American Horror Story Dials Back the Scares but Keeps Things Tense Enough

first_img It’s still hard to believe American Horror Story: Cult managed to turn the absolute mess this season made early on around, but here we are. While this episode wasn’t nearly as scary as last week’s, the tension remained high, and we got a look at the inner workings of Kai’s cult. Let’s get this out of the way first: A scene had to be cut from last night’s broadcast. After the events in Las Vegas last week, FX wisely decided that opening a show with a mass shooting was probably not the best idea. Especially since American Horror Story doesn’t exactly have the best history when it comes to depicting them. Remember when season one played a school shooting like a John Hughes comedy? Man, it’s a miracle this show has lasted seven seasons.Having now seen both cuts of the scene, you still get the message. There’s a shooting at Kai’s campaign rally, and at the end, Ally appears holding the gun. We didn’t need to see bullets going through bodies to get the story, and it doesn’t make the scene any scarier. (Of course, I’ve never been a fan of guns in horror. They’re too loud, quick and easy to be scary on screen. There’s a reason Jason never shot anyone.) What the scene is effective at is instilling a sense of tension in the rest of the episode. We know what happens at the end, and we spend the entire hour finding out how Ally got there.Sarah Paulson (Photo via FX)The good news here is that Ally doesn’t completely suck. After she saw Meadow get captured, she rescues her from the garage. She pretty much tells Ally everything. That her wife is part of Kai’s cult, that he chooses people and makes them feel special to get them to follow him, and that he intends to use fear to control people. The scenes where the episode shows Kai doing exactly this are where the episode is most effective. It’s where the show really dives into the true horror of cults. You can see how masterfully Kai manipulates Meadow. How he gives her everything she wants, and in return, she’ll do anything for him. Even if the episode itself is light on scares, these scenes make the whole thing deeply unsettling. Sometimes, that’s all horror needs to do.There is one problem here though. The whole thing is still kind of predictable. Did anyone believe for a second that Meadow had truly turned on Kai? That if she had, she’d be allowed to live, and not currently sitting in a basement with a head full of nails? Of course, she was playing Ally the whole time. The cult has been making Ally out to be insane all season, and now it’s paying off. She’ll try to tell the world what’s really going on, but nobody will believe her. It’s kind of a shame it was so easy to see this reveal coming. The cult indoctrination scenes were done well enough to keep up the tension, but the predictability severely undercuts what the episode was going for. Also, I still can’t take the pinky swear scenes seriously. They look too ridiculous for how much weight they’re given. Though this one did reveal why the group is targeting Ally in particular. Ivy wants to leave her and take full custody of Ozy. And yeah, it’s not hard to see why. Ally still sucks, and she sucked worse as a co-mother, selfishly lording her biological connection to Ozy over her wife. Are we supposed to be identifying with a cult member over a victim here?Evan Peters, Leslie Grossman (Photo via FX)After the first few episodes, AHS: Cult definitely needed to explain what was going on, but now I worry they explained too much. The clowns are no longer scary. It was important to tell us that they were real, but now that we’ve seen exactly how they operate, it’s hard to be scared when they show up. We know exactly who is under each mask. We know how they get in peoples’ houses. In this episode, they don’t even kill their target in a particularly frightening way. Instead of the sadistic, upsetting kills we’ve seen from them in the past, they just fake Kai’s opponent’s suicide. They write a fake suicide note on Facebook, and shoot her with her own gun. Remember how I said guns weren’t scary in horror? They still aren’t. The part where one clown stalks Ally down the hall, only for Ally to realize it’s her wife could have been scary. It could have if the opening scene didn’t give her plot armor. We know she survives to seemingly shoot up the rally, so she can’t die here.The twist at the end is pulled off nicely, though. We find out that Meadow is the one who really shot up the rally. It was all orchestrated by Kai, who needed an assassination attempt to elevate him to the national stage. In the end, Meadow kills herself for the cause, but not before letting Ally take the gun. The episode had some problems, but it was thrilling seeing everything come together like that. There is any number of places the series can go next week, but I’m just hoping for more scares. A constant sense of discomfort and tension is nice, but I’d really prefer this show start terrifying me.Let us know what you like about Geek by taking our survey. Stay on target Top Movie and TV Trailers You Might Have Missed This WeekAmerican Horror Story Takes Us Back to the Days of Witches and Warlocks last_img read more