a review (after a very long time indeed) by the Raven, returned.
SPOILER LEVELS at CRITICAL
Today marks the 8 year anniversary of the premiere of the very first American Horror Story episode. Rather nice way for me to come back to The Corvid Review.
Here’s a hello. HELLO! I’m back for good.
Let’s start shall we? This episode dives right in to where the last episode (rather abruptly) left us. I was really excited during the first episode of this season, given the whole recreation of a scary retro summer camp; but the second episode was just rather shoddy and disappointing. This one, the third, lies somewhere in the middle. We’re immediately launched into action, as we find our main characters in the throes of terror. They are split into two groups in two cabins, both in total panic mode, as Mr. Jingles (John Carroll Lynch) and The Night Stalker (Zach Villa) — based on real life killer Richard Ramirez — both respectively try to break in, and well, kill everybody inside.
In typical American Horror Story fashion, a twist comes in early and swiftly. Turns out that the group hiding from The Night Stalker somehow gets away, but the one absconding from Mr Jingles were being punked by a bunch of masqueraders that were ‘celebrating’ the anniversary of the past tragedies at the camp, affectionally calling it ‘Jingles Day’. However, it turns out that our killer actually IS around and gets rid of the children in costume (wearing Mr Jingles masks and everything) in a bloody, jugular fashion.
The characters who get away from the Night Stalker fall into a big hole in the ground full of spikes (seriously), and Ray (DeRon Horton) stumbles in unhurt while Chet (Gus Kenworthy) gets impaled in his shoulder after taking a tumble. Ouch.
This is when we learn about the first unexpected villain of the show – our very own Nurse Rita, aka, Donna Chambers (Angelica Ross). She’s actually a criminal psychologist and is on a strange experimental trip in which she hopes to unearth the inner workings of the minds of serial killers. The fact that she’s trying to study Mr Jingles in the ‘wild’, to study him completely raw and unfiltered, is revealed.
We go on to see Donna dose Brooke (Emma Roberts) with what might be ‘horse tranquilisers’, and then mess around with the real nurse Rita (Dreama Walker) at a gas station en route to Camp Redwood. There are constant name drops of past killers such as Ted Bundy and the likes. This is when I started to doubt how original this storyline was going to be, considering we’ve already experienced the whole psychiatrist/serial killer relationship in many stories before this.
The supernatural bits they introduced last week were completely ignored in this one, and we have no follow up to the ghost camp counsellor. However, we find out a lot about Ray’s past – and his character arc takes a rather unique turn. Not only do we see him experience a strange tragedy during his college days; we also get to see just how selfish he is. He uses poor Gus as a soundboard for his past traumas (who he then abandons), and then leaves Montana (played by Billy Lourd) in the dirt when the Night Stalker returns, zipping off on a motor bike to exit the camp.
Turns out that Mr Jingles has other plans for Ray, as he slices his head off right as he reaches the exit gate. It doesn’t make sense that we’d learn all this information about his backstory just for him to get his head knocked off in the last scene. This, coupled with the fact that he was murdered within the camp grounds, gives me the feeling that he’s going to return as a ghost, with the aforementioned ghost counsellor.
The actual nurse Rita ends up getting impaled by Mr Jingles, who uses a rather sharp oar (looked more like a spear to me) in a boathouse where Chambers dumps her following her car abduction.
The episode wraps as Montana comes face to face with the Night Stalker, left to fend for herself as Ray zips off to his death on a bike. But lo and behold, they start to make out (yes, yes, I know) and then she ends the scene with a dramatic Karan Johar-esque ‘Why haven’t you killed her yet?’. The ‘kill’ in question points quite obviously to Brooke’s character, who the Night Stalker already tried assaulting back in the first episode. The reason I say this is because there was just something downright fishy about Brooke’s wedding flashback in the last episode. We only saw the bloody recap from her perspective, and there may be more to it. Or, maybe this is about Margaret or someone else, and they’ll reveal where this newfound information takes us in the next episode (or two, three, four).
This episode did a far better job than the last one in terms of storyline, but still fell short. It managed to split the plot up a bit more, it also shows us more variations and insights to the characters Montana, Donna Chambers and Ray. We don’t gain any knowledge about Margaret Booth (Leslie Grossman) but I have a feeling we’re going to see her in a showdown with Mr Jingles. Or maybe we’ll see Mr Jingles and the Night Stalker go at it, with Chambers taking notes of their behaviour. Or perhaps Brooke isn’t the girl Montana was referring to, maybe it was just Margaret.
Either ways, this episode was definitely a bit of a rollercoaster. There were a few major plot twists, including the fact that Richard was brought in by Montana, and that the nurse Rita is actually psychologist Donna Chambers and that everyone’s past is riddled with skeletons – especially Ray’s and Brooke’s.
Slashdance left me wanting more than just dark summer-camp secrets and hidden romances between college kids and serial killers. I expected real gore and an old school horror mystery that gave me actual goosebumps. Here’s hoping the next few episodes somehow tie all of this together more intellectually and holistically. For this season to work, the AHS team must bring in some kind of substance or firing power moving forward.
And no, I don’t mean a Lady Gaga cameo, though she would make a pretty dope ghost counselor. Heck, at this point, I’d even settle for Sarah Paulson or Kathy Bates.
So far, American Horror Story: 1984 severely lacks character magnetism, and has way too many plot convolutions considering its only three episodes in. There wasn’t a lot of ‘slashing’ in this viewing either, except when it came to killing off random pranksters we don’t even know or care about, and a few impalings here and there. Neither of which are simply enough to make this season of AHS good or noteworthy.
I do enjoy the set design and vibe of the 80s though, and some of the shots are just framed to perfection — but that isn’t enough for me to get excited about.
You can’t bank on aesthetic enough to forget what you’re here to do: scare me. And so far, I’m still waiting.
— till next time.
THE RAVEN: 6/10
THE CROW: 3.5/10
Here’s the official poster: