FX unveiled the latest entry in the American Horror Story anthology series this week with American Horror Story: 1984. Will the Television Academy embrace this early 80s slasher throwback?
You’re not going to catch me making any Emmy predictions about FX’s American Horror Story: 1984 right now. FX did not send advance screeners before Wednesday night’s premiere, and they’re only parsing out episodes that have aired live right now. Clearly, there’s something going on with this season that they don’t want leaking out. So, any Emmy judgments must wait until we’ve seen more of the series.
And long-time fans (like me) of the series are used to that. So many recent seasons started promisingly to only crash and burn as it wound its way through indecipherable twists and turns. I’ve referred to my relationship with the series as akin to the “battered wife syndrome.” Sure, I’ve been burned by it before, but it’ll change, right? It’ll get better. It learned its lesson. Right?
Based on the Season 9 – 1984 – pilot, things are looking… cautiously optimistic. Freed from the strangulating mythology of Apocalypse, 1984 sends up very different mythology. It both satirizes and lovingly embraces all the cliches and tropes of the early 1980s slasher movies. Virgin? Check. Slut? Check. Jock? Check. Druggie? Check. Creepy “You’re all gonna die” guy? Oh yeah. As the first 45 minutes of Wednesday’s pilot go whizzing by, not a single moment feels completely organic or not pre-planned to within an inch of its life.
I mean that as a very high compliment.
Fans of early slasher horror will revel in the details. There’s a station wagon that looks exactly like the one used in the early moment of Halloween. Did I mention that same station wagon is also driving into a mental institution during a driving rainstorm where the inmates wander freely in the yard? Also, the look and feel of Camp Redwood has an authentic and lovingly rendered early 80s flavor. 1984 stems from the imagination (and pocketbook) of someone very influenced/obsessed with slasher flicks – apparently, that’s you, Ryan Murphy.
Now, whether the Television Academy will appreciate these small below-the-line touches remains to be seen. Certainly, after an episode of a handful of gruesome murders and disfigurements, makeup nominations seem nearly guaranteed. No longer expected to compete in the Drama Races (as Apocolypse was forced to due to its entangling alliances with Coven), 1984 will return to Limited Series races. The remainder of the Limited Series 2020 contenders – and the quality of the rest of the season – will dictate how far it goes. You can largely forget the acting nominations. Slasher flicks weren’t knows as high watermarks for acting. Plus, none of the AHS megastars (those frequently nominated stars like Jessica Lange, Kathy Bates, and Sarah Paulson) have shown up. But who knows what surprises Murphy has in store for us.
And that’s exactly what I’m reluctant to predict any Emmys for AHS: 1984 at this point. Certainly, the entire season won’t stand as just an homage to slasher flicks. There has to be a twist right? Maybe some aliens or a Cabin In the Woods-style underground?
I mean, FX Networks didn’t send out screeners for a reason, right? It can’t be because it’s horrible.