American Horror Story, wtf? I fully expected AHS: 1984 to be as glorious as the 80s theme it promised, but I must say I was pretty disappointed. The 80s aesthetic, mood, and music were on point, but the storyline was incredibly anti-climactic, rushed, and rather superficial compared to earlier seasons of the show.
At least AHS: Apocalypse prepared us for the impending disappointment with its ridiculously lackluster ending. Many AHS fans agree the show has been going downhill for a while, although everyone has their own opinion of when exactly the decline in quality began. For me, the show started dying a not so quiet death with season 5, AHS: Hotel; sorry, Lady Gaga, I wasn’t impressed. The season that followed, AHS: Roanoke, was an even bigger disaster; the reality-tv-style they used to structure Roanoke was honestly boring and uncompelling (hands down the worst of all AHS seasons, in my opinion).
Season 7, AHS: Cult, gave me a glimmer of hope that AHS was in fact not dead but in a rut. While wildly intense and not subtle with its political commentary, the storyline was interesting and relevant to the sociopolitical climate of the time at which it was released; it theorizes, questions, and draws parallels between the concepts of resistance, counterculture, and rhetoric in interesting ways, clearly equating the U.S. Administration’s current leader to cult leaders such as Manson which thrive on the rhetoric of fear. Many thought season 8, AHS: Apocalypse, would be an explosive conclusion, or at least continuation, to the AHS franchise; wrong again. The first episode was on point and hooked me like no other first episode of AHS has; unfortunately, what followed was not as good as the opening suggested.
Cue AHS: 1984. I was ready for the ultimate retro horror comeback and was instead met with the same summer camp slasher realness horror filmmakers have been forcing upon us since Sean S. Cunningham’s Friday the 13th (1980); cursed camp blah blah blah dozens dead blah blah blah final girl blah blah blah. The show does physically and conceptually get away from the camp motif but only briefly; it always comes back to the camp. Speaking of final girls, they f*cked that up to. The season has a moment of Screamesque self-awareness when it comes to the final girl, but the ending and the final girl resolution left much to be desired.
The acting wasn’t horrible; although, and I hate to say it because I love her, Billie Lourd could use some improvement. Emma Roberts, which I tend to only love when she’s playing a bitch, is less Madison Montgomery (Coven) and Serena Belinda (Cult) and more what you’d expect from one of Taissa Farminga’s characters, self-righteous, insecure, bland, and, honestly, annoying. The lack of Even Peters didn’t bother me as much thanks to Cody Fern who proved his chops first in AHS: Apocalypse and now in 1984; if Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk are smart, they’ll keep Fern on as a replacement for Peters who, along with Jessica Lange and Sarah Paulson, is the reason most kept coming back for more AHS.
AHS: 1984 had none of these iconic AHS actors which certainly made the challenge of creating another highly successful season all the more difficult. Luckily, AHS introduced Leslie Grossman to the cast of regulars in season 7 (Cult). In seasons 7, 8, and 9 Grossman demonstrated Emma Roberts and Jessica Lange aren’t the only ones that can play a fierce, powerhouse, catty bitch. In fact, it’s her performance I liked the most in 1984. Finn Wittrock, who does an amazing job as Dandy in AHS Freakshow and could help make up for the talent that has left the show, was introduced in the LAST EPISODE of 1984; the show could have definitely benefited from including him earlier.
SPOILER ALERT! The biggest letdown in terms of expectations set by the storyline was the Woodstock-style music and food festival that is supposed to take place at Camp Redwood. The festival is introduced in episode 6 and is supposed to include the likes of many 80s musical icons such as Billy Idol and Kajagoogoo. It is built up to be the site of an epic showdown, but in the final, and worst, episode of the season we find out the festival has been cancelled. The festival’s cancellation makes sense with the storyline but came off as an easy out from having to film a large-scale and very involved sequence of spectacular scenes. I, for one, was very excited to see how they would do it, how they would depict and film the music festival and its biggest celebrity, Billy Idol; but, alas, I was left wanting.
Lastly, the finale totally sucked; it is oddly happy and cheesy for what I have come to expect and love from AHS. While it is possible they were trying to emulate the flood of 80s films which often had cheesy endings and laughable, campy acting like what Billie Lourd dished out, I don’t believe they did it well enough. Honestly, judging by Apocalypse and 1984, the next season should be the last, although deep down inside I truly hope AHS makes a badass comeback potentially starting a new phase to a rather worn out franchise.