It’s the summer of 1984 at Camp Redwood. Teens are partying, swimming in the lake and hanging out with friends—all while being stalked by a masked killer.
It was that kind of suspense, horror and fun that FX captured during its first overnight activation on Friday, Sept. 13.
“We look to the show for inspiration on how we can best tease the audience as we head into the premiere,” said Kenya Hardaway, SVP, integrated promotions, FX Networks. “Once we had an idea of the setting for this installment—a camp environment—we knew we had to go camping.”
FX collaborated with longtime partner Industria Creative to help bring the concept to life. Together, they invited influencers, horror brands and sweepstakes winners to travel back to the summer of 1984 for camp-counselor training.
“We knew that in order to do this well, we needed to have a really intimate group,” Hardaway said. “These were ‘counselors in training’ and much like how it’s depicted in slasher movies, you have a small group of people who start to disappear. We knew we couldn’t go into this with a group of 50 to 100 people; it just wouldn’t have worked.”
FX enlisted a group of actors to channel the ‘80s and guide participants through camp activities such as orientation, arts and crafts, archery, axe-throwing and jazzercise.
Meanwhile, a masked killer lurked around the campground—the central theme of season 9—to scare, taunt and excite participants ahead of the show’s Sept. 18 premiere.
“Slashers are something that [horror fans] hold near and dear because it’s such a fun subset of the horror genre,” Hardaway said. “We knew we wanted to really dive into that and we felt like people would have a great time.”
FX incorporated scare tactics like a suspicious groundskeeper, abandoned skeletons, ghost stories, and a hanging corpse throughout camp orientation, outdoor activities and dinner at the mess hall. But despite its murderous theme, FX made sure they infused the right amount of terror to fall in line with the nature of most ‘80s horror films.
“We wanted to make sure we had an experience that was fun and exciting and left them guessing, but we didn’t want to step out of the tone of what the season is actually going to be like,” Hardaway said. “We were mindful of crafting an experience that was true to the show.”
Keeping the slaughter to a minimum was also a form of horror itself, Hardaway noted.
“I think the anticipation of what could happen and people’s imagination sometimes serves us far better than trying to create that,” she said. “We allowed people to imagine their worst-case scenario—to fear what would scare them the most.”
“That was really our goal, to give them an exciting experience, but to let that natural element of horror work and play in their mind,” she added.
American Horror Story: 1984 premieres Wednesday, Sept. 18 on FX.
[Photos courtesy of FX Networks]