The key tropes in every good slasher movie – and how ‘AHS: 1984’ is subverting them

It's already given its own unique twists on some classic tropes

There are some key ingredients that go into pretty much every slasher movie, making it a genre that’s very reliable but dependent on how each individual film deploys its unique twists. With AHS: 1984 taking on the slasher genre this season, there are many ways that creator Ryan Murphy could breath new life into the motifs – by turning them on their heads completely.

1 – There’s a ‘final girl’

Ever noticed how the surviving character in a slasher movie is almost always a girl? It’s a trope that, arguably, comes from Jamie Lee Curtis as Laurie Strode in the original Halloween. Right now, it seems like Brooke (Emma Roberts) is poised to take that role in AHS: 1984, but Murphy could flip that trope around by having her killed off and leaving a guy still standing at the end of it all. 

2 – Sex = death

In the slasher genre, serial killers like their young adults chaste and pure, meaning if teens get their ends away, their end is night. But AHS could already be overturning that notion in 1984 – kind of. In the latest episode, Trevor (Matthew Morrison), who previously hooked up with Montana (Bille Lourd), was killed by Margaret (Leslie Grossman). That might be death for someone who’s got down and dirty, but the difference here is Trevor was a sleaze-ball adult, not a horny young teenager.

3 – The killing is hyper-local 

The monsters who terrorise teens in slashers don’t like to venture very far – they usually only kill within a certain neighbourhood, street or geographical location (like, say, a camp…). So far, it looks like all of the action in the latest instalment of AHS will take place around Camp Redwood but they could really mix things up by following the teens back to LA or going on a murderous hike up along the west coast as they try to escape death.

4 – The killer has a mundane name

Usually, serial killers’ names are pretty standard and boring – Jason, Michael, Freddy etc. AHS: 1984 might boast two killers with very normal names in Ricky and Margaret, but then there’s Mr Jingles, which sounds more like the name of a clown you’d hire for a kids’ party than someone who’s about to turn you into a pin cushion with their knife collection. 

5 – The kids recount an urban legend

Most slashers begin recounting some dark and bloody legend from years past. The new generation laugh about the story and use it to pull pranks on their friends, before it’s revealed to have at least some element of truth to it. Murphy opted to follow this trope to the letter.

6 – Phones are out of service

Nowadays, most horror films make a point of showing us that the characters have no mobile phone signal. Back in the ’80s, the killer would almost always cut the cables to the landline to ensure their victims can’t call for help. AHS: 1984 is, as the title suggests, set in the ‘80s so Murphy still has some excuse for deploying this trope, but if he wanted to really switch things up, he could keep the phones operating and put a new twist into the terror – if the group think help is on its way, they’ll be more settled, maybe even complacent, leading to the potential for even bigger scares. 

8 – The victims are teenagers, the adults are useless

It shouldn’t go united that teens and adults have two very distinct roles in most slasher movies – the youth are the victims while the grown-ups are there to not believe them when they come to them for help defeating the bad guy. As mentioned above, we’ve already seen more adults than teens die, while no one has shrugged off the terror as vivid imaginations.

9 – The killers are seemingly immortal

There’s always that part – or several – of a slasher movie where you think the killer’s finally had a taste of their own medicine and been offed. Yet they somehow, often miraculously, manage to revive themselves and come back even more bloodthirsty than before. It would be pretty boring to get rid of the killer so quickly so you can see why we’ve already had an example of this in AHS: 1984, when Margaret assumed she’d got rid of Mr Jingles for good.