For those of us who have trudged through all 8 seasons of the rollercoaster ride that is American Horror Story (for better and for worse), one subgenre that we’ve been impatiently waiting for Ryan Murphy & Co. to tackle is the 1980s “golden age” of horror: slashers. After all, there is nothing that AHS delivers more on than the gratuitous sex, gore, campiness, and questionable morality that thrives in the slasher subgenre. And finally, for the show’s upcoming ninth season, 1984, we’re getting the Friday the 13th season of our dreams.
Every year of AHS seems to may homage to other movies that inspired its seasonal theme, and while the details of the plot, characters, and episode titles for 1984 are still pretty scarce, we noticed some possible references to other horror titles from teaser trailers and other marketing. (Some may be reaches, but it’s fun to speculate.)
So before we don our mullets and bust out the campfire songs, let’s look at 10 films that may have inspired AHS 1984.
In this classically quirky exploitation film known for its quippy tagline, (“It’s exactly what you think it is!”)— a young boy kills his mother, and then grows up to cut women up into (you guessed it) pieces. Like dozens of other slashers close to its kind during this era, getting naked and/or sex between characters often led to their demises— however, one thing Pieces featured that many of its peers did not was a bit of equal opportunity nudity between the sexes. Subverting the trope of solely sexualizing women, male nudity (or at least bits of it that FX will allow the show to get away with) is something AHS never shies away from, as we have come to see Evan Peters’s naked behind numerous times over the course of the series. Hell, even one of the 1984 teaser trailers features multiple close-up shots of actor Matthew Morrison’s bulge, as he makes his way towards the camera with his short shorts. No doubt that 1984 will pull a Pieces and exploit some naked dudes instead of only its female characters.
The Final Terror (1983)
Amid a slew of early ‘80s Friday the 13th ripoffs, this killer-stalks-campers-in-the-woods flick remains more watchable than some of its counterparts, even though it lacks anything to make it stand out. But what rings a familiar bell is its Camp “Redwood” location— the same camp name that 1984 takes place in. Sure, it’s a pretty standard name for a campground, especially in California (where this season will also take place) but we can’t help but wonder if it’s a subtle nod to this oft-forgotten-about killer camp thriller.
Prom Night (1980)
In this slasher classic, Jamie Lee Curtis and her friends get hunted by a black ski mask killer avenging the death of a young girl years prior. And, it appears we will have a very similar looking butcher at Camp Redwood in 1984. In one of our most recent peeks into Season 9, a camper is swinging in the woods, blissfully unaware of the blacked-out figure (isn’t he hot in all black in the summer heat?) that closely lurks behind her— and perhaps AHS borrowed this look from killer Alex Hammond from Prom Night.
Sleepaway Camp (1983)
You love Sleepaway Camp. I love Sleepaway Camp. Its over-the-top campy tone and absurdity is legendary. And similar to this film, Ryan Murphy breathes campiness into all of his shows, especially AHS. But we can’t deny the questionable transgender representation of Angela Baker that could smear the legacy of the film’s iconic ending, depending on how you view it. That may be part of the reason why AHS is bringing on the mega-talented actress Angelica Ross from another Ryan Murphy-made show, Pose, who will be AHS’s first-ever transgender cast member in the show’s history. We didn’t get to see too much proper trans representation within ‘80s slashers, and perhaps Ryan Murphy & crew were inspired to fix that with their upcoming spin on this subgenre.
The Cabin in the Woods (2012)
In one of the earliest teasers we were given that introduced some of the season 9 cast in their ‘80s garb, in what appeared to be screen tests, some fan speculation swirled that perhaps 1984 would take on a more meta approach, giving the season more layers to work with than just 10 episodes of slicing and dicing of campers. We’ve read everything from theories of a possible Big Brother/George Orwellian slant (that made us think of The Cabin in the Woods) to the thought that this season could actually be about a cast and crew filming an ‘80s slasher movie (which AHS also did a bit of in episode 7 of last season.) However, 1984 cast member Leslie Grossman recently insisted that what we saw in those teasers were legitimate screen tests that had nothing to do with the upcoming plot. Maybe she’s right; maybe she’s trying to throw us off.
The Night Stalker (2016)
Something else we noticed in that aforementioned cast member teaser trailer was a man holding a curved knife that looked an awful lot like serial killer Richard Ramirez, who terrorized the greater LA area in the summers of 1984 and 1985. If you watched Season 5, AHS Hotel, you may recall that Ramirez popped up in the Devil’s Night dinner episode, so perhaps this could connect to that as well. Maybe Ramirez is also getting in on the action, and we’ll be seeing multiple killers this season? Less of an overt horror movie and primarily a dramatic biopic, The Night Stalker narrates the all-too-real nightmares of Ramirez’s despicable murders.
While it still may be unclear exactly how many killers will be on the loose at Camp Redwood this season, a couple of teasers have been hinting at various forms of weaponry that could be used to annihilate these campers, one of the most recent being an abandoned axe in the woods. Who could forget the feral Madman Marz from the ever-cheesy Madman, complete with his wild hair and axe-wielding sensibilities, that 1984 may be either hinting at (or poking fun of) in its marketing trailers.
When the Screaming Stops (1973)
As Blumhouse VP Ryan Turek pointed out, 1984’s official poster bares a striking resemblance to the VHS cover of this super weird slasher/creature feature B-movie mashup. The plot contains a more (un)intentionally humorous fantasy element than your standard slasher fare, so it’s doubtful that the inspiration is anything more than aesthetic. But, then again, I would never put anything passed AHS— remember that bizarre alien subplot from Season 2’s Asylum that completely came out of left field?
The Burning (1981)
In this underrated summer camp gem that often gets overshadowed by the franchise below this, a group of kids and counselors gather around a campfire as they learn about the legend of Cropsey, who was accidentally burned alive after a bunch of campers pulled a deadly prank on him. A recent teaser for 1984 reflects this by showcasing a bunch of campers partying around a fire while toasting marshmallows, before a couple dudes walk away and get the literal ax (RIP.) Not to mention, the official plot synopsis for the first episode could possibly mirror the prank thing too: “As (5 camp counselors) adjust to their new jobs, they quickly learn that the only thing scarier than campfire tales is the past coming to haunt you.” Like the teens in The Burning, could this group of camp counselors in 1984 be paying for something terrible they did in the past?
Friday the 13th (franchise)
It goes without saying that this season of AHS probably wouldn’t exist without the influence of Sean S. Cunningham’s seminal summer camp paragon (and its countless sequels.) Everything from the footage we’ve seen of a hulking figure chasing a girl through the woods to a killer stalking his bikini-clad prey in the lake screams Camp Crystal Lake and Jason Voorhees. And as the quintessential slasher franchise known for punishing its victims for “making love while that young boy drowned!” the theme of lust would tie perfectly into the longtime AHS fan theory that every season of the show thus far represents one of Dante’s 9 circles of hell, in which 1984 would represent circle II, lust.
We’ll have to wait and see if our theories hold true when AHS 1984 premieres on Wednesday, September 18.