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Review: ‘American Horror Story: Cult’ is horrifyingly realistic, based on 2016 election

Anderson's cult is depicted on the season's cover photo.

Anderson's cult is depicted on the season's cover photo.

By Kim Fleming, Round Table website managing editor

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A politically divided country. A Manson-like cult leader. A band of murderous clowns. The seventh installment of the freakishly realistic and popular horror show “American Horror Story,” entitled “Cult,” has all this to offer and more.

Set around the time of the 2016 election, “Cult” feeds off the madness that has erupted since November 8. Since Donald Trump was elected as President of the United States, the news has been flooded with outrageous headlines, families have been divided because of their beliefs and people have been both satisfied and outraged. These are all depicted throughout the show, only with a shocking twist.

Kai Anderson (portrayed by Evan Peters) is a young man with a complex history and an eye on gaining experience in politics. Seemingly nice, Anderson chooses people he thinks are weak, befriending and pushing them to their emotional breaking point. After uniting his followers under a common vision,  Anderson plans to use his “cult” to score a seat on his local city council by a rather unconventional method.

“Vote Kai Anderson. Vote for the man who can take your fear away. They’re out there,” reads the slogan for his campaign; whereas in reality, he is the main source of fear. Everyone in his cult dresses up as hideous clowns and commit horrible murders, each more gruesome than the last. Anderson is obsessed with making the murders as public as possible to create widespread fear.

Once scoring his seat on the council, he intends on “purifying” his cult for the “greater good.” The brainwashed members are happy to be a martyr for their Divine Leader. Anderson continues to commit such heinous acts, never seeming content with the extent to which he has taken his sins.

As is common in dramatic thrillers, every antagonist has a protagonist. Ally Mayfair-Richards is an emotionally fragile woman in a toxic relationship with her wife, and their son is often caught in the middle of it all. From day one, Mayfair-Richards was not a fan of Anderson, starting when he decided to throw a coffee at her for no reason other than her gay marriage.

Meeting with a therapist often to treat her coulrophobia, she often sees clowns sneaking around her neighborhood, invading the homes of many. Her wife Ivy is convinced she is crazy and unfit to look after their child, so the couple hires a babysitter to relieve some of that responsibility. The sitter, Winter, is amazing with their son Ozzy, but would turn out to be the sister of the great Kai Anderson.

With the exposition of the show laid out, the writers began to introduce shocking plot twists and character betrayals (in classic American Horror Story fashion). They also dig deeper into the past of each character within the cult, as well as revealing the origins of Anderson’s insanity.

“AHS” writer Ryan Murphy included the history of actual cults and serial killers in America, such as S.C.U.M., Jonestown, Charles Manson and the Zodiac Killer. There were a few discrepancies for the purpose of keeping viewers on the edge of their seats, like when it came to a revelation that the killings of S.C.U.M. were attributed to the Zodiac Killer.

The character of Kai Anderson was entangled in the patriarchy, taking radical actions to preserve its structure. It was later explained he was doing this to “unleash the female rage,” much like Donald Trump does according to S.C.U.M. member and Anderson’s therapist Bebe Babbitt (Frances Conroy).

The “AHS” writers did a fabulous job of incorporating extreme amounts of information and historical accuracy into the plot, not to mention a fabulous performance by Evan Peters who portrayed not only Kai Anderson but also Andy Warhol, Charles Manson, David Koresh and Jim Jones. Murphy said Peters’ performance this season is his “best performance” in an interview with “TV Guide,” and the writers “pushed him to the limit” to encompass so many different characters.

Although it was clear Murphy was explaining how Anderson was inspired by these so-called leaders and based his own work off theirs, the show’s plot soon became twisted and a bit too complex to follow. The writers became lazy towards the end of the season, following a rather cliché ending to an original story line. Despite this small distaste, the rhetoric of the season was by far the strongest and most intriguing yet.

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