Righting the wrongs of horror franchises across the world since 2011, Ryan Murphey and FX’s hit tv-show American Horror Story reappeared with their seventh season ‘Cult’ on the 5th September 2017. Never a show to shy away from controversial themes and always serving brutal honesty, the seventh instalment of the anthology lives up to its predecessors by taking on the 2016 American presidential election. Showcasing a polarized nation at its lowest, and collaging news snippets of Donald Trump and Hilary Clinton, AHS: Cult is hard-hitting and full of malevolence from the get go. American Horror Story has a way of getting to the root of fear and anxiety, creating a season that’s social implications run throughout, a not so far-fetched fantasy of the state of politics as it really is now. A harsh critique of the politics of fear, terror and identity that have engulfed the American political scene since the rise of Trump and the so-called radical right.
Cut to the opening scene of Episode 1 and everyone’s favourite murderous psycho Evan Peters (playing Kai Anderson) is back at it with his ever-creepy antics, this time he’s blending cheesy puffs, bathing his face in them and worshipping his cult idol Donald Trump. This is where American Horror Story gets horror bang on, no other franchise can subsequently make my skin crawl and have me laughing out loud (in real time) at the same time. Evan Peters has become AHS’s own cult hero and the hysteria around every character he conjures up never fails to disappoint. Right back at it with Evan Peters is AHS’s only other longest running actor Sarah Paulson, who like Peters, brings the fear factor with her anxious, paranoid and ever-unhinging portrayal of Ally Mayfair Richards. This is the next place where Ryan Murphey gets everything right, instead of employing easy to hate bad guys and lovable good guys, Murphey transgresses these boundaries, breaking them down into ever more problematic spheres of people that both intrigue and horrify us. At the heart of the convergence that Murphey plays upon is the politics of fear, and the extent to which fear can be used not only to manipulate, but also to break down the very fabric of society. Not then, dissimilar to how fear is deployed in real time. Now, not just a trope of horror but a political agenda breaking down the fabric of democracy one fake news story at a time.
Now, if you’ve never watched American Horror Story and you’ve got enough politics on your twitter feed – AHS: Cult isn’t just a (great) critique of contemporary politics – it’s also, in my opinion, one of the scariest seasons yet. From murderous clowns to phobias like trypophobia (yeah, you can definitely keep your crumpets away from me) AHS: Cult does not hold back on the fear factor. American Horror Story patches up where horror films often fail, following through with intense storylines that keep you guessing till the last minute (or, always in American Horror Story’s case, the last episode of the season). If you’re into great story lines, the best plot twists, a little horror, edge of your seat drama and I think I (maybe) fancy most of the cast characters, then I couldn’t recommend the series any more.
It’s hard to imagine that Cult’s dystopian vision of recent political events is too far dislocated from reality. Trump, a demagogue, a trope that AHS has successfully played out. It’s bitter sweet that I can’t wait to see how this American Horror Story ends, but dread to watch the very real Donald Trump play out his.