FX’s American Horror Stories
Directed & Written
by Manny Coto
* For a recap & review of 1×05, click here.
* For a recap & review of 1×07, click here.
Jay Gantz (Aaron Tveit) and his wife Addy (Tiffany Dupont) are headed for a camping trip, trying to forget the everyday nonsense of work and life. They’ve got their little boy Jacob (Colin Tandberg) along for the ride, too. Hope there’s not creepy things out in the forest! I’m sure those weird howls from the trees are nothing. Just call it… atmosphere. The Gantz family get to their campsite by the lake and start to get the place setup. I wouldn’t necessarily call this traditional camping, but they’re certainly out in the woods.
That night, Jay and Addy are having some drinks, then they start to shut down for the night. After Jacob’s asleep his parents relax. They hear a strange noise nearby in the woods, though they ignore it and keep making out. But there’s most certainly something not quite right out there amongst the forest. The next day, Jay gives his son his old “Boy Scout compass” when they’re headed out to do a little fishing, telling Jacob to be careful out there. Back at the campsite, Addy sees a trail of blood that she starts to follow; very good idea! At the end of the trail she finds a dead deer, torn open. And out of nowhere, Jacob goes missing. His parents quickly become frantic, unable to find him anywhere and screaming his name.
Skip ahead ten years.
Jacob’s never been found. It’s left Jay a shell of a man. He gets a knock at his door, opening it to find a man named Bob Birch (Blake Shields). Bob claims he has info about Jacob. Lots of people think Jay had something to do with his son’s disappearance, that maybe he murdered his boy. He tries to steer clear of people, especially the press. But he lets Bob in and though he doesn’t believe there’s anything to the guy’s story, he listens. Bob has a photo from a trail camera in the deep woods showing a small child; he’s also got the Boy Scout compass. Now, Jay thinks there could be truth to the story. Bob says the forest in the Kern Canyon National Park area’s been taken over by pot farmers, many of them connected to the cartel. He thinks Jacob was taken by those people, for how knows what sort of sick reasons. He offers to take Jay into the area for a fee. This sends Jay to go see Addy. She doesn’t want to hear about paying some random man $10K. She’s sick of hanging onto false hope and wants to move on with life. It’s tougher for her to ignore the compass when Jay shows her.
Thus, Jay and Addy are off into the woods again, along with their new pal Bob. Bit awkward between the formerly married couple as they catch up after a year of not seeing each other. Addy recently split up with a guy because she can only handle “one family in a lifetime,” particularly after what happened to her son. She doesn’t want to spend their time in the woods arguing, neither does Bob want to lead a “marriage retreat” in the woods. They’re out in that forest for a reason: to find their child. But something, or someone, is out there watching their every move, as if they’re part of the landscape itself.
The trio arrive at a ranger station nearby, though there’s nobody around. Soon, a ranger named Stan Vogel (Cody Fern) shows up. He and Bob seem to have a contentious relationship. Jay tells Stan about looking for his boy, and the ranger warns about going up the mountain, telling them there are “things in those canyons a million times worse than the growers.” Addy wants to hear more. So Stan tells them he was there when Jacob went missing. He saw some strange footprints around the ranger station. Then he got hit in the head with something, only to come to and see something carrying Jacob away into the woods. Addy’s weary of the story, whereas Jay and Bob want to keep moving. Bob doesn’t want to hear any more of “Ranger fuckin‘ Crocodile Hunter” and his tales. The trio keep walking as things get a little tense between the formerly married couple and their guide Bob.
Ranger Stan isn’t fucking around, though. He’s preparing his shotgun, just in case.
In the woods, Bob, Jay, and Addy come into a clearing where they find bodies all over the place. Bob’s sure “a rival cartel” came into the area and wiped people out. Then he comes clean: he never knew anything about the couple’s son. He tricked them into going out there, using a doctored photo of his nephew and a compass made to look old. He was getting help from the growers out at the camp. Things have truly gone to shit. Bob’s refusing to let the couple leave, but before he can kill them he’s bitten by one of the supposedly dead people. It seems those people aren’t dead, they’re feral, and there are many more of them out in the woods.
Jay’s shot but Addy helps him back to the ranger station, where Stan’s waiting with his gun. The ranger offers some First Aid attention, and he asks about what happened out in the woods. They quickly explain the situation, as well as the person they believed was dead biting Bob. Ranger Stan doesn’t have a tough time believing this tall tale, because he’s seen things out there. He says he’s “not allowed” to talk about whatever’s happening in the woods, that those “are the rules.” Jay’s had enough so he pulls his gun, forcing Stan to hand his gun over to Addy. He wants to know all the hush hush talk. Stan explains a “little slice of American history” about the national park system, which was actually created to “keep Americans from things that would kill and eat them.” There’s a subpopulation of feral people out in these woods. (We even get a Newfoundland reference here about the vikings!) Stan doesn’t know the origin of the feral folk, he just knows they’re out there and they’re taking people. It’s all tied into capitalism, given the government doesn’t want their national parks to stop generating revenue. Lots of conspiracy stuff. That’s why the military turned up when Jacob went missing.
Suddenly the ranger station is attacked by the ferals. The married couple find themselves confronting a terrifying group of ferals as Ranger Stan fights for his life, only to be killed and torn apart in front of their eyes. The group of ferals eat Stan which gives Jay and Addy a chance to make a run for it. The divorced couple run as fast as they’re able but the ferals soon surround them. But then they see a young boy on a throne made of skulls and bones, wearing the Boy Scout compass. It’s their little Jacob, now a pre-teen monster. He seems to remember them, too. One of the ferals asks Jacob who the people are, and Jacob says: “Dinner.” After that the ferals tear Jacob’s parents apart, consuming them.
“Everyone trusts a park ranger.”
Might be my favourite episode! Gruesome and weird. Fantastic stuff.