I’ve been a committed follower of American Horror Story since the beginning. Until recently, even the mediocre installments in the series retained the same dark, edgy atmosphere that largely defined the show. Complex storylines and talented actors, such as Jessica Lange and Sarah Paulson, were trusted hallmarks. Without their contributions, the essence of the show feels off.
The premiere of American Horror Story: 1984 debuted on FX on Sept. 18th with quintessentially-hyperbolic gore and a semi-satisfying appeal to summer camp nostalgia serving as the central highlights. I had a morsel of hope for stronger development in the second episode, aired on Sept. 25th, but it only reinforced my disenchantment. In an effort to cope with my annoyance, I’ve come up with three reasons why American Horror Story: 1984 can be skipped without remorse.
1) The series’ most beloved actors aren’t in it.
During the premiere and the second episode, I was awaiting a surprise appearance from Evan Peters, Jessica Lange, Sarah Paulson or, hopelessly, Taissa Farmiga. That isn’t to say this season features untalented people. Emma Roberts, Billie Lourd, Cody Fern and Leslie Grossman are all aptly cast in their respective roles in 1984. But as a longtime-viewer, I'd grown somewhat attached to the usual players.
2) It relies too heavily on nostalgia.
Because widespread adoration for the '80s is nothing new, I expected plenty of sentiment; I just didn’t foresee it feeling so opportunistic and obvious. Daniel Fienberg points this out in his review of the American Horror Story: 1984 premiere for The Hollywood Reporter: ‘"You like GLOW? You like Stranger Things? You like the '80s? Remember those summer-camp-killer movies? Reference! Reference! Reference!"’ The retro theme is undeniably entertaining, but comes across as disingenuous at times.
3) The premise is sloppily formulaic...or is it?
The season's plot revolves around a group of friends from LA who travel upstate to work at a summer camp. Of course, things promptly go awry. I can only hope plot's weakness is homage to the crudeness of 1980’s horror storylines. The first episode was fairly predictable, but the second episode surprised me with the suggestion that something supernatural is lurking in Camp Redwood's woods. The possibility of this addition to the story is keeping me vaguely curious about the remainder of the season.
In conclusion, this season lacks several of the founding actors from previous seasons, but there’s a chance that the plot is thicker than it initially appeared. While many aspects of the show aim to pay satirical tribute to the cheesiest of 1980s slasher films, 1984 runs rampant with painful clichés that are more likely to evoke a cringe than a laugh.
American Horror Story: 1984 airs Wednesdays at 9 p.m. CT on FX.