably dies, so it will be interesting to see how the series handles this.

We also learn more about Richard Ramirez, The Night Stalker, who you will definitely be Googling after this episode when you realise that he was, in fact, a real serial killer.

And then there’s a weird revelation around Xander, who was forced to be a gay porn star by a wealthy pornographer who is determined that Xander still owes him. I have no idea how this will fit into the series as it goes on, but it’s great to see so much going on with these characters.

The biggest thing to come out of this episode is the big twist which is revealed ever so subtly, although you would have predicted it if you know all-too-well how classic slasher films usually play out. The truth is out there now, but nobody else knows about it yet so I look forward to this being better explored in the following episodes.

Episode 3: ‘Slashdance’

With a few more twists thrown in straight away with a bunch of kids celebrating “Jingles Day”, although they act more like the serial killer than the man did himself, and Nurse Rita going all Mindhunter as her true character is exposed, it seems like everybody is involved in this.

With an even bigger twist involving Montana slipping out, as well, as we witness her saying, “Why haven’t you killed her yet?”, we have to wonder what’s gone on in their pasts and how it’s all going to come together.

Everybody seems to be orchestrated by somebody else, and as John Carroll Lynch’s serial killer admits that he feels like he was a puppet acting on somebody else’s behalf, could there be some link to the Coven or Apocalypse characters? We know that the series have all been tied together in some way from the last season, so it may be that this one will do the same.

We learn more about the main characters, as well, with Ray’s confession about his past. But as he leaves Chet and Montana for dead, we’re almost cheering on his demise. I can’t help but think that the characters seem to be dying rather quickly, though, so something bigger has to be going on?!

Episode 4: ‘True Killers’

Even more is revealed as we find out who the ‘true killer’ is, just as the title of the episode suggests. But there’s so much going on in this season so far that it’s difficult to take it all in at the moment. I’m struggling to see how it’s all going to come together so I’m finding it difficult to enjoy all of these new twists without seeing their meaning.

Episode 5: ‘Red Dawn’

With some explanations behind Rita’s motives, Montana finally telling Brooke the truth about their past as the two face-off against each other, things are starting to tie together a little better now. And just as anyone would in a near-death experience, Brooke decides to have some fun before she is likely to die, although probably not with the best of guys.

Episode 6: ‘Episode 100’

Jumping forward a few years to reveal what happened after the events at Camp Redwood, most of the characters have moved on with their lives, although not in the ways they were hoping to. Those who died in the latest camp massacre remain haunting Camp Redwood, whilst some are revelling in their survival and others are having to deal with the consequences of being involved in the deaths of a lot of people.

As we are told how they have all moved forward separately, they are then all brought together one last time as the season moves onto something much bigger.

As the 100th episode of the series, we were all expecting some big surprises. Personally, just a glimpse of Jessica Lange or Sarah Paulson would have done it for me, but alas, there were no cameos in sight. Instead, the episode subtly links all of the series together.

It does this through the revelation that Margaret has gone on to build a real estate business in which she turns haunted sites into tourist attractions, even going as far to mention Briarcliff Manor from season two.

The rest of the connections aren’t as obvious, though, so I’ll let explain them to you:

You see, Briarcliff inmate Pepper also appeared in Season 4, Freak Show, as one of Elsa Mars’ “monsters”. Freak Show, in turn, featured Dandy Mott whose ancestor, Edward Mott, built the house that was the centre of Season 6, Roanoke. At the end of Roanoke, Lee Harris was interviewed by Lana Winters, who was then mentioned by Beverly Hope in Season 7, Cult. That ties 1984 to Seasons 2, 4, 6, and 7. Previously, 1984 was connected to the remaining seasons thanks to Richard Ramirez. The infamous serial killer first appeared in Season 5, Hotel. Hotel featured an appearance by Queenie who herself appeared in Season 3, Coven, and Season 8, Apocalypse. Queenie also ties to Madison Montgomery who also appeared in Coven and Apocalypse, and she ties into Season 1, Murder House, thanks to her visit to the home with Behold Chablis in Apocalypse.

If you’re not an avid watcher of the series then this would have all gone over your head, but for those of us who are, you have to admire the integral thought patterns of creators Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk.

Complicated theories aside, what I loved most about this episode is that serial killer Richard Ramirez is given his real-life conclusion, as he was literally mobbed down by a group and beaten to a pulp until the police came to rescue him, so this was another nice touch from the writers.

Episode 7: ‘The Lady In White’

Including a few extra cameos in this one with the addition of Lily Rabe and Dylan McDermott, another new twist sees the story go back to the beginning of it all in 1948 when the first murder spree took place.

It’s interesting to see how the story is all coming together, but I’m not sure that it’s making the series any more interesting at this point as we’re just being thrown new information on top of new information. It’s as if I know so much but care very little at the minute, as I’m still eager to see the bigger picture.

I enjoyed the concept at the beginning but it’s going off on a bit of a tangent now, and I’m really starting to feel the lack of fear. I don’t particularly like any of the characters any more, either, so I’m not rooting for any of them to get their revenge, just for things to come to a conclusion.

Episode 8: ‘Rest In Pieces’

As everybody heads back to the campsite, there are a few more killings but the second half of the season still feels like it’s lacking any real action. I feel like it would have been much better if it were condensed down to fewer episodes to keep my interest piqued, as it’s really starting to feel stretched out at the minute. Even the classic Friday the 13th scare on the boat, which I was totally expecting, wasn’t enough to scare me into wanting to watch more.

Episode 9: ‘The Final Girl’

With another extra cameo from Finn Wittrock, The Final Girl moves somewhat away from the slasher cliche ending as this concluding episode is less of a final killer spree to see who will be the last girl standing, and more of a developing technique as a way to bring the story to an end and round up how all of the characters have faired out.

Giving the audience a satisfying conclusion for every character, this final episode may be heavily explanatory, but this is what was needed from a season with so much going on. And that’s not to say that this episode lacked any gore or action, as it is probably the most blood-filled yet.

Although I have enjoyed a lot about this ninth season, I also feel like so much has gone on that not enough time was spent on each individual story. Every new episode welcomed a new twist, adding a new character or timeline to build the basic slasher premise up. But with only one episode spent on each new development, I’ve come away feeling like so much was thrown at me that I didn’t have enough time to enjoy anything on its own.

As you piece the story together, the brilliance and complexity in the writing is obvious, but the way that the story is told makes it hard to appreciate at the time of watching. It’s only sitting back and reflecting on it that I can see the quality of the series that we are used to.

Overall, I remember the series with a lot more fondness than I had at the time of watching it, as I spent too much time thinking about what the new developments meant to enjoy the concept which I can now see coming together.

It may be one of the weaker seasons in the anthology series so far, but I have still loved watching it. American Horror Story undoubtedly remains one of the best quality series of this decade and I can’t wait to see what the next chapter will bring.

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