I haven’t been this scared of my phone since Drew Barrymore picked up the line in Scream.
Last night’s premiere episode of American Horror Story: Apocalypse depicted the end of days in a pretty standard fashion—lots of screaming, running, crying, etc. But one cellular detail brought the campy series’ take on the world’s end to a very real and very 2018 place.
In the season’s opening scene, three main characters are casually discussing pressed juice and Instagram fame when a loud blaring noise fills the room. Instantly, they reach for their phones.
An emergency push notification heralds doomsday for the characters and audience. It reads: “Ballistic missile threat inbound to Los Angeles. Seek immediate shelter. This is not a drill.”
If you’ve ever been in a crowded room when a local weather or missing persons alert has gone out, you know the eery reality of this notification experience. A sense of imminent danger suddenly radiates from your pocket. You grab your phone and quickly look around to watch your fellow citizens read the typically benign news. You breathe a collective sigh of relief.
“Ballistic missile threat inbound to Los Angeles. Seek immediate shelter. This is not a drill.”
Swapping out that moment of solace for a zing of terror, AHS capitalizes on this familiar shared experience to heighten the reality of its apocalypse.
One character (Leslie Grossman) reacts as many might to the promise of the world’s end and even reference’s the show’s very real source material. “No, it’s bullshit. It’s a hoax. It’s like that time in Hawaii,” she says. “They’re gonna text in like a minute with a retraction.”
Grossman’s character is referencing the very real ballistic missile false alarm that went out to Hawaiian residents and vacationers in January. Many described the ensuing hysteria as the worst moments of their lives.
In AHS, this is no false alarm. Ryan Murphy and his fellow creators use the Hawaii news item—not to mention the horrifying state of global politics—to inject a moment of real fear into their regularly cartoony show before launching into the end of mankind.
If any part of you is fearing World War 3 or the apocalypse in general, I promise this scene will permanently alter your relationship to your phone.
Seriously, no one text me. I don’t think I can take it.
New episodes of American Horror Story premiere Wednesdays at 10pm ET on FX.