How do you top the end of the world? It's a question that fans of FX's American Horror Story have been asking ever since the horror anthology series' eighth season, Apocalypse, ended last fall. The season not only gave fans the much-requested crossover between season one's Murder House and season three's Coven, but it also tied up quite a few loose ends in the series and capped it all off with something of a "reset" when the witches managed to go back into time to stop Michael Langdon from starting the end of the world in the first place.
When series creator Ryan Murphy debuted a teaser for the upcoming ninth season in April, though, fans got their answer. The teaser featured a young woman running through the woods, being chased by an ominous killer who eventually slashes his knife through the door she’s hiding behind. The video seemed to hint that the upcoming season may have a horror/slasher theme modeled after popular '80s horror franchises, such as Friday the 13th. The season title, 1984, fits into that nicely as well and comments from executive producer Tim Minear also fall right in line, with Minear noting that for fans of '80s horror the season would be a treat.
When it comes to American Horror Story, though, nothing is ever that straightforward and it didn't take some fans long to start wondering if perhaps 1984 will have more of a dystopian theme running right along the horror/slasher elements being teased. To be fair, it's valid speculation. One of the things that fans of the long-running FX series have come to expect is that Murphy will have some sort of unexpected twist to take the story in a completely different direction and 1984 would be a perfect opportunity to lean into the slasher theme already teased, but have a strong dystopian element tied to it.
The biggest hint that this might be the case is the season's title, 1984. It's not just a year in the '80s, it also has some significant cultural connotations as well. As most people know, 1984 is also the title of George Orwell's iconic dystopian novel which explores themes of government overreach, totalitarianism, repressive regimentation of society, and more all set in a world (then an imagined future) where the world was locked in perpetual war as citizens existed under omnipresent government surveillance (the Thought Police) and were kept in line with the use of propaganda among other measures. The impact of the 1984 novel was and is so significant it remains a form or shorthand for totalitarianism and authoritarianism.
The ideas of 1984 have also come more to the surface in recent years following the election of Donald Trump as president with his use of the term "fake news" prompting some to make comparisons to the concepts of doublethink in the novel. The book even got a bump in sales in 2017 after Kellyanne Conway, an adviser to Trump, used the term "alternative facts" during an appearance on NBC's Meet the Press, terminology that some felt was eerily similar to the book. As American Horror Story doesn't shy away from some political commentary in its seasons, it wouldn't be a huge surprise if 1984 draws on some of these elements within the season.
As for the horror and slasher elements of things, even if 1984 does have a more dystopian leaning there's still plenty of ways to incorporate those classic '80s horror genre elements. As we've seen from Netflix's Stranger Things, you can successfully incorporate elements of dystopia while also getting the scares, action, and terror expected from horror. In Stranger Things' case specifically, while the series doesn't go full dystopia it does have the whole secret experiments by the government that do appear in some dystopian stories. And, technically, Apocalypse itself married dystopia to horror with the whole end of the world, bunkers for the elite, situation.
Whatever the actual theme of American Horror Story: 1984, fans don't have too much longer to wait. The series will return to FX on Wednesday, September 18 at 10 p.m. ET.
What do you think? Could American Horror Story: 1984 really be a dystopia? Let us know in the comments below.