FX’s American Horror Story
Season 9, Episode 3: “Slashdance”
Directed by Mary Wigmore
Written by James Wong
* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “Mr. Jingles” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “True Killers” – click here
Richard Ramirez is dying to get inside the infirmary, hoping to slice poor Brooke up. Luckily, the guys manage to block the door. Doesn’t stop the Night Stalker— he smashes a window, forcing Chet and Ray to block more ways inside. Everybody’s alert now to Richter not being the only serial killer on the campgrounds. Perfect use of slasher tropes when the group discusses whether to stay together. “It‘s Darwin, man!” Ray tells them, insisting they’ll have to make a run for it and see who comes out alive.
Across the camp, Xavier, Trevor, and Montana hear the jingle of keys outside the door. Someone does show up, tossing a flaming “bag of shit” inside. Just a prank. A few dickheads out to scare, dressed as Mr. Jingles. Except the real Jingles comes along right afterwards to kill the pranksters, sending our counsellors off running again. Richter collects his trophies. He soon finds another particularly pathetic Jingles impersonator, whom he lets stumble around rather than murder.
Chet gets impaled through the shoulder after he and Ray tumble into a pitfall trap. He’s stuck good. More interesting, and devious, is Nurse Rita. Turns out she’s got something weird going on, evident after she injects Brooke to knock her out once they reach the parking lot. Goddamn.
FLASH BACK to a week prior.
Rita— a.k.a Donna Chambers— went to Red Meadows Asylum and spoke to Dr. Hopple about Richter. She claimed she was doing a PhD, having already talked to all sorts of serial killers, from Bundy (whose theory on pornography seems to have rubbed off on her), to Robert Hansen, and more. Then she got time alone with Jingles. She wanted to talk about “outside circumstances,” such as being sent to Vietnam to “kill in the name of patriotism.” She wondered if porn and the reverberations of the war at home had been turning otherwise good men into monsters. Richter suggested “high–fructose corn syrup,” too. (Father Gore again wonders about the theory that Richter didn’t actually kill anybody that fateful night— he claims not to even remember murdering all those kids.) So, Donna wanted to do a social experiment, to see what would happen if Jingles went back to Camp Redwood.
And thus, his escape was engineered.
Donna had plans already prepared. Like taking the real Nurse Rita’s identity.
Soundtrack: “Maneater” by Hall & Oates plays as the actual nurse is about to die
Chet’s passed out. Ray kicks himself for ever coming to the camp. He recounts to his unconscious buddy about being in a frat a year ago. It was during Hell Week, when pledges were being rushed. (Nice needle drop on “The Stroke” by Billy Squier here.) Lots of drinking and depravity, such as strange, homoerotic activities where dudes walk around holding each other’s dicks like elephants in a row. Ray decided to show an Asian pledge mercy, ending in the pledge rolling down a set of stairs, cracking his head and dying. Except he didn’t die, until Ray was trying to hide the ‘body.’ More wonderful use of slasher tropes here with a plot element reminiscent of films like The House on Sorority Row or Terror Train, where a dumb night at college changes things forever. Ray felt he had to escape his guilt / the law. Not only that, Chet’s awake and heard the whole story. And now Ray’s going to take the coward’s way out, leaving his friend to possibly die.
“It’s time to stop the violence”
Xavier, Trevor, and Montana— while trying to get away from the jingling of keys— stumble onto the real nurse, who’s not dead. The woman freaks out, driving her right into the horrific hands of Richter. He uses a broken oar to murder her in the most gruesome way imaginable. The trio figure out the Nurse Rita they know is not the actual Rita. Soon, they regroup with Ray and realise Brooke was last with Donna.
Ray and Montana go for the bike. Trevor and Xavier head the opposite way, discovering Chet in the pit. X is lowered down to their fellow counsellor. Chet tells the truth about Ray: “He‘s got serious fucking issues.” There’s noise in the woods nearby. Trevor rushes who he thinks is Jingles but is really the last prankster. Of note: Trev twice uses Shakespeare references in this episode. First, he calls his bike a “fickle mistress“— potentially a reference to a line from Timon of Athens— and now he says, to the guy he thought was Richter, “Welcome to your own petard, asshole!”— a Hamlet reference.
Cowardly Ray strikes again, taking off on the bike when Ramirez appears from the shadows. Sick poetic justice comes when Ray’s decapitated by Richter on his way out of the campgrounds. Montana, left behind, decides to make out with Ramirez then bite him. Because they just might know each other.
“Why the hell haven‘t you killed her yet?” she asks the Night Stalker.
“The devil needs his due”
A wild episode. 1984 is bringing the slasher tropes, both playing into some and subverting others. Lots of neat backstories, which should be a recurring motif as we pick apart all the characters. Father Gore’s loving everybody this year. Angelica Ross was incredible in this episode, and John Carroll Lynch continues to bring his brand of eeriness to the series.
You don’t know who all the real killers are here yet. More may emerge.
“True Killers” is next time.