American Horror Story: 1984 will be indebted to the slasher efforts of the eighties but will it sustain interest?
American Horror Story arrived in 2011 and has remained a staple of horror television ever since. Admittedly, it has dipped in quality and popularity across its eight seasons, with some being received marginally better than others. However, American Horror Story: 1984 is perhaps the most anticipated season in years. Since Murder House, the series has taken viewers to some pretty strange places, and Apocalypse - season eight - was particularly ambitious for its crossover appeal and narrative scope. This makes it all the more interesting that season nine is likely to be the most straightforward yet.
So, what suggests that AHS: 1984 will be simplistic? Well, this season's theme will be slashers. The recent teaser featured a young woman running through the woods at night, pursued by a mysterious assailant. She swiftly finds refuge in an old-school cabin in the woods before a knife predictably pierces the door she has her back to. With the slow-stalking slasher on display and the general iconography, this season promises generic sub-genre thrills. It's immediately an exciting concept, but there are considerable doubts raised by such a teaser.
It's familiar ground for the devoted horror fan, who will tend to regularly revisit the films of the sub-genre's eighties heyday. The holy grail franchise of this period is the Friday the 13th series, featuring the hockey-masked killer Jason Voorhees; although he only dons the mask beginning with Friday the 13th Part III. These films remain memorable for their iconic jump scares, Voorhees reveals, cheesy performances and fantastic locations. Even today, there's nothing quite like kicking back to some of the series' more favourable instalments. Judging from the AHS: 1984 teaser, they're really aiming for authenticity. The similarities with the aforementioned franchise are undeniable.
For slasher fans, it's already highly anticipated. However, it's uncertain how they'll manage to sustain audience interest in a slasher over so many episodes. The sub-genre is best in short bursts; ninety-minute features which offer predictability with a slight deviation as the franchise progresses. If the series is, indeed, attempting to mirror the prominent films of the eighties slasher cycle, then it may get boring and repetitive pretty quickly as a complete body of work.
It's unfair to condemn it or offer strong speculation just yet. Perhaps the writers have some intriguing tricks up their sleeves, as the sub-genre has attracted revision and subversion over the years; Wes Craven's Scream was a benchmark in this respect. If it does simply aim to recreate the slasher over all of its episodes, it could lose audiences pretty quickly. If it brings new ideas to the table, this could very well be one of the best seasons of American Horror Story to date.
In other news, where is The Crooked Man spin-off?