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AHS 1984 Trailer - What We Know So Far

With all the '80s nostalgia in the air, it's no surprise that Ryan Murphy would decide to frame the ninth season of his twisted anthology series American Horror Story right smack in the middle of that decade. While recent '80s period pieces like Wet Hot American Summer, Stranger Things, and GLOW (among so many others) tend to deal in idealized nostalgia, Murphy is taking us to slasher movie territory, replete with a summer camp and knife-wielding killer on the loose. 

As the past seasons of American Horror Story rolled by in a terrifying montage of grotesque imagery and increasingly bizarre storylines, Murphy first insisted that each season would stand alone and unconnected. But by AHS Freak Show, we started to get concrete evidence that Murphy was in fact weaving these disparate narratives cleverly together, culminating in the epic crossover season of AHS Apocalypse. From Murder House through to Coven and Hotel, Apocalypse brought back characters fans loved (and loved to hate) from previous seasons in an epic showdown with Satan. 

Where will AHS 1984 fit within the ever-expanding AHS canon? Here's what we know so far.

What's going on in the trailers for AHS 1984?

Leave it to Ryan Murphy to perfectly blend comedic 1980s camp with the menacing undertones of a quintessential slasher flick, set to the snappy tune of Dan Hartman's "I Can Dream About You." AHS 1984's fantastic full-length trailer is staged as cast "camera tests," and on the surface reveals a lot about what characters we can expect. Since everyone is dressed as an '80s slasher trope — the virgin, the jock, the rich guy, the bad boy — it raises the question: will they actually be the characters they're dressed as? Murphy is known for doing the opposite of what we expect, and keeping plot details close to his chest until it's time for a reveal. 

The teaser trailers present an entirely different version of the narrative. In one we see a car full of youngsters on their way to Camp Redwood. As they pass the camp sign, we see the word BEWARE scrawled in red paint. A masked man with a machete is hidden in the undercarriage of the car. Later, he jumps out from the lake and pulls a bikini-clad woman into the water in a straight homage to the first Friday the 13th

In another teaser, a young woman is chased through the dark woods to the tune of Billie Eilish's "Six Feet Under." She ends up in a cabin where a knife comes through the door. A third teaser features a group of camp counselors settling into their bunks. When the cabin door closes, a masked man jumps out with a knife. This is gonna be fun. 

What's the release date for American Horror Story 1984?

For the past nine years, American Horror Story has set a unique tone for each year's Halloween season. This year is no different. The ninth season of American Horror Story will premiere on September 18, 2019 at 10pm EST on FX. For its premiere week, AHS 1984 faces no major network competition for its time slot. But from its second week forward, AHS 1984 competes with sister network FXX when It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia airs its 13th season also at 10pm EST, while Chicago P.D. premieres on NBC. However, AHS isn't likely to risk losing eyeballs (heh heh) from its dedicated fan base to those two very different series. 

AHS 1984 will have a ten-episode run, with its seventh episode slated to air on October 30th, the eve of Halloween. Did Ryan Murphy plan this or is it just a happy accident? Can we expect a reference to the "Carrie vs. Jason" vibes of Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood? At any rate, the season is expected to wrap up on November 20th. 

The cast of American Horror Story 1984

As with previous seasons of American Horror Story, Ryan Murphy has assembled a number of original and recurring cast members for AHS 1984. The full show trailer introduces us to an '80s-ified Cody Fern, Billie Lourd, Emma Roberts, Leslie Grossman, as well as a newly monstered John Carroll Lynch brandishing a butcher knife. Cody Fern is almost unrecognizable in his transition from Apocalypse's long-haired angelic-faced Satan to a typical '80s Richie Rich reminiscent of James Spader in Pretty in Pink

Newcomers to AHS include Olympic Skier Gus Kenworthy (who has previously only made cameos in movies and TV), Matthew Morrison (Glee, Grey's Anatomy, The Good Wife), Angelica Ross (Pose, Claws, Transparent), DeRon Horton (Dear White People, American Vandal), Zach Villa (Shameless, Dan is Dead), and Kaleina Cordova (Veep).   

