American Horror Story S9E1: Camp Redwood

by thethreepennyguignol

Well.

Look, after the last season of American Horror Story, every fibre of my very being was yelling at me not to bother with so much as another overly-artistic opening credits sequence. Apocalypse is an abominable waste of my personal time, a Tumblr gif-generator solely constructed to make my Thursday nights worse than they already are. I swore to the grey skies of Glasgow that I would never return no matter what, no matter what fiendish plot the trickster-demon Ryan Murphy came up with this time.

And then they announced a teen slasher season, and I knew I had to come back.

Look, fuck, alright, yes, I’m gullible, I’m pathetic, I should know better – but there’s something about this set-up that pleases me to some profound degree, and that’s more than I can say for the entirety of the last season. I’m a Friday the 13th mega-stan, and the thought of something like this maligned slasher genre being given the gourmet TV treatment is too tasty for me to pass up. Also, Matthew Morrison is in this season! Do you know how much the greasy Gleek inside of me thrilled at the very thought of seeing this talentless hack no, wait apparently still a leading man, despite his own best efforts to the contrary no, wait, star of stage and screen on my television once more!

As American Horror Story returns with a passion to the campy (heh) horror roots from which it sprung in the first place, I’m feeling lightly optimistic. And hell, if it turns out to be shit, I feel no remorse in trolling the shit out of these reviews after my own shit was trolled so thoroughly by Apocalypse. So let’s take a look at the first episode, Camp Redwood, shall we?

Now, it’s fair to say that American Horror Story’s real problem is with endings, not beginnings, so, unsurprisingly, this opening episode is made of pretty solid stuff. One of the most inimitably appealing parts of this show is coming back to see who everyone’s playing, and our returning cast get some decent set-up here; Billie Lorde is a seething pile of overbleached sex energy, Emma Roberts is finally playing something other than Straight Bitch, Cody Fern is the Fella Over There with the Hella Nice Hair from Shake It Off, and Leslie Grossman turns in her most promising performance yet as the God-fearing de-eared camp owner who faced off with our leading villain more than a decade ago. Speaking of, John Carrol Lynch is back to play another one of his signature creeps; he doesn’t get a lot to do this week, but his mere presence lends an air of prestige to this sub-Friday-the-13th nonsense.

Of the new cast, Matthew Morrison is the obvious standout; oversexed and enormous of dick, he’s clearly having a blast as the moderately repulsive aerobics instructor of your worst nightmares and even more worst fantasies. The first time he said fuck the version of me that still thinks of him as Will Schuester clasped her chest and passed out, and I like it. I don’t think there can be much more to him than just the sheer novelty he brings to the show, but sure, why the fuck not? It’s about time Matthew Morrison had a career again, and Ryan Murphy owes him one after he demolished the last one Morrison tried to build with the most hateable character on primetime.

Beyond that, this is all relatively standard set-up – well, as much as American Horror Story can be standard, and I mean that in the most insulting way possible. I love the dead teenagers genre, despite it’s legendary claim to some of the worst shit out there in the horror world, and there seems to be little here that plays with any of the tropes that the genre offers. In fact, a lot this episode – from the retooled credits to the goofy outfits to the music – reminded me of Riverdale’s flashback episode, which was one of the most immensley fun things the show has ever done. But even Riverdale knew that it was best to keep that to one episode before it got grating; I’m not sure AHS has the same kind of restraint. Would you like to hear about how they put Richard Ramirez in this episode? Again? Yeah. You get me.

I guess what I’m saying is this: this is a fun episode. Fun characters, fun performances, a fun chance to speculate on Matthew Morrison’s dick in the public sphere. But I’m holding back on getting invested in the quality of this season until it proves it has the plotular muscle to pull off a few episodes without losing focus. In the meantime, let’s enjoy what we’ve got – and settle in for the almost inevitable train crash of a season ahead of us.

Well, that’s us for this week’s episode – what did you think? Frustrating meta-disaster, or promising start? Let me know in the comments below. If you liked this article and want to see more stuff like it, check out my Game of Thrones snark-caps, my Doctor Who reviews, and my Star Wars movie retrospective on my other blog, No But Listen. As ever, please consider supporting me on Patreon for access to exclusive posts and a chance to choose what I write about!

(header image via NBC)

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