SDCC Activation: American Horror Story: 1984 – Face the Darkness Activation

Desperate to make some extra money this summer, you took a position as a junior counselor at Camp Redwood.  You enter a cabin where your first training will begin. You notice a dial phone, vintage postures, and retro décor. It’s 1984. A summer that will never be forgotten. Just as your new supervisor begins to show you how you will use night-vision goggles to catch campers out of their bunks, a woman shrieks over an intercom. Suspicious activity has been detected in the forest and it is headed right for you. Quick! Make it to Cabin Number 9 where you’ll find safety!

FX introduced the new season of “American Horror Story” with a memorable activation at San Diego Comic-Con 2019 located in their Fearless Forum. Developed by immersive veterans JFI Productions, who are the creators of The Willows, Creep LA, and Amazon’s Lore Experience, this roughly ten-minute walkthrough is a high-quality activation. The creators were able to combine a compelling narrative with a legitimate haunt all wrapped up in a brief pop-up experience.

A general view of the American Horror Story: 1984 installation at the FX Fearless Forum At 2019 SDCC on July 18, 2019 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Joe Scarnici/Getty Images for FX)

As usual, JFI Productions included quality actors who added levels of suspense and comic relief to the narrative. In addition, the set design was surprisingly well done given the three-day, ephemeral nature of the activation. Although the maze was small, the production team maximized the use of space and created a sense of being “followed” by the creature. There was minimal monster design. However, this created a sense of suspense and anticipation to tune in to the new season to learn more about this shadowy figure lurking in the dark.

For people who do not frequent haunted houses, this experience may have seemed rather intense. Individuals in my group were huddling next to each other and arguing over who was going to walk into the room first. There were only small groups allowed into the experience at a time which decreased the conga line effect and created legitimate scares. The use of small groups and having an actress guide the experience contributed to long lines to enter the activation.

Overall, the American Horror Story: 1984 – Face the Darkness experience developed by JFI Productions was arguably one of the best activations at SDCC 2019. It was well worth the wait.

(Photo by Joe Scarnici/Getty Images for FX)
Danielle Nicole
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