Camp counselors and serial killers converge on a summer camp reopened more than a dozen years after a gruesome slaughter in the ninth installment of the horror anthology series.
Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk certainly wasted no time make it very clear from the beginning what "American Horror Story: 1984" is all about. This love letter to the slasher flicks of the decade of excess appropriately kicked off with an aggressive sex scene leading to gruesome, bloody death.
Because as everyone who's ever watched a 1980's slasher film knows, if you have sex, you will get killed by the murderer. That's just good science right there. Even if you are being responsible and using a condom, like this unfortunate camp counselor was. But he was also engaging in a threesome, and that's just too much deviance to allow.
And he didn't stop there. Before the opening credits even rolled, we were treated to our first ten dead bodies ... or was that nine?
Everything about this tribute is working, from the hilarious costuming and hair to the different personalities brought to bear by the younger players in Murphy and Falchuk's roster of "ASH" talent. Before we get into the scare, let's get into our perfectly stereotyped main characters, all ready to die one by one at the hand of our killer ... or is that killers?
Brooke (Emma Roberts) is the sweet, innocent virginal girl, which means she's our hero and will probably survive to the end.
Montana (Billie Lourd) is her sexually-charged friend who has already seduced the camp's activities director and is flirting heavily with Montana. She's what's known as a "bad girl," so she'll probably have to die.
Xavier (Cody Fern) is the pompous douchebag, looking like he stepped out of "Miami Vice" or someething. He's arrogant and obnoxious and refuses to believe even that the serial killer is real. There's always a doubter ... and they always die.
Chet (Gus Kenworthy) is the jock. The strong guy always manages to put up quite a fight, and often lasts deep into those films, becoming one of the last to die.
Ray (DeRon Horton) is their black friend, and we only bring up his race because there is a well-known trope about what happens to black characters in horror films. And if this is a love letter to everything about this, good and bad, it's not looking good for poor Ray out of these five counselors.
Trevor (Matthew Morrison) is the activities director, and aside from being a provocative horndog his biggest character feature is also his biggest physical feature ... dude is well hung, and proud of it. And Montana is all about that. Sexuality equals death, though, so his appendage is unlikely to change his fate.
Margaret (Leslie Grossman) is revealed as a survivor of Mr. Jingles' original attack at Camp Redwood in 1970; thus the drop of his body count from ten to nine. She bought and reopened the camp to battle her demons, so she's got a grudge and good motive to want to kill him. But she probably won't survive to do that.
Rita (Angelica Ross) is the camp doctor, and also new this summer. She knows of the story of Mr. Jingles, but had no reservations about signing up, so maybe she's got some secrets of her own.
Bertie (Tara Karsian) is the camp chef, and she was around back in the day, too, so she was there when Mr. Jingles went on his initial rampage.
So far, Murphy has been leaning into some of the tropes of the genre, so it'll be interesting to see if this is just an homage to those and follows all of its traditions and tropes, or if he and his team will intentionally subvert them by having Montana and Ray, for example, triumph over the forces of evil.
The first jump scare was probably the best, coming in the cold open. The second girl in the 1970 threesome seemed more reluctant to take part, but finally she relented. We got a camera view from her eyes as she pulled her shirt off and in the brief moment it obscured her view as she lifted it, there was a ch-thunk and then we saw a knife sticking through the neck and mouths -- connected by their kiss -- of the two she was about to get busy with.
Leave a Frying Pan on the Stove
As a huge twist to the genre, "AHS: 184" offers not one, but two serial killers. And the second one is real. Before heading to Camp Redwood and what is sure to be the worst summer of her life, Brooke was attacked in her apartment by the Night Stalker, AKA Richard Ramirez, a real serial killer that stalked L.A. in 1984 and 1985. But just as he was about to kill her, she smacked him in the face with a frying pan. Then alert neighbors calling the police spooked him, but not before promising he'd find her and finish the job. This isn't Ramirez's first appearance on the show -- he was previously played by Anthony Ruivivar on "AHS: Hotel," where he attended a serial killer-filled dinner at the Cortez.
