You watch TV, we watch TV. But with more and more shows on cable and network TV, not to mention new streaming services popping up every day, television can get a little daunting. Don’t worry. UnBinged is here, ready to OD, hate-watch or simply chill and enjoy television, so you don’t have to unless it’s worth it.
American Horror Story: 1984 | FX
Thanks to shows like The Goldbergs and Stranger Things, ’80s backdrops on TV have gone beyond retro; they’re old hat. Recently, 1984 specifically snagged the spotlight. From Wonder Woman in shoulder pads to Summer of ’84’s attempts to make Canada look scary, TV is just saying yes to the year of infamy and it has nothing to do with Orwell.
Now it’s American Horror Story: 1984’s turn. Ryan Murphy’s uneven take on macabre moved its focus from witches, insane asylums and haunted houses to an entire decade’s worth of slasher movies. The new season came just in time for Halloween, but it remains to be seen if interest will last now that the holiday has come and gone.
Set at a summer camp and following a slasher movie formula, 1984’s first few episodes seemed a return to form for the series, maybe not as much of a hit as Coven but at least less of a miss than Roanoke. Taking aim at bloodbath cinema of the Me-First Decade, you’ll recognize references to Friday the 13th, Sleepaway Camp, The Burning, Cheerleader Camp, Summer Camp Nightmare… just about any film set in the woods that involves a bunch to teens gettin’ screwed and then, of course, gettin’ slaughtered.
A lot of AHS’ best players are missing but there are some who came back for the bludgeoning and some new victims too from other Murphy shows, all playing horror movie stereotypes to campy extremes: Emma Roberts (Brooke the Virgin), Billie Lourd (Montana the Party Girl), Cody Fern (Xavier the Hot Guy in Blazers), Leslie Grossman (Margaret the Devout Christian), John Carroll Lynch (Mr. Jingles the Mass Murdering Maniac), Gus Kenworthy (Chet the Jock), Deron Horton (Ray the Party Boy) and Matthew Morrison (Trevor the Douchey Moustache Dude).
The show hits you over the head with the Reagan era, borrowing not just from the horror genre but from anything and everything “Eighties” it can get its hands on. From the John Travolta aerobics schlock of Perfect to the Holy Trinity of Jack, Janet and Chrissie on Three’s Company, to the Richard Ramirez “Nightstalker” scare, nothing is sacred. The only way the show could get more ’80s is if Molly Ringwald, Lloyd Dobler, and the guy who shows his dick in Teen Wolf were to call Jessie’s girl on a car phone while solving a Rubik’s Cube. And hey, there’s still a few more episodes, so who knows?
The good news is that all the elements that made American Horror Story entertaining remain in play as the series continues to go for the money shot. This time it jumps the shark too, intentionally, with gruesome, gory, bloody insane kills and shameless sex scenes that have become series trademarks. Oh, and the era’s music is so prevalent, it’s practically a character in itself, with hit song after hit song in nearly every scene; sometimes used ironically, others more on the nose, akin to Stranger Things.
While past seasons fell flat as they tried to throw every insane idea into a single season (I’m looking at you, alien subplot from Asylum), 1984 at least works within the realm of tropes and narratives we all know via ’80s horror films, many of which were enjoyable, even if they weren’t exactly “good.” Which means this AHS doesn’t really have to be either. It just needs to conjure the right feeling and flashbacks. Fueled by nostalgia, 1984 reclaims what American Horror Story lost over the past few seasons- a sense of whimsy.
Creepshow | Shudder
Like AHS, the new Creepshow is about conjuring horror from the past. A Walking Dead vet rebooted this creation from two horrormeisters and filled it with scary movie all-stars. What’s not to favorite, or fear? Debuted around Halloween time, Creepshow is a pure delight, gory fun wrapped in camp and creepdom. Based on the ’80s movie anthology from George Romero and Stephen King, the first chapter of this series serves a double dose of heebie jeebies.
“Grey Matter” stars horror industry vets Adrianne Barbeau (star of 1982’s Creepshow), Tobin Bell (Saw), and Giancarlo Esposito (featured in Stephen King’s directorial debut Maximum Overdrive). Based on King’s classic short story, the tale is a well-constructed allegory about the horrors of alcoholism masked behind a traditional monster movie reminiscent of The Blob. “The House of the Head” is a good old fashioned tale of homemade horror featuring a haunted dollhouse and a roaming head that terrorizes Barbie and Ken.
The Greg Nicatero-produced serial isn’t high art, but it is pure fun. If Breaking Bad is a filet mignon, Creepshow is a Taco Bell run on a Saturday night at 3 a.m. And that ain’t a bad thing. In fact, for those looking for gore as a means of escape, will find this show exactly what the (witch) doctor ordered. The show stays true to the source material in both tone and tale, making it a pleasure to watch for fans of the original, too.
Daybreak | Netflix
Is the world ready for yet another zombie series? We already have slow-walking zombies, peace-loving Seattle zombies, zombies who sell real estate, zombies who fight waning lotharios with chainsaw hands, ice cold blue-eyed zombies, and zombies with candy corn teeth and gumball eyes who can turn victims into Astropops. OK, I might have made that last one up. But that still would have made for slightly better television than Netflix’s Daybreak.
Daybreak is yet another spin on The Walking Dead, this time following kids who survived a zombie apocalypse in Glendale, California, left with nothing but their sarcasm. Survival is moot as the series looks to kill remaining populations with insipidness. Overall, the series does little in the way of originality, storytelling or character development as it overmines a once fertile concept with a bland, teenybopper take on Warriors.
The series takes place six months after a bombing that wiped out almost all adults. Most melted in the goo, and those who “survived” have become goolies, the walking undead who spout Facebook posts as they eat squirrels. Now the high school cliques that used to roam the corridors of the Glendale Galleria prep for battle against the hordes of zombies and each other.
Josh is the viewer’s guide through the new world order. He spends his day gathering weapons and sports memorabilia as mindless ghouls, mutated housepets, street samurai, and makeshift road warriors wander the city. Josh is the series narrator and the audience’s source of truth, so while he spends a lot of time talking directly to the camera, he still manages to remain aloof thanks to a snarky attitude and standoffish demeanor.
The problem with Daybreak is that it tries so hard to be cool that it forgot to be relatable. Josh and his cohorts lack the vulnerability and amenability needed to make their antics engaging. Throw in a derivative plot with a tedious, well-worn concept, and you have the makings of a show that seems fatigued before it hits its stride.