American Horror Story Season 9 Episode 1 Review: Camp Redwood

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AHS84 isn't the first series to attempt to bring the slasher genre to television. Far from it.

But what American Horror Story Season 9 Episode 1 shows is that instead of trying to best what came before, they're embracing it.

One of the reasons slasher flicks worked so well through the '90s was the limited communication. With a cell phone in everyone's pocket, good, old fashioned killing sprees by crazed lunatics seems a lot more difficult to achieve.

Brooke Needs to Look! - American Horror Story Season 9 Episode 1

As has been the case in recent years, FX kept a lot about the series under wraps before the premiere. We didn't have an opportunity to see it early, so we were just as anxious as everyone else to see it.

As someone who saw Friday the 13th when it was in theaters (there was an R version and later a PG version, which is the one I saw since I was underage), "Camp Redwood" was filled with nostalgia.

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Something that hit me straight away was how the vision of Jamie Lee Curtis, who starred in Ryan Murphy's Scream Queens with 84's Emma Roberts and Billie Lourde, was all over the premiere.

Mr. Jingles is Armed and Ready - American Horror Story Season 9 Episode 1

Curtis was a megastar as a result of her star-making turn in Halloween in 1978 and making horror movies left and right. By 1984 she had made Halloween II as well as Terror Train and Prom Night. 

But she was also synonymous with aerobics after starring with John Travolta in 1985's Perfect. She and Jane Fonda were the most iconic figures ever to wear leotards.

It's hard to imagine working with Curtis didn't give him the idea to refocus Scream Queens into the nostalgia-driven AHS84 we're seeing now.

Like Friday the 13th, AHS84 focuses on kids getting out of the city to work as counselors at a summer camp marred by death. What initially sent Mrs. Vorhees on her rampage was the naughty nature of the counselors who should have been listening for her drowning son instead of doing bad things.

Margaret Booth - American Horror Story Season 9 Episode 1

Here we have Mr. Jingles, whose motives -- if we're to believe Margaret -- aren't as puritanical or emotionally driven. Benjamin Richter just enjoyed killing after a couple of tours in Vietnam. 

Since Camp Redwood 1970 was decimated, we'll have to chalk it up to coincidence and timing that the poor kids enjoying a threesome abruptly met their demise.

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But Mr. Jingles is not the only killer on the loose. Richard Ramirez's murders are what sent the group to the woods in the first place, and he even got personal with Brooke.

Richard Ramirez - American Horror Story Season 9 Episode 1

Ramirez is an actual serial killer and Satan worshipper, so the blending of truth and fiction is a particularly nice touch. 

Bitch! I will find you. Satan will show me the way.

Richard

So far, not many of the characters are popping. They're tropes, as they're most likely intended to be. My colleague Paul Dailly noted that the acting was rather wooden. He hasn't watched a lot of '80s horror, or he'd know how silly that sounds. 

The acting was never the strong point of '80s horror, but that never stopped them from being a whole lot of devilish fun to watch.

Montana Duke - American Horror Story Season 9 Episode 1

One of the exceptions to the character comment is Lourde's Montana, a sex-crazed young woman with big dreams.

I know it may sound silly to you, but I'm going to be the greatest aerobics competitor of all time. I'm Montana, by the way.

Montana

The fashions are a lot of fun, and it's surprising that with the premiere, it was the men who stood out the most as looking so historically foolish in the getups guys used to wear.

Xavier is practically a doppelganger of Andrew McCarthy with the colorful flair of James Spader from Pretty in Pink. 

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While I can't think of an entertainment reference for the gawky getup Chet sports, he looks just like my sixth-grade teacher, Mr. Mastriani, as he dressed with those awful polyester shorts and the high white socks.

Matthew Morrison's terry shorts were right on target, and I have to commend him for sharing his very fit torso with the audience. Score one for the older dude.

Trevor Kirchner - American Horror Story Season 9 Episode 1

Getting the '80s right isn't easy, but having lived through it, I couldn't find fault with anything even if the ladies' outfits didn't speak to me yet.

Music was essential, and the premiere featured Def Leppard, Hall and Oates, Rockwell, and even Frank Stallone (yes, Sylvester's brother had a short-lived singing career).

The callout to bootlegging was appreciated. Copying VHS tapes to share with friends was the only way we experienced viral videos. And since they were costly, we'd often watch something and then tape over it to save money and space.

As already noted, Halloween and Friday the 13th are getting props on AHS84. The references are so much fun to watch.

Ray Searches for Prowlers - American Horror Story Season 9 Episode 1

The premiere drew from Friday the 13th Parts I and II and Halloween and Halloween 2. 

Don Swayze got the role honoring Crazy Ralph from Friday the 13th. He's the dude who told the campers to turn around and that the camp should have never reopened. The only thing I missed was him screaming, "You're all doomed!" But the dialogue left no room for doubt on his part.

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I particularly loved the heavy rain and slickers involved that were essential to the madness of the original Friday the 13th.

Similarly, Mitch Pileggi was cast as the equivalent of Donald Pleasence's Loomis from the Halloween franchise, and Mr. Jingle's escape perfectly mimicked that of Michael Myers when he left he asylum right down to a nurse driving through a chain-link fence.

Rita Watches the Door - American Horror Story Season 9 Episode 1

The music that was playing when street guy woke up was certainly modeled off of Halloween tunes, and his hanging body found by Brooke could have been in either franchise as it's a great horror trope. 

And it's absolutely essential that the characters have no way to communicate with the outside world when so deep into the woods. Being just a cabin away can seem like a mile when your only way to warn your friends of the terror is by shouting and revealing your position.

It's unclear where this will all go as the season unfolds.

If you watch American Horror Story online, you know the first few episodes of any AHS season are usually not indicative of how they'll eventually play out, but for fans of slasher flicks, this was an honest and entertaining start.

Xavier Under the Bed - American Horror Story Season 9 Episode 1

Blending fact and fiction is an interesting twist, and with two killers on the loose, it's hard not to consider that Murphy might be on a similar path to ending Ramirez's reign of terror used in the twist from Once Upon a Time... In Hollywood.

Do we have any fans of '80's horror in the audience? Did you catch the many references to some of the greats, or were you annoyed at the wooden acting and kitch?

Does any of this make you want to find and watch some vintage horror?

Will you be tuning in for the remainder of the season?

Hit the comments with your thoughts!

Camp Redwood Review

Editor Rating: 4.25 / 5.0
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User Rating:

Rating: 4.3 / 5.0 (37 Votes)

Carissa Pavlica is the managing editor and a staff writer for TV Fanatic. She's a member of the Broadcast Television Journalists Association (BTJA), enjoys mentoring writers, wine, and passionately discussing the nuances of television. Follow her on Twitter and email her here at TV Fanatic.

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American Horror Story Season 9 Episode 1 Quotes

Bitch! I will find you. Satan will show me the way.

Richard

I know it may sound silly to you, but I'm going to be the greatest aerobics competitor of all time. I'm Montana, by the way.

Montana