For the final time, welcome back to Camp Redwood for the final episode of American Horror Story: 1984.
We start back where the season began: the clear waters of Camp Redwood. Except that it’s now 2019 and Finn Wittrock is arriving at Camp Redwood. He first hops a fence declaring the land to be private property, passing an ominous wood-chipper, which can only be bad news. He stands before the gates of Camp Redwood for a moment, unsure if he wants to take the plunge, before passing under the arches and entering the camp. There are no signs of the booming death tourism industry Margaret so desperately wanted but suddenly Montana appears behind him, not recognizing his iPhone or how it works, having not seen anyone in years. Wittrock tells her it’s 2019, and she says no one has come to the camp since the mess in 1989. She tells him to get out of there because he’s in danger. You see, Wittrock is none other than Bobby Richter, the son of Mr. Jingles, and he is there to get to the bottom of what happened in 1989.
This revelation was pretty obvious from the get-go. The fact that Montana immediately had to verbally say, “YOU’RE Mr. Jingles’ son!” and really hammer in the theme is an issue I had with the entire season. Unless they were meta-commenting on how 80’s slashers were “so bad they’re good”, this just felt like the writers needed to explain everything to an audience that could connect the dots themselves. On another note, I also just wanted to take a moment to comment that while this season has had its flaws, the opening credits sequence is one of the best in the series. The synth score and the juxtaposition of 80’s pop-culture with slasher elements is just such a fun mix of levity and gore. In the past, many seasons have just opted to try to be spooky or creepy but 1984’s opening credits perfectly encapsulate the lighthearted spirit of the campy 80’s slashers.
We continue with Montana leading a well-researched Bobby into a cabin. Trevor then makes his first appearance in the episode and Bobby recognizes him instantly. After a few minutes of conversation with the ghosts, Bobby is having trouble reconciling the fact that his father was a famous serial killer named Mr. Jingles, because he’s only ever known him as a video store clerk who disappeared. To mess with him (or prove that they’re already dead), Montana then pulls a gun out of Bobby’s bag and has him shoot her in the head. Following suit, Trevor pulls out a knife and cuts his own throat. Panicking, Bobby flees the cabin, only to open the front door where Montana stand, laughing at him.
We finally flashback to the fateful day the entire season has been leading to: Halloween 1989 where Trevor has closed the road into camp, telling everyone that the festival has been shut down. Meanwhile, Margaret’s on the phone with a band manager, because some of the bands have not shown up yet for the festival. Margaret’s assistant Courtney reveals that he may have told some of the other bands about the gruesome murder of Kajagoogoo. Margaret wastes no time, shooting Courtney in the head before confronting Trevor also. Naturally, he calls her true evil and is shot in the knee, the gut, and the groin, for his troubles. It is at the exact moment Margaret drives away, leaving him bleeding in the street, that Montana just happens to be passing by and sees him in the road just beyond the property line. He almost makes it back to the gates before Brooke appears behind him. She helps him to cross the camp boundary – a tearful Montana asks Brooke why she would help her, to which Brooke replies that her only thoughts of revenge are for Margaret. Back in 2019, Montana tells Bobby that that simple act of kindness changed her forever and the ghosts joined together to stop Bruce and Ramirez’s reign of bloodshed (a very anti-climactic change of heart for a season that promised an all-out gore fest).
Back in 1989, Trevor creeps up behind Bruce, who is seconds away from murderung an innocent girl, and gives him a machete to the back of the head before kicking his body off the property to avoid any unwanted reincarnations. Montana attempts to Ramirez, luring him into a barn where all the other ghosts are waiting with matching cleavers. Montana stabs him with a knife before they all descend and mutilate Ramirez. He promises to come back for all of them but Montana cuts his his speech (and throat) short.
As we know, due to his deal with the devil, Ramirez cannot die. A problem the 40+ ghosts have solved by taking turns watching his body and torturing & killing him as he revives. Montana tells Bobby that they’ve been doing this for him, since Bobby is the one soul Ramirez thirsted to kill due to his tumultuous relationship with Mr. Jingles. But instead of turning and leaving, he decides to seek out his father. Not a great idea, because Ramirez manages to escape just long enough to throw a knife into Bobby’s back. Ramirez tells Bobby that his father betrayed Satan and that he was going to collect the debt by way of Bobby’s life. Once again the ghost campers descend on Ramirez, giving Bobby a chance to escape. Bobby makes it to the local psychiatric hospital where his father once stayed where Donna explains to Bobby (as everyone else already has) that Jingles was innocent and Margaret was the real killer.
In yet another flashback showing us what happened that night in 1989, the ghosts surround Margaret’s cabin with torches and weapons. It reminded me of the ghost mob from AHS season six, especially with Bertie sporting a cleaver like Kathy Bates’ Butcher character. Inside the cabin, Donna cuts Margaret before Margaret pistol whips her. Brooke then appears and stabs Margaret in the side before Margaret shoots her. The ghost army break in and take Margaret outside to the aforementioned wood-chipper. Trevor cuts off Margaret’s limbs and feeds them through the wood-chipper separately, shooting her pieces over the property line in an effort to prevent her reincarnation.
In 2019, Bobby thanks Donna for sending him checks while he was growing up. Donna denies this, to which Bobby says somebody else must have survived–there must be another final girl. Bobby and Donna find the address where the checks have been coming from in the small town of Pineville, Oregon. They tail a truck back to a house, where who opens the door but a slightly aged, still beautiful Brooke. Shots of the interior of her home reveal a family with a husband and two children. Brooke apologizes to Donna for not telling her that she survived. It’s revealed that Ray the camper helped save her and when she collapsed due to her gunshot wounds over the property line, someone from inside the camp phoned paramedics to save her. Brooke says she viewed Jingles’ life as hope for a normal family after the insanity of Camp Redwood and that was why she helped Bobby out. I feel like it was a plot hole that Brooke was so clearly recognized as the supposed executed killer “Brooke Thompson” after her first breakout from jail but not when she was rescued from the same place where all those murders took place in 1989, but I digress.
In the final moments of the episode we cut to Bobby overlooking the lake at camp when Margaret appears to him. He recognizes her and she tells him she can take him to his father. Bobby initially declines, but ends up following her anyway. She explains that she technically died a split second before the chipper sent her body over the property lines. She disappears from sight before attempting to stab Bobby, which I think everyone saw coming. But Jingles is there to catch her arm, before stabbing her in the neck. Bobby and Jingles have an emotional reunion before it is cut short by Margaret stabbing Jingles in the back several times.Never fear though, Jingles’ mother appears and cuts Margaret’s throat, protecting her grandson. Montana pleads with him to get out of there, and to never return, but to tell their stories. Bobby runs out of the camp, but turns back around at the border to say goodbye to his father, grandmother, and the uncle he never knew.
All in all, this season was a ton of fun. I’d argue it matched the silliness that made so many of the 80’s slasher films so enjoyable. It didn’t take itself too seriously, as many of the previous seasons have done, even if it did lack of a meaningful conclusion to the ghost’s story. Finale episodes that serve as epilogues to the climax are never as powerful as simply allowing the climax to unfold in proper order, but I standby this season as a strong, meaningful entry into the American Horror Story canon.
How does 1984 stand up against your own personal favourite seasons of American Horror Story? What’s your definitive ranking of the series? Let us know on Twitter in the Nightmare on Film Street Subreddit, and on Facebook in the Horror Movie Fiend Club!