‘American Horror Story: 1984’ Premiere Recap: ‘Camp Redwood’

In the recap for the debut of ‘American Horror Story: 1984’, a group of too pretty camp counselors arrive just in time for a deranged serial killer to start knocking them off one by one…

By Damon Martin — Editor/Lead Writer

Every season of ‘American Horror Story’ has tackled a different genre of horror and the latest installment is no different as Ryan Murphy and company take on the classic slasher films from the late 1970’s and 1980’s with the new season titled ‘1984’.

As much as Murphy has succeeded with his horror anthology series over the years, the most recent seasons have felt much campier in tone and far less scary. Perhaps that’s on purpose as the series moves further away from association with a show like ‘The Haunting of Hill House’, which was legitimately terrifying, and attempting to create its own genre in the horror field.

That said, ‘American Horror Story: 1984’ certainly feels like an homage to those classic slasher films such as ‘Friday the 13th’ , ‘Halloween’ and ‘Nightmare on Elm Street’ but through the first episode it feels like there’s going to be a twist eventually because it’s hard to imagine a silent, hulking killer making for quality television for 10 consecutive weeks.

Still, Murphy ticked all the boxes with his slasher series including the beautiful (sort of) teen cast complete with the muscled out bros, the promiscuous girl and of course all American virgin, who has already been tagged as ‘the final girl’.

The first episode was intriguing enough to stick around for future episodes but hopefully Murphy and his cast of writers can keep things interesting with a few twists and turns this season beyond the backstory in the debut because right now it’s tough to see these camp counselors surviving past week three.

With that said, let’s get to our recap of ‘American Horror Story: 1984’ with the first episode titled ‘Camp Redwood’…

Flashback

The opening of the season starts in 1970 with a group of camp counselors breaking all the horror movie rules that poor doomed Randy laid out in ‘Scream’ when trying to explain to his friends the key to survival.

Three kids — two girls and a boy — are engaging in some experimental sex after undoubtedly testing out some illegal drugs and they are preparing for a threesome. Just when the clothes start coming off, one of the girls hears a strange jingling sound and a second after she removes her top, she sees a giant knife plunged through the heads of her two sex partners.

The girl obviously doesn’t escape — but instead she’s the last to die as the killer stabs her to death before removing her ear and adding it to a gruesome trophy necklace that he’s been collecting. The killer — dressed in a long raincoat looks like the guy from ‘I Know What You Did Last Summer’ — and it turns out he’s slaughtered the entire group of counselors at the camp.

Hail Satan

Fast forward 14 years to 1984 where a group of gorgeous Los Angelinos are enjoying a hip-thrusting good time at aerobics class. The shy girl named Brooke (played by Emma Roberts) has her eye on the hunky muscle-bound guy nearby while another enthusiastic exerciser named Montana (played by Billie Lourd) is searching for a new female friend to add to a bunch of guys she’s been hanging out with lately.

After class, Montana introduces herself to Brooke in the shower before then taking her around to meet the rest of her friends.

There’s Xavier (Cody Fern) — the aerobics instructor and wanna-be actor. His buddy Ray (DeRon Horton), who is the only black guy in the group of friends, which doesn’t bode well for him when it comes to classic horror movie tropes. Finally there’s Chet (Gus Kenworthy), the hunky guy with too many muscles, who was kicked off the Olympic team for a failed drug test.

Xavier is trying to convince his friends to come with him to serve as counselors at Camp Redwood, which lies a couple of hours outside of L.A. With the summer Olympics coming to Los Angeles, the entire town is going to be a madhouse not to mention a serial killer called the ‘Nightstalker’ has been terrorizing people all over the city.

Everybody is on board except for Brooke, who wants to stay behind to work on her studies at college for the summer.

Plans change after Brooke is nearly the next victim for the Nightstalker (aka Richard Ramirez) when he pays her a visit later that night. Brooke is able to fight him off but before he escapes, the killer says that he will find her eventually and Satan will show him the way.

That’s enough for Brooke to abandon her college plans and hop in a van with her friends bound for Camp Redwood for the summer.

