Review - American Horror Story: 1984 Episode 4
Four episodes in and this season of American Horror Story 1984 is still proving to be the best effort in years. 'True Killers' featured a number of twists and reveals but not all of them hit the mark.
One of the big reveals this week wasn't actually a big reveal at all. As it turns out, Mr. Jingles wasn't the serial killer and it was years of drugs and electrotherapy that made him believe he was. Margaret was the one who murdered the campers years ago and then pinned it on Benjamin Ritcher and crafted the story of the infamous Mr. Jingles. Since episode one there have been theories on her being the one behind the killings and with the way she has acted from the start, this doesn't come as a shock to me. Another reveal that fell flat for me was how quickly the cliff hanger from last week with Montana asking the nightstalker why he hasn't killed her yet. The 'her' in question was speculated to be Brooke but I wasn't expecting it to be as cut and dry as Montana being the sister of the best friend who Brooke allegedly slept with causing the soon to be husband to go on a killing spree. Montana blames Brooke for his death but how is she so sure they did the dirty? There are positives behind this reveal, Montana is able to show off her dark side this week, finding romance in the nightstalker murdering one of Montana's aerobic attendees for simply disrespecting her for example but ultimately, it wasn't the pay off I was expecting. The over the top intestines being shown in the scene, however, was very 80s horror feeling and American Horror Story is still succeeding in making this feel like a genuine 80s effort.
After finding Chet somewhere comfortable to rest, Xavier races off to save Bertie whilst Trevor goes to get Margaret. They will then use the porn directors' car to escape camp redwood, a great plan that will surely fail. When Xavier arrives at the cafeteria, he finds Bertie casually making sandwiches in the dead of night and tells her why they have to leave immediately. Of course, she doesn't believe him and then, obviously, Mr. Jingles shows up. She tries to keep him calm with a PB&J sandwich and it seems to be working until Xavier drops a flashlight. Mr. Jingles then goes into full Jingles mode aiming to kill both Xavier and Bertie. The unusual thing here is the creativity of the killings and the lack of showing. We get a close up of Bertie being stabbed and the majority of Xavier being placed in the oven is done off-camera. Mr. Jingles isn't known for anything but his slice and dice ways but here, he sets Xavier to broil and walks away. It's a gruesome scene, with Xavier slowly looking more and more like Freddy Kruger as time passes but the reasoning escapes me. I could simply be overthinking this one but this feels out of character for Mr. Jingles and leaves me wondering if there's more to this than what meets the eye. Luckily for Xavier, Mr. Jingles did a sloppy job (also unusual) and left Bertie alive so she could remove the ladle from the oven door and save him before it was too late. Not so lucky for Xavier was how Bertie asked him to finish her off. Weirdly, this was an emotional scene and with Xavier pushing the knife into Bertie, he is now added to the killer list.
'True Killers' also featured a number of showdowns. Rita and Montana square off whilst Mr. Jingles fights the nightstalker in some serial killer on serial killer action. The nightstalker puts on a good fight as does Rita but both inevitably lose the battle. Luckily for Rita, she is only knocked unconscious whilst the nightstalker is impaled onto a tree branch and left hanging in the air whilst he bled to death. The showdowns were both shot brilliantly and the vicious nature of the nightstalker killing reminded me of Friday the 13th level gore. It was over the top and seemingly impossible but that's one of the best traits of the genre.
Meanwhile, Trevors' attempts at getting Margaret to leave Camp Redwood with them also go tragically wrong. His first attempt was met with a line that could be classed as Margaret's catchphrase assuring Trevor she is safe because 'she has a gun'. Trevor then returns to Margaret a second time later on in the episode and notices Mr. Jingles laying on the ground after Margaret has put three bullets into his chest. This time around, however, Margaret stabs Trevor and then gives a creepy speech about God giving her the strength to accept her real self and this to me, confirms she will be the monster going forward. After cutting Trevors ear off, she turns around only to find a bloodstain on the carpet with Mr. Jingles missing. This is followed by Xavier bumping into Jingles on the camp bridge but apart from a few cautious looks, it's an uneventful scene.
The gang finally make it to the porn directors' car to escape the camp to only find it set alight. Margaret lets everybody know Trevor has become a victim of Mr. Jingles and none of them are remotely suspicious of Margaret even with the evil glimmer in her eye being very much on show. With Margaret clearing starting the fire, it begs the question of whether Margaret is keeping the counselors to work when the children arrive or has Margaret got her thirst for blood back. The episode closes out with Rita witnessing the nightstalker miraculously float off the ground and come back to life and my fears of 1984 straying too far from the slasher roots are suddenly back.
True Killers wasn't a bad episode, it was full of blood, guts and plenty of story development, however, some of the reveals seemed too obvious. My problems with this episode are maybe based on the history of American Horror Story and having higher expectations in their twists and reveals. Another aspect that concerns me going forward is it seems that 1984 is on the verge of straying too far from the slasher genre. With the nightstalker coming back to life and Mr. Jingles now aware that he wasn't the 1970s killer, is American Horror Story 1984 about to go too outerworldy? Has the show now lost its edge with Mr. Jingles being a sweet, loving man forced to believe he is a vicious serial killer? I guess we'll find out next week.