My TV Fortnight with EDWIN MCFEE
Cast your minds back to the heady days of 2016. It was a time when many of us were aghast at the possibility of a reality TV star (and actual WWE Hall of Famer) having his hands on the proverbial red button.
Good times, right? Well, no, not really, but what did make that 12-month suckfest more bearable (at least for this scribe, anyway) was that for the second year in a row, I successfully predicted the theme for American Horror Story in the hallowed pages of Hot Press (#MysticMcFee).
First aired on small screens in September, the seventh installment of the much-loved and exceedingly grisly anthology series is centred around the rise of Donald Trump. Dubbed American
Horror Story: Cult, the show follows the lead of previous season
Roanoke and is a more restrained, but no less enjoyable, beast.
Scenery chewing is kept to a minimum, the scripting is tighter and the overall mantra is “less is more”. Though not quite as thrillingly maniacal as the peerless Asylum or as gory and glamorous
as Hotel, this year it’s a more satirical watch, which leans heavily on parody and politics. Joining series regulars Sarah Paulson, Evan Peters et al are Billie Lourd from the now sadly departed Scream
Queens, and the always watchable Alison Pill.
The story focuses on the rise of cult leaders and the ensuing consequences, though it doesn’t just take shots at the Donald. That would be too easy (and lazy, in fairness). Instead, showrunners Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk take on EVERYONE in this shrewdly written series.
There are also a few knowing winks thrown in there (for example: Chaz Bono, who in real life is a transgender man, plays Gary Longstreet, a Trump-loving redneck who happily saws off his own hand in order to vote for his hero), and there are some deliciously caustic lines that wouldn’t have been out of place in its defunct sister show Scream
Queens (after cult leader Kai Anderson leaves a fake suicide note on his victim’s social media account, he rebuffs her claims that no-one would believe that she would take her own life, by cattily replying, “Of course they will, it’s on Facebook”).
For all of its barbed lines and berating of, well, all of modern society, AHS: Cult thankfully hasn’t forgotten its roots, bloody roots (full marks if you caught that Sepultura reference). The very much on trend killer clowns are creepy, the scenes of murder are brutal, and we’re regularly reminded that Kai’s cult followers are absolute maniacs.
Creepy nd controversial, Cult is a fascinating and frightening examination of these draconian times. Paulson, in particular, remains AHS’ MVP and her turn as Ally, the proverbial “bleeding heart liberal” who is tormented by Kai’s cult and [SPOILER ALERT] her wife, is wonderfully unhinged.
Though Asylum remains the benchmark for the series, Cult does come close to rivalling it, thanks to its use of satire to punctuate the screams. Though the season is nearly finished at the time of writing, I’m expecting plenty of shocking twists before
Kai inevitably meets his maker – and I’m not taking about Trump.