Summer of Blood

More horror film boxes get ticked on the drive out of town including a stop at a rundown gas station where the creepy attendant (played by Don Swayze aka Patrick Swayze’s brother) warns them not to go to the cursed camp where they plan to serve as counselors. While stopped at the gas station, Xavier listens to a disturbing message left on his answering machine that sounds like a jilted lover.

Further along, Xavier gets distracted while driving and trying to light a bowl when he accidentally plows into a hitchhiker wandering in the middle of the road. The group of teens check on the injured hiker, who is obviously spooked and says he can’t remember his name so they decide to take him along with them to the camp where he can receive medical treatment.

Once they arrive, the new counselors are introduced to the staff including a nurse named Rita and the owner of the camp named Margaret Booth (Leslie Grossman), who loves Jesus above all else and even supported Charles Keating at the Larry Flynt trial in Ohio. It seems Margaret bought Camp Redwood and decided to re-open it after a tragedy struck there 14 years earlier.

Later that night the group finds out the history of this haunted camp when Margaret reveals that she was actually a victim on that fateful night in 1970 but she was able to survive the attack from the serial killer who would later become known as ‘Mr. Jingles’ (John Carroll Lynch).

It seems Mr. Jingles — real name Benjamin Richter — was a Vietnam veteran, who was dishonorably discharged after he was discovered mutilating the bodies of the soldiers he killed. After returning home, Richter couldn’t find work except as a handiman at a local summer camp.

One night, Richter snapped and decided to butcher everybody in the camp except for the one girl who was able to survive. He was eventually captured and placed into a mental institution where he sat for the next 14 years. As disturbing as the story may have been, Margaret says that’s the reason she bought the camp and decided to reopen it to create a new narrative for the scariest night of her life.

As for the counselors, they decide to stick around despite the frightening history of this camp. Later that night, the counselors meet another staff member named Trevor, who is the activities director. Trevor also happens to be featured in the background of the ‘Three’s Company’ intro not to mention an appearance in the Jane Fonda aerobics video that was later edited out because his giant cock was apparently distracting people viewing the tape.

That’s enough of a tease to get Montana to go skinny dipping with Trevor but just as they’re about to engage in some sex that will surely get them both murdered, a car arrives nearby just as thunder claps overhead. Montana decides it’s best if they abandon their naked lake sex and head back inside.

The car arriving is no coincidence because we then get another flashback three hours earlier at the local mental institution when a doctor arrives to find the entire grounds filled with escaped patients.

When she gets to the front door, she’s informed that Mr. Jingles orchestrated his escape after faking his own suicide, killing a guard and then releasing all the other patients as a distraction so he could make his getaway. The doctor then finds a newspaper clipping in his room that shows Camp Redwood reopening after the place was purchased by the girl who survived his murderous onslaught back in 1970.

I Swear I Saw Him

When Chet goes on a roid rage and ends up accidentally cutting Ray’s hand, Brooke decides to play nurse to help him get some bandages from the medical tent. She goes inside and finds that the hiker they hit with their car was no longer in his bed but as she gets the supplies to fix up Ray’s hand, the door closes and she’s horrified to see the dead body hanging on the back. It’s the hiker — he’s been stabbed to death and his ear has been severed.

Mr. Jingles arrives right on cue and proceeds to chase Brooke all around the camp until she finally makes her way back to the main cabin, covered in mud, screaming to her friends that a killer is stalking her. Of course when everybody goes outside, Mr. Jingles is nowhere to be found and even after going back to the medical tent, the hiker’s body is gone and there’s no trace of any murder happening there.

Brooke is obviously terrified but no one believes she actually saw Mr. Jingles much less a dead body.

Rather than jump in the van and drive the hell away, Brooke opts to go to sleep alongside her friends but she’s woken up by a ringing phone outside their cabin. She tries to wake up Montana, but the Madonna super fan is not interested in a random ringing payphone.

So Brooke wanders outside and answers the phone — on the other end she hears the same jingling as just before she was attacked earlier that night. The frightening call wasn’t bad enough but in the distance, the Nightstalker Richard Ramirez is looming in the shadows with a smile on his face because he’s tracked down the one that got away.

‘American Horror Story: 1984’ will return with a brand new episode next Wednesday night at 10 p.m. ET on FX.

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