American Horror Story
Each teaser led to this, the official trailer for "American Horror Story: 1984"; now it will be taken apart piece by piece, much like the series's victims. (Illustration by Nick Spearman, Savannah College of Art and Design)

Let’s Dissect the Official Trailer for ‘American Horror Story: 1984’

If only to give us something to discuss, until the first episode premieres on Sept. 18.

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American Horror Story

If only to give us something to discuss, until the first episode premieres on Sept. 18.

Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk’s chilling love child, “American Horror Story,” is well-known for its mysterious teasers and trailers that build anticipation for each upcoming season. Leading up to the past eight seasons, the creators filled the internet with these vivid snapshots and themes hinting at, and sometimes misleading, what fans can expect.

American Horror Story: 1984,” the ninth season, inspired by slasher horror films from the ’80s, returns to FX in the U.S. at 10 p.m. on Sept. 18. As fans await the anthology series’s return, they predict that the season will draw insight from films like “Friday the 13th” and “Nightmare on Elm Street,” as well as George Orwell’s dystopian novel of the same name, “1984.”


The teasers, released months before the whole season’s release date, give fans a chance to piece together the mystery in efforts to discover the theme for the season. For example, Season 2, “AHS: Asylum,” follows the nuns, patients and other beings trapped in an asylum over the course of several decades.

Between April 10 and Aug. 27, FX Networks released several different teasers for Season 9, including ones focusing on each of the characters and paying homage to several films that audiences expected the anthology series to reference.

Teasers, such as ones dubbed “Camp Redwood,” “Top Bunk” and “Campfire,” set up the atmosphere and paint a scene for its audience: a group of teenagers at a summer camp terrorized by a frightening, axe-wielding murderer.

The Season 9 official trailer — and the string connecting all its preceding teasers together into a somewhat cohesive look into “American Horror Story: 1984” — was finally released on Aug. 26.

Here is my scene by scene dissection of the cumulative official trailer and what certain aspects of it could mean for the return of “American Horror Story” in September.

“Friday the 13th” but Gay 

The beginning of the trailer sets the scene for the series at Camp Redwood, which was teased earlier, as two young women embrace each other in a single bunk before a menacing figure with jingling keys interrupts.

A loud girlish scream, a close-up on Leslie Grossman’s character in bed and violent images suggest a violent slaughter before the trailer cuts to the title.

Later in the trailer, the audience learns that this figure, Mr. Jingles, is possibly a potential antagonist and monster that hunts other characters in the series. His keys, the focus in the scene, could make Mr. Jingles a janitor-type character, but they could also symbolize that nowhere is safe for his victims to hide because he has keys to all the different properties on the campgrounds.

The grainy footage, like several other clips and scenes from the trailer, suggests that it is from a flashback of a previous massacre that occurred at the campgrounds. At this point in the trailer, slasher fans already start to notice the series’s similarities to “Friday the 13th.”

The remnants are a bloody pile of bodies, with possibly no survivors, then the trailer completely switches tones and timelines.

’80s, ’80s, ’80s!

Some amount of time after the massacre, several young adults and teens, including some of the main characters, participate in aerobics. Dressed in brightly colored spandex, sweatbands and matching leg warmers, the whole gang shows off their moves before changing to discuss their summer plans.

Cody Fern’s character tells the rest of the gang about a gig he has at a summer camp close to the aerobics studio. His group of friends, made up of series alumni Billie Lourd and Emma Roberts, as well as newcomers Gus Kenworthy and DeRon Horton (“Dear White People”), apparently agree to join him because one of the next scenes show them packed in a green van on the way to the camp.

Billie Lourd’s character, dressed up in a more edgy style than the others, is rumored to be a young Sally McKenna, about 10 years before she is pushed out of a window in the Hotel Cortez during Season 5, “AHS: Hotel.”

However, many fans, including myself, believe it is just a matter of connected locations and both characters’ similar signature styles. If she were a young McKenna, she would have to survive the entirety of Season 9, which is very unlikely, for all these characters.

The scene also flashes back to a violent assailant with a curved knife attacking Emma Roberts’ character, Brooke, while she is in her bed. Although the experience appears to make her cautious about leaving for the camp, it also could simply be haunting her character throughout the season, or however long she survives.

Slasher Films Galore

We see an aerial shot of the green van, the color potentially a reference to the green van in “Texas Chainsaw Massacre,” before closing in on the teens gossiping about an escaped murderer from a psychiatric facility.

Then, the van hits a person on the road, whom they take to the camp nurse, Angelica Ross (“Pose”); they withhold the truth from her, saying that they just found him on the road. The crash as well as the poorly-crafted lie closely resemble the inciting action in another popular slasher film, “I Know What You Did Last Summer.”

After being led away from the nurse and the injured man by none other than Leslie Grossman’s character, who survived the original massacre and is now a camp counselor, she introduces the squad to their home for the rest of the summer (or the rest of their lives).

Then, she introduces them to the suspicious Chef Bertie, a veteran of Camp Redwood, who says, “Nothing but good memories about this place,” before a brief flashback to the grainy footage of the massacre.

The following scene also draws heavily on slasher film tropes as many patients are seen milling about in the pouring rain, having escaped from a psychiatric hospital like in “Halloween.” In the middle of the storm, Mitch Pileggi’s (“The X-Files”) character tells a woman that one of the patients has escaped and that his name is Mr. Jingles.

Mr. Jingles, played by “AHS” veteran John Carroll Lynch, could now be a Michael Myers-type killer; could the scene hint that is a possible origin story based on this scene? Lynch is no stranger to playing the monster, having played Twisty the Clown in “AHS: Freakshow” and “Cult” in addition to John Wayne Gacy in “AHS: Hotel.”

Scary Scenes by the Campfire

Cut to the cast circling around a campfire, when Brooke asks, “Who is Mr. Jingles?” The nurse begins to tell the teenage counselors that the campground is the site of the worst massacre in history, but the teens interrupt her. They reference Brooke’s past with killers and tell her that they’re not in the mood for some ghost story.

After the campfire scene, the trailer bombards viewers with several quick cuts of traditional slasher jump scares and violence. With some scenes featuring fire, the characters crawl away from a killer with the same curved blade that was used on Brooke in the earlier flashback.

If you look closely, these scenes also reveal another character, played by recognizable actor, Matthew Morrison (“Glee”).

The final scene in the trailer is another homage to “Friday the 13th,” where the teens are at a gas station and an old man tells them that they are all going to die — a fitting ending for a series known for killing off almost all of their cast members only to revive them as a different character in a later season.

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