Review: ‘American Horror Story: Cult’ has great potential


Courtesy of American Horror Story

The new season of of American Horror story ties in themes from the 2016 election to create a warped reality.

Anna Stockton, Staff Writer

Ever since its season one debut in 2011, every tale “American Horror Story” tells has strived to achieve one main goal: to put the audience in an uncomfortable and frightened state of mind. Throughout its six full years on air, from the confusing and distractingly chaotic “Roanoke” to the engaging and clever  “Murder House,” producers Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuck have a varying track record in terms of their fulfillment of this goal and the quality of the seasons they create.

“American Horror Story: Cult,” the seventh installment in the horror anthology, offers a refreshingly frightening focus on psychological terror. Using the fear mongering and power imbalance within the American government as its “monster” this season, “AHS” steers away from its usual supernatural-themed horror to take on the hauntingly realistic topic of fear and zeros in on the lives of new characters post the 2016 election.

Considering the initial concern over the controversy that could have come with the retelling of the 2016 election, it was pleasing to see the writers poke fun at both sides of the political spectrum. Main characters Ally (Sarah Paulson) and Kai (Evan Peters) act as extreme stereotypes of the political scale, the former being an anxious woman wracked with countless paranoias and phobias, and the latter being a right-wing extremist who believes fear should be used to control the general public.

The specific elements of horror within this season are wonderfully unnerving. Combining the dangerously passionate extremism of cults and the plain creepiness of clowns within the first episode alone leaves a lot of room for unexplored fears to make their debut this season. This season appears to be specifically targeting the fear of Americans by showing a warped reality of politics paired with hyperbolized incidents, such as the presence of killer clowns, from the past year. While certainly not a carbon copy of 2016, many themes and situations feel strangely reminiscent of the past year and help create an air of realism to the show.

Well-acted as usual, “AHS” brings to the table both new additions and returning faces from past seasons to create one of the most promising casts the show has displayed to date. Newcomer Alison Pill adds a sweet and refreshingly stable character to the show. Her chemistry with Paulson, who acts as her on-screen wife, is extremely believable and creates an air of gentleness to the rampant terror the show radiates. This relationship is perfectly contrasted with the unnerving sibling duo played by Peters and Billie Lourd. The difference between the two pairs is a wonderful antithesis between stability and volatility and offers up the opportunity for some interesting interactions should the two collide.

The dramatized nature of each of the characters adds a bit of humor to the twisted plot, but there remains room for this to become a problem. Dealing with an issue so current and topical can create controversy– a fact that the producers certainly counted on. If the show focuses more on exploiting the relevance of the election than its actual overarching theme, it could easily become dry and overused.

The fate of “Cult” is in the hands of the writing team and their ability to rein in on cliches and stereotypes. If they can actually follow through with a plot that flows properly and provide viewers with well-rounded characters, “Cult” has the potential to be one of the most interesting seasons “AHS” has ever produced.