Review - American Horror Story: 1984 Episode 2
'Mr. Jingles' is the second episode of American Horror Story:1984 and this week is a roller coaster of a ride introducing new elements to the tried and tested slasher format.
Brooke (Emma Roberts) has fully settled into the role of being seen as the over-dramatic and over-imaginative lead who everybody else rolls their eyes at and dismisses quickly. The phone call that ended last weeks episode, for example, has been labelled a 'prank call' by the group and the blaring news report on the killing at the gas station the reporter linked to the nightstalker was only seen and heard by Brooke despite everybody being in the same room. For the second week running, American Horror Story has the 80s horror vibe perfected. From the camera angles, hard cuts and music choices to the traits of characters and positions they portray within the group.
This week begins with Hopper racing frantically to warn Margaret (Leslie Grossman) that Mr. Jingles is coming back to the camp but Margaret is strangely not phased; batting it off with the simple moral that fear won't rule her life. This ends their interaction and upon her exit from camp redwood, Hopper in true horror fashion miraculously gets a flat tire in the creepiest place possible. Then, as if by magic a wild tow truck appears. I'm not entirely familiar with the speeds of 1980s roadside assistance but I am pretty sure, this was unusual. Hopper does take precautionary measures, however. She looks cautionary into the mirrors and rolls up her window which as you can imagine, didn't go well. A car window has never been a horror villains weakness and 1984 is no exception. The glass shatters, Hopper is dragged out, slashed and her ear is a new edition to Mr Jingles necklace.
'Mr. Jingles' doesn't shy away from the clichés or cheesy editing of 1980s horror and neither should it aim to. The episode does, however, go the extra mile to give the slasher genre more personality and stretch it beyond the usual realms. This week, 1984 presents a gay porn subplot revolving around Xavier (Cody Fern). It turns out, the mysterious threatening voice mail from the last episode was left by Blake (Todd Sashwick) or Daddy as Xavier references him. Blake believes Xavier owes him due to Blake being the one who saved him from his heroin addiction and the payment he is after, is Xavier to star in gay porn. Xavier however, wants to be a 'real' actor and offers Blake something bigger and better. More specifically, the monster inside Trevor's pants which as the weeks roll on seems to be a big part of the show. The subplot, however, vanished as quickly as it appeared. Whilst marvelling at naked Trevor through a perfectly placed peephole, a knife is penetrated through the back of Blake's head. Blake was so entranced by Trevor, Xavier was able to sneak away which leaves the murderer a little bit of a mystery. Although it seems to be the work of Mr Jingles, Blake having both ears intact makes me think otherwise.
'Mr. Jingles' also provides more backstory on Brooke in the form of a flashback to the horrific scenes of her wedding day. The soon to be husband grew suspicious that his friend had been sleeping with Brooke despite her saying she was saving herself for him. Even though there is no evidence, Joey (the husband to be) shoots his best friend and Brookes father before pointing the gun on himself and pulling the trigger. I feel there is more to this story than they are letting on but what really stuck out between these scenes was the range of Emma Roberts acting. From the howling horrors to the full-on drama, she really proves why she deserves this main role. Montana (Billie Lourd) also managed to get some character development out of this scene with her grand comparison to a serial killer breaking into Brookes apartment to getting her boob grabbed outside of a Sam Goody. Montana also chooses the worst time to attempt to make out with Brooke following the retelling of her wedding day nightmare but this lets the audience know the exact character Billie Lourd is playing.
Now let's talk about Jonas (Lou Taylor Pucci) or as we know him, the dude that got hit by the van last week. Last week he was discovered by Brooke hanging bloodied on a door and then in horror movie fashion, disappeared when she brought the gang back to see the body. I thought nothing of this until this week when Jonas sprinted out of the woods to save Brooke from her second encounter with Richard Rameriz (Zach Villa) aka the nightstalker. The nightstalker and Jonas squared off which ended in Jonas being killed in a brutal, gut spilling manner. Surely he is dead now right? Nope. Jonas then appears again to stop Rameriz for a second time totally intact. Jonas is then murdered again as Rameriz pulls out an ID card showing Jonas was a counsellor in the 70s before he disappears right in front of Rameriz. So is Jonas a ghost or some other supernatural being or is he simply lost in limbo? No idea, but this is American Horror Story and we all knew it was going to get weird quickly. This twist left me wondering if Jonas is special or whether the camp allows anybody who dies there to come back to life over and over again. This could solve the common slasher crisis of there not being enough people to kill in the time frame.
In another scene, the group discover the dead body of Blake still firmly attached to the shower wall. They all freak out and then finally, the group realise Brooke is not actually crazy after all. The scene provides plenty of entertainment littered with clichés such as checking the pulse of the very obvious dead guy and the gang even decide to poke him with a stick. The next time we see Rameriz, Margaret and Rameriz then have an odd conversation and even though they both sit on opposite sides of the religious fence, they find common ground in their intentions and trauma. Margaret essentially seduces Rameriz into becoming the park protector and sets him off to kill Mr Jingles but insists he is to kill nobody else. The scene included a flashback to the childhood of Rameriz and to me, this one fell flat and wasn't necessary. With Richard Rameriz being a real-life serial killer, giving him a back story played out to make him somewhat the victim felt strange to me.
The end of the episode was shot brilliantly. The group being split into two teams to attempt to find keys for an escape was tense and exciting. The cinematography was superb and the acting was very well done. With the two groups being trapped in two cabins and a killer banging on each door, it was a nerve-wracking cliffhanger to end on.
The second episode added depth to the characters and added multiple layers to the series. With Ryan Murphy at the helm, it was clear this was going to evolve into something much bigger than a straight forward slasher and even though this episode wasn't as strong as the opener, it served its purpose and was in no way, a bad showing. It seems we are set for the whole series to be over the course of one night and although I like the idea of a slasher movie sliced into ten parts, I am concerned with how they are going to keep it interesting without straying too far from the slasher theme. With the incorporation of ghosts, time travel and gay porn, I am now even more curious as to what 1984 has in store.
Until next week,
Ash Raymond James.