Never Check Your Messages
What was up with Xavier getting a creepy message on his voicemail that almost sounded like it was from the Night Stalker, too. "You can't just take your dick and walk away," a man says on the message. "There's nowhere to run, nowhere to hide. I know exactly where you're going." Is it the Night Stalker or something else. And what did he mean by ... well, you can read it. Is that some obscure '80s reference, or is there some literal member-related chicanery in Xavier's past?
We've seen it a thousand times before, but it still worked when the gang hit the hiker, only to discover that he had dried blood and old wounds on his body. It's also revealed later than he has a missing ear, but could he be a modern-day victim of Mr. Jingles? A copycat killer?
I Can't Ear You
Margaret had presented herself as the Christie do-gooder and a strict taskmaster as the camp's new owner, so we didn't expect the shocking reveal that her ear was missing, linking her to the original Mr. Jingles slaughter of 1970. It only got more gruesome when she detailed how she managed to survive his rampage, including being awake and aware -- but having to feign death -- as he cut off her ear. Eww!
Don't Go Toward the Light
What were those lights that Brooke saw while Trevor was ... well, showing off one of his skills in the water. It looked like headlights, but then it looked like it was coming from in the water? Near the shore? Or was it just as simple as the arrival of a certain truck from a certain nearby gas station.
How's It Hangin'?
We knew he was faking. But there was something brilliant about John Carroll Lynch's twisted performance as Mr. Jingles in that moment when he opened his eye and strangled the orderly so hard blood shot out of his eyes before making his way out of the asylum. And why? Because he got his hands on a newspaper clipping proclaiming the reopening of Camp Redwood after 14 years.
Roy or Ed or whatever his name was, the guy at the gas station who warned the kids away from Camp Redwood then came to prove that the road to Camp Redwood is just as deadly. Even though you saw it coming, it was pretty horrific watching Mr. Jingles drop the car on him. But his true act of gross was when he leaned back and stomped his face in. Yikes!
Who's Hangin' Around?
A double-shot of scares came when Brooke was looking for bandages and iodine to help Ray's cut hand -- and yes, we totally thought Ray was gonna get it then and there. First, the door swung open to reveal the hiker stuck to it and bleeding from a slashed neck. Then, lightning revealed Mr. Jingles and the chase was on. Of course, it was through the woods at night. Of course, Brooke fell several times, once from hitting a tree and once into a puddle. And of course when she tried to tell her friends about it, they didn't believe her. So she took them to the infirmary to prove it. What do you think they found? Do we even have to say...
Two for the Price of One
As if Brooke didn't have enough to worry about, the closing scene of the premiere showed the Night Stalker having arrived at the camp. Now, was he there for Xavier, Brooke, both? And what happens when two serial killers show up at the same summer camp? Have they learned about sharing?
"In the spirit of responsibility, lambskin, courtesy of my Pop's underwear drawer." --male counselor (about to enjoy a threesome, dramatically revealing a condom)
"I'm not a lez, just friendly. Rad bod, though." --Montana (to Brooke in the shower)
"I noticed you ogling my buddy Chet's mound. You want me to introduce you?" --Montana (to Brooke)
"You're gonna be famous. You're gonna die by the hand of the Night Stalker." --Night Stalker (to Brooke a second before she smashes his face in with a frying pan)
"This is Chef Bertie, a Camp Redwood veteran." --Margaret / "Dibs" --Xavier / > "You wouldn't know what to do if you got it, handsome." --Bertie
"Girls are red, boys are blue. Don't even try to make purple." --Margaret / "You expect us to be celibate all summer?" --Chet / "Well I'm not banning self-abuse, although every stroke soils your soul." --Margaret
"I'm not in the one that went out to the public. We shot the original for two days. But when they tested it with an audience, they realized I was pulling attention away from Jane .. well, a certain part of me was." --Trevor (why he's not in Jane Fonda's workout video)
"That thing was flopping around like a baby elephant's trunk." --Montana (she saw the bootleg)
There are twelve bodies piled up already and "American Horror Story: 1984" is just getting underway. The scares continue every Wednesday at 10 p.m. ET on FX.