American Horror Story: Cult review roundup: send in the clowns (and the madness)

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The first reviews for American Horror Story: Cult should have you literally dying to watch it with the lights off. Not since Asylum has any season of AHS reaped more anxious what’s-going-to-happen-next excitement after flashes of creepy clowns, cultish swarms of bees, political paranoia, and the horror of the nightly news.

While Ryan Murphy has never been subtle about imagery, this season will be a circus of clashing politics and every other American anxiety that spreads from post-election strife and panic like an infectious disease. There is nothing cryptic here when it comes to projecting the inner turbulence plaguing the nation in a series of unnerving and often bloody metaphors of cult mentality. Extremes are played to the extreme, like liberal suburbanite Ally’s nervous breakdown on election night that only keeps twisting into a downward spiral as anarchist Kai crotch-grinds the TV.

Deadline sees the show as being “legitimately terrifying in more ways than political” and “grounded in an adrenalized version of the divisive reality that currently coats the country” with which, for all the greasepaint and gruesome three-ring antics of Twisty the Clown and his macabre clown clones, is dead serious.

Hollywood Reporter agrees with the fear factor being legit.

“Just because Cult is working without supernatural elements doesn't mean it isn't full of demented, hallucinatory imagery, as well as the jump scares that come from spotting clowns in places clowns don't belong… It's the nature of terrorism, to destroy the illusion of comfort, and Murphy and Falchuk are looking at America's modern discomfort in micro.”

“The show is a political expert the way Doctor Frankenstein was a biology professor,” Entertainment Weekly says of the obvious tension on Cult that reflects real nightmares, “but if we want to grasp the true meaning of our modern moment, we should maybe send a maniac to catch one.

Nerdist is also looking forward to seeing most of the horror movie references that haunted previous seasons being dead and buried.

“This season so far is that it seems less like a hodgepodge of horror movie references than previous seasons have, and more like its own (mostly) original thing. Yes, we’ve seen creepy clowns a bunch of times before, as well as home invaders in masks. But aside from those familiar elements, Cult asserts itself as its own entity.”

Then Vulture just comes right out and says it.

“Essentially, the world in American Horror Story: Cult has gone completely berserk, yet it only seems maybe 20 percent more nuts, tops, than the world in which we actually live…But we’re all a little insane at this point. American Horror Story: Cult is apparently on a mission to force us to admit it.”

Past seasons of AHS often had the names alone of stars such as Jessica Lange, Angela Bassett, Kathy Bates and Lady Gaga overshadowing the stellar performances of Paulson and Evan Peters, but with her believable descent into the black hole of insanity and his morphing into several different cult leaders through flashbacks, both will blaze on their own without being next to any other name in the credits. They won’t be left in the dark.

These early reviews are going to be giving me ecstatic dreams about this season rather than night terrors, but then again, I’m obviously not a coulrophobe.

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