FX’s American Horror Story
Season 9, Episode 2: “Mr. Jingles”
Directed by John J. Gray
Written by Tim Minear
* For a recap & review of the 1984 premiere, “Camp Redwood” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “Slashdance” – click here
At Camp Redwood, Dr. Hopple— from Red Meadows Asylum— comes looking for Margaret. She was unable to get through over the phone and wanted to let Ms. Booth know Benjamin Richter a.k.a Mr. Jingles is loose. The camp’s latest owner refuses to let the murderer win, not willing to allow him to make her a perpetual victim. This sends the doc off in a huff.
A tire blows out forcing Hopple to pull over along the road. A cop car finds her. The jingle of keys is heard. Is it really Richter? Or a slasher red herring? Definitely Jingles. This doesn’t bode well for Hopple. She’s brutally stabbed. Richter tells her, as she becomes a corpse: “You were right— I am a monster.”
Then the killer takes his trophy.
Brooke Thompson can’t shake the phone call, Richard Ramirez, or the jingle of the keys and the man chasing her. The news is reporting on a murder at a gas station in Red Meadows. Brooke worries the murderer is coming for her— a murderer, anyway. It’s shitty nobody believes her. At least there’s vigilant Marg to keep watch. Even she’s unsettling. One saving grace is Montana Duke, who actually attempts to be genuine with Brooke, offering comfort.
“Every sound was the Bogeyman,
every shadow was a monster trying to eat me—
a shadow is
just a shadow.”
We get a view of last summer.
Brooke was at the altar about to be married to Joey Cavanaugh. Things seemed perfect. It all collapsed. Joe thought his best friend was sleeping with his fiancee. She said nothing happened. He wouldn’t believe that. He shot his best friend and Brooke’s father. He blamed it all on her then shot himself.
Nice day for a “White Wedding,” no? Perfect needle drop.
A tragic, horrifying backstory to Brooke. She tells it to Montana. Her new friend assumes she cheated on her soon-to-be husband. “Nobody ever believes me,” Brooke says. Montana takes this as a cue to put the moves on her, and the new girl awkwardly rushes out. Great time for all the lights to go off, leaving her in the dark. Margaret’s shutting it all down. That leaves the boys, who are about to shower, in the dark, too.
Xavier Plimpton goes for a walk and runs into Blake (Todd Stashwick)— or, as he calls him, “daddy.” Things were bad for X once upon a time. Blake rehabilitated him. Now he won’t let Xavier escape. He’s got the young man making porn, showing off a tape of The X-Man Cometh, a riff off Eugene O’Neill’s The Iceman Cometh. Meanwhile, the rest of the lads are in the showers chatting, watched by Blake through a peephole. He gets a knife through the back of the head when X wanders off.
Soundtrack note: The shower scene’s set to “Jeopardy” by the Greg Kihn Band
By the lake, Brooke sees a corpse float to the surface. She turns to run and who’s there to find her? Ramirez. He was led to her by Satan. He tries to slice her up with his knife. She manages to get a shovel and crack him one, giving her a chance to run. Ramirez runs right into the hiker, who’s out running around in the woods. The serial killer slices the poor dude up. How is he alive? Are we seeing meta-slasher stuff? We perfectly cut over from this nasty moment— first hearing “Jump (For My Love)” by The Pointer Sisters— to Nurse Rita as she notices Richter sneaking up on her.
Brooke finds Montana and tells her about the Night Stalker. Again, not believed. Ramirez is having a strange moment, too. “You‘re not supposed to be here,” the hiker says to him, alive again. The serial killer kills him— again. Definitely seeing some American Horror Story madness. The hiker has a card on him that says he was a counsellor back in 1970! Same year Mr. Jingles went on his spree.
Ray Powell finds Blake dead. Him, Trevor Kirchner, and Chet Clancy are obviously creeped out. Xavier, Brooke, and Montana show up quickly hearing the screams. Suddenly the Ramirez story isn’t sounding like a story to the other counsellors. Trevor thinks it might be someone else. They all hear the jingling of keys.
Another perfect cut— a match cut to the sound of keys jingling: Margaret’s keys. She gets back to her cabin, where the Night Stalker sits waiting. She offers to clean him up. He’s too busy wondering how someone he killed could come back. Marg figures it’s Jesus. She knows the hiker died in ’70. She tries a little serial killer therapy. Ramirez tells her: “Pain is all I‘ve ever known.” He recounts his own mother’s hard life that led to him coming out “poisoned.” His cousin told him horrific stories as a boy about women he killed as a soldier. He watched Cousin Mike shoot his own wife. Richard likes Margaret and wants to see her feet. She hopes to keep him at bay by looking for the hiker, Jonas.
The counsellors are in the van and ready to flee. Xavier pulls them out of there, only for a bloody Rita to run into the road and send them flying into Marg’s car. Luckily Rita’s alive. Except now the vehicles are beat up. Trevor has a motorcycle and Rita has a car elsewhere. First, they’ve got to go get keys.
Margaret finds Jonas out in the dark. He claims he saw her that fateful night, but left her to die. Then he ran into Jingles in his truck. Theory: Did Marg actually kill everybody and blame it all on Richter? That’d mean the so-called Mr. Jingles— framed via campfire stories / urban legends— is actually at Camp Redwood to take his revenge on the woman who ruined his life. WHOA. Or, in slasher fashion, is this a big, fat, juicy red herring?
Rita and a few of the counsellors are at the infirmary. Brooke’s the only one brave enough to go in first. They head in and hear nothing. Outside, keys jingle. Ramirez is hunting for Richter. But it sounds like Jingles is going to the infirmary. The counsellors and Rita hear banging on the door, getting violent.
Who exactly’s on the other side?
“Am I a ghost?”
“Who am I, Dan Aykroyd?”
What a follow-up episode! Father Gore’s loving the season already. Playing with slasher tropes, potentially subverting them, and making commentary on the sub-genre itself— as good as expected! Lots of people can talk their trash. The series is great, even when it stumbles. So far in 1984, there ain’t no stumbles.
“Slashdance” is next time.