We’re only a few weeks away from the premiere of American Horror Story: 1984, which means there’s less than a month to brush up on our slasher flick knowledge so that we can catch all the clever clues and meta references Ryan Murphy is sure to include in the killer new season.
Based on what we know of AHS: 1984, it will begin with a typical slasher premise: A group of friends head to a summer camp where they’ll be terrorized by an escaped murderer who previously attacked the camp. Even the brief glimpses of the characters we’ve seen so far seem directly inspired by slasher archetypes, including Emma Roberts as The Innocent Girl, Billie Lourd as The Edgy Girl, Cody Fern as The Popular Jerk, John Carroll Lynch as The Hulking Figure in a Raincoat, and Leslie Grossman as The Adult Who Clearly Has a Traumatic Past Connected to the Killer. (If her neckerchief isn’t hiding a scar where the serial killer previously slashed her throat we will Venmo you all $5.)
But in order to best be able to appreciate all the slasher references in 1984 — and form the best theories on where the season might be heading — we highly recommend doing a quick refresher course on the genre by watching these seven films, all of which we expect will have influenced the new season of AHS.
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)
Loosely inspired by the serial killer Ed Gein (who died in 1984, just FYI), The Texas Chainsaw Massacre gave us one of the most iconic villains of all time: Leatherface. The film, which tells the story of a group of friends who fall prey to a family of cannibals, went on to become one of the most influential horror films of all time. Although we don’t know yet in what ways The Texas Chainsaw Massacre‘s influence will be felt this season, we’d be shocked if Murphy and his team didn’t pull something from this pivotal film, whether it’s a scene at a slaughterhouse, cannibalism, or simply killing someone with a power tool (although it would be hard to beat the gore factor of the nail gun death in Cult).
How to stream: Amazon
There’s a reason Hollywood keeps reviving the Halloween franchise: It’s timelessly terrifying. The story of serial killer Michael Myers began simply, with him stalking and killing babysitters on Halloween night after escaping a sanitarium where he had been imprisoned for killing his sister 15 years prior (OK, maybe not so simple after all). John Carpenter‘s score takes the tension to the next level, and we’re hoping AHS can deliver some heart-pounding string music this season in an homage to, hands down, the greatest horror theme of all time. The film was also the movie debut of Jamie Lee Curtis, who worked with Murphy and Roberts in Scream Queens. At this point, Curtis hasn’t been announced as appearing in 1984, but we’re still keeping our fingers crossed for a Curtis cameo calling back to Halloween this season.
How to stream: Amazon (available for purchase
Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter (1984)
Definitely feel free to watch the first three Friday the 13th movies in anticipation of 1984 — particularly if you haven’t ever seen them before — but if you can only watch one from the franchise, we recommend the fourth, The Final Chapter. The film, released in 1984, follows the serial killer Jason Voorhees as he is brought to the morgue presumed dead only to revive, escape, and continue his killing spree at Camp Crystal Lake. Seeing as the official trailer for 1984 features the group of kids hitting a man with their car and bringing him to Camp Redwood (where we’re betting he revives and causes trouble), as well as an escaped killer who once committed a massacre at the camp, the influence of The Final Chapter seems to be a strong one this season.
How to stream: Amazon
A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
1984 was an incredible year for slasher movies. Not only did it deliver new installments of already established franchises, but the year also saw the launch of one of the most popular slasher series to date, A Nightmare on Elm Street. The movie is all about how hard it is to distinguish between the imaginary and the real as a group of teenagers are killed in their dreams by the terrifying Freddy Kruger, and thus killed in reality. Murphy loves to play with expectations in American Horror Story, and so we’re excited to see how 1984 might play with the blurred boundary of what viewers perceive as reality. And if this season can deliver anything half as terrifying as Freddy Kruger’s bladed glove, we’ll give everyone involved a hearty round of applause… just as soon as we’re able to stop covering our eyes in horror.
How to stream: Hulu, Amazon (available for purchase)
Scream (1996) and Scream 4 (2011)
American Horror Story fans know there’s no way Murphy is about to give us a straightforward slasher season. It’s going to be campy, involve twists we never see coming, and likely be meta as all hell. And there is no slasher franchise more meta than Scream, which helped revitalized the horror genre in the ’90s thanks to its postmodern take on slasher flicks. The original Scream is a classic and a must-watch ahead of 1984, but we also think it would be wise to watch the highly underrated Scream 4 as well — particularly since it stars AHS staple Emma Roberts in a role that might hint that her innocent-seeming 1984 character may have more going on underneath the surface than you’d first assume.
How to stream: Netflix, Amazon (available for purchase)
Cabin in the Woods (2012)
Although this Joss Whedon film doesn’t follow the rules of a classic slasher, it may be the movie on this list that ultimately will have the most in common with 1984. The horror comedy about a group of friends who go to a remote cabin where they are fatally manipulated by engineers in an underground laboratory seems to have the exact balance of slasher scares and Orwellian surveillance that many fans are expecting 1984 to have. In Cabin in the Woods, the lab technicians sic various monsters on the students, release pheromones to increase libido, and drug them to impede their rational thinking, all as part of a ritual to appease a group of ancient deities. Replace “ancient deities” with aliens — since many fans are still convinced extraterrestrials will once again play a role this season — and we wouldn’t be too surprised if this winds up largely being the plot of 1984.
How to stream: Amazon (available for purchase)
American Horror Story: 1984 premieres Wednesday, Sept. 18 at 10/9c on FX.