‘American Horror Story: 1984’ Recap ‘Mr. Jingles’: God and Trauma

In the ‘American Horror Story: 1984’ recap, Camp Redwood is hiding even more secrets while a pair of serial killers stalk the counselors…

By Damon Martin — Editor/Lead Writer

‘American Horror Story’ has always managed to stick in a few twists and turns every season but lately it feels like the series from creator Ryan Murphy is more about surprise than substance.

Think of it this way, compare ‘American Horror Story’ season one to ‘The Sixth Sense’ — both were incredibly well made with good acting and solid dialogue with a mind-bending twist at the end that surprised just about everybody watching. In ‘The Sixth Sense’ it was finding out that Bruce Willis’ character was actually dead the entire time while ‘American Horror Story’ had a few key moments but probably none bigger than revealing that Tate was dead the entire time, he was also the Rubber Man and even his girlfriend was a ghost before it was all over.

After ‘The Sixth Sense’, M. Night Shyamalan followed that up with another brilliant film titled ‘Unbreakable’ but many of his movies after that were all dependent on a big twist that would put the audience’s collective jaws on the floor except more often times than not, he misfired rather than hit the target because nothing ever quite lived up to the ending of his breakout flick.

Lately it feels like ‘American Horror Story’ is falling down this same slippery slope by setting up every season as one thing and then working awfully hard to twist and turn it around on the audience. ‘American Horror Story: Roanoke’ was a TV show within a show while ‘Apocalypse’ started out painfully slow before morphing into a crossover with season 3’s ‘Coven’ and even season one’s ‘Murder House’. While that season ended up as a worthwhile watch, the idea that ‘Apocalypse’ had to engage in a topsy-turvy story just for the sake of keeping the audience guessing felt unnecessary.

That brings us to ‘American Horror Story: 1984’, which was teased as an homage to the classic slasher films of the past like ‘Friday the 13th’ and ‘Nightmare on Elm Street’. Of course, nobody really believed that Ryan Murphy and company were just going to let this be a 10 episode bloodfest with a new camp counselor being offed every week.

This year it only took until the second episode for the plot to start twisting after the hitchhiker found dead last week was alive and well — before being murdered several more times — to realize that this is a ghost story wrapped up in a slasher movie. The bizarre inclusion of real life serial killer Richard Ramirez aka The Nightstalker’ is another confusing choice not only because the real guy was horrific enough but bringing back this fictionalized version has been remarkably bad so far.

That said, the rest of the show has been fun to watch — but the inevitable twist that will certainly turn this series on its head yet again will ultimately decide of ‘American Horror Story: 1984’ is more like ‘The Sixth Sense’ or sharing space at the bottom of a bargain bin next to ‘Lady in the Water’.

With that said, let’s get to our recap of the new episode of ‘American Horror Story: 1984’ titled ‘Mr. Jingles’…

Nobody Believes Me

Poor Brooke couldn’t get anyone to believe she found a hitchhiker murdered last week much less that Benjamin Richter aka Mr. Jingles was chasing her around the campground in the debut episode. To make matters worse, Brooke saw Richard Ramirez aka The Nightstalker coming for her as well but no one believes that either. She is also the only one who spots a news report about a murder discovered at the gas station just down the road where she and her friends stopped for gas on the way to Camp Redwood.

After the boys and the girls were separated by Margaret, Brooke opens up to Montana about a horrific tragedy she experienced a year ago when her then fiancé refused to believe she was being faithful to him after seeing his best man go into her house and not come back out again until the next morning.

Brooke insists nothing happened and she was saving herself for her future husband Joey but he doesn’t buy it (Note — Brooke saving herself already makes her the virgin for this classic slasher trope). Unfortunately, Joey doesn’t believe her and he shoots his best man, her father and then himself.

Now Brooke is stuck in a campground where no one believes she’s being hunted by a pair of killers. Montana sympathizes by telling Brooke she believes her and then attempts to kiss her new bunkmate before the traumatized camp counselor pulls away and opts for some fresh air outside.

As for the boys, they head to the showers but Xavier wanders back to his cabin to pick up a towel when he runs into the guy who left him the threatening message on his answering machine. Apparently, Xavier was once a homeless junkie but his ‘daddy’ Blake took him off the street, cleaned up him and then paid him to perform in a gay porn movie. Now Blake is back telling Xavier he’s going to star in the sequel and he obviously wants nothing to do with it.

