John Carroll Lynch is used to playing the villain on American Horror Story. In Season 4's Freak Show and Season 7's Cult, he played the nightmarish Twisty the Clown, and in Season 5's Hotel, he portrayed real-life serial killer John Wayne Gacy. Unlike in Hotel, his AHS: 1984 character Mr. Jingles isn't based on a real person, but he should feel familiar to fans of '70s and '80s slasher films.
We first learned of Mr. Jingles from Rita (Angelica Ross), who explained in the premiere that janitor Benjamin Richter murdered nine people at Camp Redwood in 1970. Richter fought in Vietnam, but was dishonorably discharged after he started wearing the ears of his victims around his neck. After returning home, he hungered for the violence of warfare and eventually began killing again; he became known as Mr. Jingles because of his large ring key, which jingles before and after he murders his victims.
Later, camp director Margaret Booth (Leslie Grossman) revealed that she was the only one who survived Jingles' attack 14 years ago, during which he cut off her ear while she played dead. After his killing spree, Richter was locked away in a mental asylum. But now it's 1984, he's escaped, and it's clear that he's come back to the camp for Margaret. However, she seems less concerned with having a killer on the loose than she is with the teen counselors, who are — like in any good horror movie — extremely horny.
Indeed, the blood-thirsty serial killer who punishes sexually active women is a storied trope within the teen slasher genre — it was the entire premise of Friday the 13th, after all. In AHS, Mr. Jingles started his massacre all those years ago by murdering three campers who were engaging in a threesome, so he may have similar motivations.
And that's not the only horror trope AHS coyly utilizes: the white, male serial killer with a tragic backstory is perhaps the most ubiquitous of all horror cliches. Just recall the aforementioned Jason Voorhees from Friday the 13th, who was bullied by the other kids at camp and left to drown in Crystal Lake. And much like with Mr. Jingles, the inciting incident for John Carpenter's Halloween was Michael Myers' escape from the psychiatric ward. Granted, Michael never had a conscience to begin with, but his first victim was his older sister, who was getting it on with her boyfriend, so there are some similarities there, too.
Nightmare on Elm Street's Freddy Krueger also had a sad childhood. Not only did his mother get pregnant with him after being raped, but once he was born, she put him up for adoption. To add insult to injury, he grew up with an abusive stepfather, who he eventually murdered.
AHS fans have yet to learn what made Mr. Jingles the way he is, but if his trajectory is anything like Lynch's Twisty the Clown, it's bound to be a doozy. At least we can sleep easy knowing he's not real; if only the same could be said for the Night Stalker.