Debuting on September 5, American Horror Story: Cult may be the scariest installment of Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk’s series yet – and not just because the FX show’s story begins on the day Donald Trump was elected President.
With appropriately over-the-top but engrossing performances from longtime AHS regulars Sarah Paulson and Evan Peters as two very different and very similar sides of the political spectrum, the supernatural-less and often satirical Cult is, as I say in my video review, about letting chaos reign, fear take over and absolute power emerge in the fallout of the accelerant of instability that is America 2017.
Which means the Michigan-set latest installment of AHS is legitimately terrifying in more ways than political — though the specter of the ex-Celebrity Apprentice host and Hillary Clinton do loom large. With everything from Cheetos in the blender, Jill Stein voters, picnic-blanket sex, sudden immigration exits and killer clown phobias to the return of Twisty the Clown from Season 4, betrayal, surprising gender politics that go all over the party and identity map and threatening smiley faces, the cult-themed heavy Cult from what I’ve seen is a suspenseful return for a show that has had a tendency in recent seasons to wobble.
Grounded in an adrenalized version of the divisive reality that currently coats the country, the 11-episode seventh season finds an increasingly anxious Paulson and new cast member and The Newsroom alum Alison Pill as the almost too easily mockable, Rachel Maddow-loving married proprietors of an upscale restaurant. With secrets coming to the surface, the duo and their young son find themselves battling neighbors including a dramatically talented and bee-keeping Billy Eichner, a treacherous nanny as played by fellow AHS newcomer Billie Lourd, and all their worst fears about what Trump’s America is – or not.
And in that, without any spoilers (except to reiterate how good Peters is as a shamed and self-appointed messiah of the new era), is the river of blood that Cult so ungrudgingly swims in. Yes, if you haven’t gotten the point yet, there is a lot of blood and a growing body count here, human and otherwise.
So, if you are an AHS fan, a horror fan or just want to see good storytelling that is in many ways only a thin narrative membrane away from real life, then watch Cult. For all the politics and stylization, Murphy and Falchuk aren’t clowning around this year.
This review was originally posted on August 31.