You ever have a traumatic experience happen to you so bad that it feels like everything in the world is working against you?
In previous seasons of American Horror Story, there was a build towards a bigger world with a fixed number of characters telling a story. The shows tried to cram a lot of material into a finite amount of time. With Cult, it seems like Ally (Sarah Paulson) has a Truman Show-like quality to her world. The environment and events get triggered based on how her fear reacts to a certain situation. With the home invasion of the clowns late in the episode, Oz questions if it’s real or not. This is an extension of his mother Ally and the audience themselves. There’s no question that there is some semblance of murderous clowns, but how much of this is exacerbated by existing tension?
In “Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark,” there are a couple instances where this may fit too neat into the narrative. For example, with a potential break in at the restaurant, Ivy (Alison Pill) allows Ally to go check it out alone. For someone who has had a freak out in a grocery store alone, why would you let her go in a potentially dangerous situation by herself? A couple moves into where the previous couple where murdered by clowns, Harrison (Billy Eichner) and Meadow (Leslie Grossman).
Harrison just happens to be a bee keeper which is a little too coincidental considering Ally’s phobia to things like a honey comb. Like many things throughout these two episodes – this couple seems “off”. First, the non-reaction to the house’s recent history. Nicole Kidman fan club aside, the very pillar of their union seems shaky. Two friends who make a pact that if they are not married at a certain point, they would just marry each other. Something is definitely amiss and there’s a misdirect coming as to whether the couple as a whole is getting terrified, or if Ivy is an instrument as well. Considering Winter’s (Billie Lourd) attempt to seduce Ally, there’s a wedge that is being drawn between the marriage from all sides.
Fear will create a disconnect in a person with the most steadfast ideology. Ally, who has been unraveling since her emotional breakdown in conjunction with the election. Her house has become a fortified prison and protection from the outside world is in a form of a gun. Again, a person who is having hallucinations having a firearm is a major red flag. Such a red flag that it leads to Ally murdering Pedro by accident. She’s already devolving into the person that she hates. Given the massive blackout at the end of the episode and Kai’s (Evan Peters) speech/running for city council, this is commentary on our anxiety sandwiched in fear based politics. The heated moment with the cook and Pedro at the restaurant, while poignant in current times, felt extra within the whole story formulation. The satire works when it’s nestled as a natural progression in the story line.
There are some homages to classic horror scenes in this episode. Ally’s meeting with Kai was shades of 1986’s Poltergeist II when Rev. Henry Kane visited the Freeling family porch. Nods to old home invasion movies like 1979’s When a Stranger Calls, only with a modern twist seemed familiar integrated in the AHS universe. Sometimes the episode telegraphs it’s critiques on the current psyche of American politics and influence that you know where it’s going. Perhaps the main story line is going to take a major u-turn as previous season. Right now, even though we are only two episodes in, it already seems like we know where we are going.
Rating: 6.5 out of 10