[Article] AMERICAN HORROR STORY Ushers In The Golden Decade of Horror

Guys, it’s happening.  It’s happening!

I’m finally getting my Sleepaway Camp season of AMERICAN HORROR STORY that I’ve been dreaming about for years.

Year after year, I’ve been low-key waiting for a season of AHS that takes place in one of the most pivotal decades of horror history– the 1980s.  Sure, we’ve seen snippets depicted here and there: Constance shooting a certain housemaid in the eye during a Murder House scene that took place in ’83 (I think).  We watched brief ’80s flashbacks of Gaga sucking people’s blood in Hotel.  But we’ve seemed to travel through time across all decades in the past, including the ’20s, ’30s, ’40s, ’50s, ’60s ’70s and ’90s in various seasons, but Ryan Murphy has seemed to have quietly skipped over the most decadent decade of all.

More specifically, I’ve long been curious if an iteration of an AHS season would ever be inspired by the ’80s slasher era.  Whether you love or hate this brand of horror, you can’t deny how much this particular era has impacted horror today.  Chucky is still making his way into modern films; Freddy and Jason are still beloved.  Even though we have come a long way (kinda) from the misogynistic, blood and guts, shallowness of ’80s slasher movies into the more nuanced and prestigious horror films we tend to get in 2019, I’ve still got love for my slasher subgenre and really wished that the King of Camp himself, AHS co-creator Mr. Ryan Murphy, would tackle a season dedicated to this special era within his long-running horror anthology series.  With only scratching the surface of the slasher subgenre within the show– with the likes of Bloody Face from Asylum, Twisty from Freak Show, and a group of murderous, political radicalist clowns from Cult– it was only a matter of time.  But every year, I’d get seasons about haunted houses, vampires, clowns, freaks, and witches, instead.

…Until now, that is.

On Wednesday, Ryan Murphy announced that this fall’s upcoming season would be entitled 1984, complete with a 45-second trailer containing a slo-mo, young woman running through the woods, being stalked by a large, intimidating, Jason/Leatherface lookalike– complete with a wonderful “1984” title card font that looks straight out of the Friday the 13th franchise and a haunting rendition of Billie Eilish’s song “Six Feet Under” playing ominously in the background.

If you don’t know a ton about ’80s era slashers, we’ll go over a brief history lesson.  Coming off the massive success of 1978’s Halloween, (not even close to the first slasher, but one of the first hugely popular ones) slasher movies usually contained a gaggle of dumb, screaming teenagers or coeds (with the ladies being half-naked to satisfy the hetero male teen gaze they were being marketed to) secluded in a location, ready to party, while a (typically male) killer with a looming stature, would kill them each one-by-one, punishing them (of sorts) for their bad judgment and immorality.  The characters were usually hollow, except for the final girl– the female lead (who was stereotypically virginal, smart, and quiet) that would battle the killer at the very end, leaving her to be the last one standing.  Blood flowed and the individual killers in each film would use various forms of weaponry to creatively kill their victims.  These quintessential slasher elements of sex, gore, camp, and questionable morality are right up Ryan Murphy’s wheelhouse, mind you.

Felissa Rose as Angela in SLEEPAWAY CAMP

Sure, you know the Friday the 13ths and the Child’s Plays, but in order to get excited for AHS: 1984, you really should be familiar with and do your homework by watching some other cult classic ’80s slasher films, such as Sleepaway Camp (1983, also taking place in a summer camp with a queer character that Murphy will undoubtedly pull inspiration from) 1980’s Maniac, 1980’s Terror Train, 1980’s Prom Night, 1981’s The Burning, 1982’s The House on Sorority Row, 1985’s The Mutilator, 1986’s April Fools Day, amongst many, many others.

More importantly, take notice of some of the films that specifically came out in 1984, which was a significant year for the slasher subgenre: Splatter University; A Nightmare on Elm Street; Friday the 13th IV: The Final Chapter; Silent Night, Deadly Night.  Sure, Murphy could just be ripping off the success of the recent likes of Stranger Things and Summer of ’84, but more likely than not, he picked the year of 1984 for very specific reasons which we will come to find out.

As burned out as I am by this recent influx of ’80s nostalgia across the horror genre, if anyone can tackle the campy, 1980s slasher, it’s friggen Ryan Murphy.  Every season of AHS gets gorier than the year before.  Remember Cult‘s brutal stabbing death of Emma Roberts’s reporter character or last year’s Apocalypse heart-ripped-out-of-chest Aliens-inspired finale?  Additionally, every season gets even dirtier as the years go on.  Hotel‘s vampire bedroom romps and Cult‘s incestuous threesomes prove that Ryan Murphy will no doubt have a blast creating major sex sessions with Season 9’s victims, only to turn them into sliced-and-diced pieces of meat.

As much guilty love as I have for the slasher subgenre, we’ve briefly gone over its fair share of problematic tendencies, and I’m really hoping that Murphy will manage to bring something different to the table this fall.  Since he isn’t a cis-straight-guy that these types of movies are so often geared to, I’m hoping he brings the campiness, but adds some dimension and empathy to his narrative, while not doing too many of the awful things that slasher movies tend to do.  If he can manage to subvert some of the tropes (slut-shaming female victims; half-naked women; toxic masculinity; dumb, but always attractive, hollow characters; lack of representation; victims running up the stairs instead of out the front door) and puts a contemporary lens onto his 1984 story, we could really have something special awaiting us this September, when the season will likely premiere.

Speaking of Emma Roberts, she and Olympian athlete Gus Kentworthy are the only two officially confirmed cast members announced thus far.  (Evan Peters sadly will be skipping this year.)  Since we’ve heard that they will be playing lovers, I’ll speculate that either Roberts and Kentworthy will be obnoxious lovers who get the blade one night while getting it on (a la Kevin Bacon and girl from Friday the 13th) or perhaps Emma Roberts will be the final girl this time?  (Since every AHS fan expects Ryan’s favorite Sarah Paulson to usually be the seasonal final girl.)  And since AHS loves to bring actresses from past golden eras onto the show, like Jessica Lange and Joan Collins, I say that the show NEEDS to bring on some ’80s “Scream Queens” from the slasher era for 1984.  In fact, A Nightmare on Elm Street’s Amanda Wyss (Tina) has expressed interest, and along with her, I think Sleepaway Camp’s Felissa Rose (Angela) and the iconic queen that is Jamie Lee Curtis, (not just Halloween, but Prom Night & Terror Train too) whom Ryan has worked with before on the canceled show Scream Queens would be epic.  After 2018’s Halloween box office explosion, Ryan, you would be stupid to not offer Jamie Lee a cameo role.

I wonder though: how the hell are they going to stretch this out for an entire season?  Slasher movies usually only clock in at about 90-100 minutes, and I’m curious about how exactly we are going to expand to 10 episodes (at least) with this theme.  After the script disasters of past seasons, I’m a tad concerned with how well they will pull this plot off.  Perhaps there will be a mystery element to who the killer is?  Or maybe the slasher element will only make up for a portion of the story, and rather, we will get a mixture of ’80s clichés and references, but behind the curtain of a joke-y, meta, deconstructive, The Cabin in The Woods-style story?

Who knows.  But dammit, Ryan & Co., you’ve sucked me into watching this upcoming season yet again.  You’re like a bad, killer boyfriend that I just can’t walk away from, no matter how many times I get stabbed!


Julieann Stipidis
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