Unfortunately, though, AHS 1984 will be losing some of its most beloved cast members. Powerhouse original star Jessica Lange exited the show after its fourth season Freak Show, and now two more follow in her footsteps. Evan Peters will not be returning at all this ninth season, noting that between the intensity of his roles in AHS as well as Murphy's Pose, he felt emotionally ill and needed to take a break. Sarah Paulson will likewise not be returning in a "significant role," although rumors have not ruled out a potential cameo from the in-demand actress. Billy Eichner and Cheyenne Jackson also claim they are sitting this season out.

Where will AHS take the story for 1984?

It's the summer of '84, when women's bangs were as high as the temperature and men wore short-shorts completely unironically. From the looks of AHS season 9's trailers, a group of teens are on their way to Camp Redwood to serve as counselors. The vibe is party, party, party, so they don't see the warning emblazoned in red paint on the flip side of the Camp Redwood sign. They are also too busy having fun to notice the masked man with a knife catching a ride to the camp underneath the car. 

Yes, AHS 1984 looks to be a beautiful, gory, and also funny homage to the slasher films of the '80s like Friday the 13th. But because this is a Ryan Murphy production, we can expect far more subtext. While there isn't anything in the trailers to suggest a political plotline, the year 1984 corresponds to George Orwell's dystopian novel of the same name. It's almost certain that Murphy will insert some social and political commentary, just as in every past season.  

Also, the use of the song "Suddenly, Last Summer" in some of the show's commercials could be a double cultural entendre. Suddenly, Last Summer is a play by Tennessee Williams, later adapted to film. Catherine (Elizabeth Taylor) is traumatized after witnessing her cousin's death. Her aunt Violet Venable (Katherine Hepburn) attempts to keep her son's death a secret by lobotomizing Catherine. We can't rule out a parallel there — AHS fans can immediately read narrative links to Asylum, Freak Show, Apocalypse, and beyond.

Is AHS 1984 a standalone season?

After the epic crossover event of AHS Apocalypse was such a gift to the long-time AHS fans, FX president John Landgraf said that the franchise needed a reset. Because Apocalypse would have been impossible to understand without knowledge of previous seasons, AHS 1984 will be the opposite: a standalone season. "Part of what [Murphy] needed to do, which is what he did, was clean the slate, start over," Landgraf told The Wrap. But, because Ryan Murphy is the king of fake-outs, it wouldn't be surprising if Landgraf's comments are part of Murphy's bigger picture to keep viewers on their toes. 

Landgraf also told Deadline that this season will be more of an ensemble effort than previous seasons, and won't have the same focus on individual featured characters as in the past. An '80s slasher homage with an Robert Altman-ish structure? Yes, please. 

Longtime AHS executive producer Tim Minear also reminds us to expect the unexpected from Murphy, since he's so prone to bait-and-switch. The Wrap asked Minear whether this season was inspired by the recent trend in '80s period pieces and revisiting horror franchises from that era. Minear responded, "Generally, Ryan is ahead of the zeitgeist as opposed to following it... I would say is that this has been an area that Ryan has talked about since I've known him and it's just a real sweet spot for him. And I think it was time for him to do it."

American Horror Story 1984's retro-style posters

Since the very first season, American Horror Story has tantalized us with the artwork on its posters, inspiring so much speculation about what hints are hidden within. From the snake weaving its way across women in Coven to the grotesque carnival-inspired posters from Freak Show, the AHS artwork is as intriguing as its teasers and trailers. AHS 1984's posters might be the most straightforward out of the bunch, with the first featuring a screaming woman with a knife slashing through the door behind her, but it perfectly fits an '80s slasher homage. Bloody Disgusting pointed out that it looks like a VHS cover from back in the day, which it almost does — except for the high-definition photography. A second poster followed with a blazing marshmallow on a poker headed straight for a woman's eye. S'mores, anyone?

There might not be a whole lot to unpack here, which ends up only making AHS 1984 one of the more enigmatic seasons yet. Yes, it's a slasher season. But anyone who knows slasher films also knows they can be rife with subtext, and in particular feminist subtext. Many see slashers as a critique on purity culture, especially when it comes to the trope that anyone who has sex will die. Slashers also slyly call out patriarchal and misogynistic violence in the killer figure, who stalks, gaslights, and kills young people from behind an innocuous mask. Ryan Murphy is an open feminist, so it's going to be fascinating to see how he brings these critical slasher themes together in AHS 1984. 