To sway ‘daddy’ to turn to someone else to star in his new movie, Xavier promises to introduce him to Trevor — the mustached counselor who is apparently hiding a third leg down his pants. When Blake peeks through a hole in the shower building, he’s entranced by Trevor’s member but he fails to notice the giant stake that gets run through the back of his head.

God and Trauma

While the majority of the camp counselors remain blissfully unaware of what’s happening, Margaret sems to be front and center for all of it.

As the episode gets underway, she receives a visit from Dr. Karen Hopple — the psychiatrist who was treating Benjamin Richter in the insane asylum — and she shows up at Camp Redwood to warn Margaret that not only has Mr. Jingles escaped but he’s most likely coming for her. She explains that Mr. Jingles has been obsessed with her for years because she’s the one who survived his murderous rampage 14 years earlier.

Margaret blows off the warning, confident that God has her back and she sends the doctor packing. Before she can leave the campgrounds, however, Dr. Hopple runs into Mr. Jingles, who brutally murders her on the road.

Meanwhile, Brooke gets a surprise of her own after she sees a dead body floating in the lake and then runs directly into the Nightstalker, who has followed Satan’s path back to her after she eluded him in Los Angeles. Brooke is able to smack him with an oar and run away but as he gives chase, the serial killer runs into that hitchhiker, who is now alive and well but just as confused as he was back on the road.

The Nightstalker kills him but then gets the surprise of his life when he runs into the guy again and again — he won’t stay dead! Ramirez continuously murders this guy but he’s not dying. The hitchhiker is confused about this scenario while sputtering about how Richard Ramirez isn’t supposed to be there and this is not how he dies. During one kill scene, the Nightstalker looks at the hitchhiker’s name tag and that leaves him him asking even more questions.

Ramirez eventually tracks down Margaret, who is alone in her plush cabin after sending the counselors to bed. Margaret doesn’t show fear when the Nightstalker arrives but rather she ends up listening to him about his traumatic upbringing — his mother huffed chemicals by accident while working in a shoe factory, which poised him from birth. He got hit in the head by a swing, which gave him seizures and later an uncle came back from Vietnam and shared all sorts of disturbing photos with him showing off the people he killed while at war.

Margaret sympathizes, cleans him up and proceeds to give him a sermon about the healing powers of God while proclaiming that he was sent there to protect the sanctity of this camp from the real threat — Mr. Jingles.

Thankfully, Margaret explains that she and Richard are free to act without consequence because the two things you need in life to get away with anything are God and trauma. After all “you can use [God] to explain why you did something, even something horrible.”

That makes Richard feel better as she sends him out on his mission to stop Mr. Jingles. As for Margaret, she goes hunting in the woods before running into the hitchhiker. His name is Jonas and he was a camp counselor at Camp Redwood — back in 1970.

On the night of the murders, Jonas found the cabin where all of the people had been butchered and he saw Margaret standing in the window, covered in blood. He was too scared to help her so he scurried away — only to get run over by Mr. Jingles on his way out of the campground. Jonas died just like the others but for some reason he’s still haunting the ground of Camp Redwood — and that’s expected because as Margaret says, there are ghosts in the bible after all.

You have to begin to suspect that perhaps Margaret was the person who orchestrated the Camp Redwood murders after seeing the lewd behavior of her fellow counselors and maybe she unleashed Mr. Jingles on them rather than he just snapped and went on a killing spree.

Run to the Hills

While the boys didn’t believe Brooke about her killer experience before, they have more than enough evidence to believe her later after finding Blake staked to the shower room. When Brooke and Montana arrive to see the dead body as well, the entire group hears the jingling of keys, which prompts them to run to the van and get the hell out of there.

Sadly as they leave the campground, Xavier nearly runs over a wounded Nurse Rita and he crashes his car. It seems Mr. Jingles came after Rita but she was able to escape with only a stab wound.

At this point everybody wants to get out but they can’t all fit in one car so it’s going to require Rita’s automobile and Trevor’s motorcycle so they can all escape. Unfortunately, the keys for both vehicles are back in the cabin.

So the groups split into two — one group to find Rita’s keys and the others retrieving Trevor’s motorcycle keys.

As both arrive, they go to find the keys but something is outside stalking the two separate groups. As the counselors hide behind a pair of locked doors, they grow more and more frightened about what is trying to bang through from the other side.

We won’t find out who was coming to get them until next week’s episode of ‘American Horror Story: 1984’ next Wednesday at 10 p.m. on FX.

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