If there’s such a thing as too topical, “American Horror Story: Cult” is it. Every season, “American Horror Story” (AHS) has different themes, plots and characters using the same pool of actors.
This season follows a cult leader who uses the fear and division of Donald Trump’s presidential win in order to expand his following. Broiled with political and social scandalism, the current events it mocks are too current for the show’s poor handling.
Cult feeds off the sensationalism of current events without making a statement about their deeper implications. In one or two cases, this could be fine, but events like these make up the entire season.
The fact that eight episodes in, plots fueled by political buzzwords are still being thrown at the audience in a jumble instead of straightened out and commented on, makes it seem like the writers never wanted to create a solid allegory. All they wanted was the shock value.
Following jokes that Ted Cruz might be the Zodiac Killer, “AHS” wasted an entire episode on portraying the real Zodiac Killer as a band of radical feminists. This particular cult had very little to do with the actual plot, and the little traction it did carry stops five minutes into the next episode.
Fictionalizing real events like this is tricky, and “AHS” has blurred the lines between what’s appropriate and what’s Lena Dunham playing Valerie Solanas.
One episode had to be edited in the wake of Las Vegas’s tragedy because of its graphic depiction of a mass shooting. The writers of “AHS” couldn’t have known this episode would air so close to the biggest mass shooting in history, but considering America’s history of gun violence, they could have handled it with more respect.
It’s a parody without satire, mirroring real life mass shooting, hate crimes and serial murders without offering any solid message about what’s behind these acts. So concerned with trying to appear “moderate,” “Cult” attacks all sides of the political spectrum, even if that means framing hate crimes and the overuse of social media as if they were equal grievances.
Although it may still have all the grueling deaths and creative gore that “AHS” is known for, the effect of trying to juggle so many contradicting ideologies, characters and current events is that it doesn’t even cover the basics of its genre. It fails to be scary.
For the first couple episodes, “Cult” follows Ally Mayfair-Richards, a woman with debilitating phobias who is being harassed by the cult. As the hero of our horror story, she’s the one with the least amount of information, the one clutching a kitchen knife and wandering around her dimly lit home, trying to find the source of that noise and she’s ultimately the only one who makes us feel suspense, as we wait to see what will happen to her.
We lose focus of our hero early on, and so the trajectory of the show is off, instead consumed by a variety of half-hearted political commentaries, heavily appropriated religious symbols and random sex scenes.