Plot theories about AHS 1984

It didn't take long for new theories about AHS 1984 to swirl as promotion ramped up. One theory suggests that AHS 1984 might be the making of a movie within the television show, similar to Roanoke. This holds water, since the full trailer is framed as camera tests for the actors, with direction marks on the floor and surroundings. This also suggests the season might not take place in 1984 at all. 

Another fan theory suggests AHS 1984 might be set in a dystopian 1980s as a result of AHS Apocalypse. The fact that 1984 corresponds to George Orwell's dystopian novel about life under fascism could lend this theory weight. Meanwhile, Refinery 29 has wondered if Murphy will subvert the virginal final girl trope, which seems inevitable, given this is Ryan Murphy. 

In Hotel, Liz Taylor (Denis O'hare) tells an anecdote that takes place in 1984. Will she return? It's also worth mentioning that the real Liz Taylor was the star of the movie Suddenly, Last Summer, which shares a title with the song featured in several AHS 1984 teaser trailers. On the topic of past AHS characters, PopSugar wonders if Lana Winters (Sarah Paulson) from Asylum might return, especially if AHS 1984 is about the making of a movie. Could the film be based on one of Winters' true crime books? Might this be Paulson's reason for a cameo? 

Did Ryan Murphy confirm a fan theory about AHS 1984?

Another gift that American Horror Story has brought to pop culture and horror nerds is a narrative so jam-packed with homages and refrences, alongside its own internal worldbuilding, that fan theories abound about what it all means. When it comes to 1984, there's one theory that Ryan Murphy has acknowledged and may have sneakily verified. 

The theory posits that each season of AHS corresponds to a circle of hell from Dante's Inferno. A fan put together a breakdown that Murphy later shared on his Instagram, accompanied by a cryptic caption: "Interesting." Murder House is Limbo, Hotel is Gluttony, Freak Show is Greed, Roanoke is Anger, Cult is Heresy, Asylum is Fraud, and Coven is Treachery. At the time, Apocalypse had not been released, with Violence and Lust being the only two circles of hell remaining. Because it was about the end of the world, we can definitely read Apocalypse as Violence, leaving only Lust. 

Slasher films tend to feature not only a lot of gore, but a lot of sex. AHS 1984 corresponding to Lust's circle of hell makes perfect sense. Adding fuel to this fire, the close-ups specifically of men's well-endowed gym shorts in the full-length trailer might not be just a nod to David Bowie's infamous bulge in Labyrinth. Will Murphy unsettle the '80s puritanical trope of sexually active people being the first to die? It's a total possibility. 

Also, does this mean that AHS's tenth season might take us out of circles of hell and into Paradise, as Dante's Divine Comedy does? Only time will tell.

Do the movies of '84 give us hints about AHS 1984?

With '80s nostalgia in full bloom, it's worth revisiting some of 1984's movie releases to see what they might be able to tell us about the pop-culture context of that year. It was a big year at the box office — with slasher classics like A Nightmare on Elm Street, Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter, and Children of the Corn, not to mention ghoulish comedies like Ghostbusters and Gremlins, there's already a plethora of inspiration to draw from 1984 just in terms of horror. Firestarter also came out that year, as well as Brian DePalma's psychological thriller Body Double, both of which fit Murphy's brand of female-driven feminist horror. 

But 1984 wasn't only a great year for horror movies. It was also a fantastic year for comedy classics like Revenge of the Nerds, which took a more lighthearted approach to events at summer camp, as well as John Hughes' Sixteen Candles, with its iconic fashion we can see in the AHS 1984 full trailer. One supernatural element that has never been the focus of American Horror Story is alien life. In 1984, the world received Starman and The Last Starfighter — might aliens finally be addressed in AHS 1984? 

Appropriately enough, 1984 also saw a British film adaptation of George Orwell's 1984. Will this bleak film about the establishment of fascism as a way of life inform AHS 1984? We can only hope.