It’s time for another season of American Horror Story. This time creator Ryan Murphy is paying homage to 1980s slasher movies. Think Friday the 13th Parts 1 through infinity. I always look forward to a new season of AHS and slasher movies are one of my favorite genres. So, this should be interesting…until it isn’t. This a Ryan Murphy show after all. In any event, these are my thoughts on episode one.
1. Mr. Jingles is scary as hell
A slasher movie (or tv show) is only as good as it’s killer and 1984 has gnarly one with Benjamin Richter aka Mr. Jingles. We learn that he was a Vietnam vet that REALLY liked killing the enemy. So much so that he went back for a second tour. His favorite thing was collecting the ears from his kills and making a necklace out of them. Eww. This led to a dishonorable discharge. Post-Vietnam, Richter got a job at Camp Redwood. They called him Mr. Jingles because of the jingling keys he always had on his hip. One summer night in 1970 he snapped, killing 9 counselors/campers and cutting off their ears. He was caught and sentenced to a mental institution. Cut to 1984 with Jingles busting out of the asylum and heading back to a newly reopened Redwood. He murders a few people on his way, naturally, and terrorizes poor Brooke (more on her in a bit). This man is a walking nightmare.
2. The cast is pretty likeable
Normally you don’t care who gets chopped up in a horror film. But in this case, I actually like a majority of the characters and hope they make it. They won’t of course. Good girl (and probable final girl) Brooke is the center of the group. She’s virginal, sweet, and demure. So many layers of clothing, even in summer. She’s not so bright though. Leaving your window open while you sleep so a crazed killer (the AHS rendition of the very real Night Stalker) can break in. Traipsing around the woods on a dark rainy night. Stay inside with the others! And after nearly being killed by Mr. Jingles she still goes outside by herself to answer a ringing pay phone. Geez. I have a feeling I’ll constantly be saying, “Oh, girl” or “Don’t do that, girl”, or “Run faster, girl!” a lot with Brooke. Hopefully she gets stronger and wiser over the course of the season. The rest of the counselors include: Xavier the aerobics instructor/aspiring actor. Montana, the bad ass chick. Nice muscle guy, Ray. And hothead muscle guy/former Olympic team member, Chet. Then there are the other employees: smart no nonsense Nurse Rita, grizzled Chef Bertie, and activities director Trevor. Special attention must be paid to Trevor’s junk. He has a huge wang that is showcased in very tiny 80s shorts. Basically, his schtick is his schlong. Lastly, there’s camp owner Margaret Booth. She survived the 1970 massacre (minus a left ear) because of Jesus (her words). I can tell her strict religious nature is gonna get old. I might not mind if she’s offed.
3. The nods to other scary movies are fun
I enjoy a good homage and 1984 has plenty. Obviously, this entire show is a callback to Friday the 13th. The 80s, a maniac on the loose, chase scenes in the woods, and horny counselors. You expect Jason to pop up at any moment. That’s his thing after all. There’s also a nod to Halloween. When Jingles breaks out of the nut house, he opens the cells of the other patients. They’re roaming the lawns just like in the beginning of the original Halloween. Then there’s the gas station attendant who warns the kids from going up to Redwood. Pretty standard to have an all-knowing townie. Here’s something, if you live in a town where scary shit went down wouldn’t you move away? Heed your own warning, gas guy. And similar to Texas Chainsaw Massacre, the gang picks up a freaky guy on the side of the road. In this case, after they mow him down.
4. All the mysteries
Who left the threatening message on Xavier’s answering machine? What was that phone call about at the end? Who was watching from the van as Montana and Trevor “splashed around” in the lake? What happened to the hiker’s body? How did the Night Stalker find Brooke? Why ears? Again, ewww. So many questions that I’m looking forward to getting answered.