Killer clowns unleash political nightmare in ‘American Horror Story’

September 5, 2017 GMT


Why does it always have to be clowns?

It’s been a helluva summer for children’s entertainers everywhere — “It” has been scaring even the hardiest of viewers, and “It” hasn’t even hit theaters yet.

Count on auteur Ryan Murphy to splash fuel onto the fire, in more ways than one, as the seventh season of his Emmy-winning horror juggernaut takes on politics and unleashes an army of killer clowns that make “It’s” Pennywise look like, well, Bozo.

“Cult” has been getting heat since Murphy announced the new season would be addressing Donald Trump’s presidential victory and our fractured state of the union.

Election night is the starting point. Ally Mayfair-Richards (“American Horror Story’s” and Murphy’s reigning muse Sarah Paulson) suffers a panic attack when CNN announces Trump’s victory.

“She was supposed to win,” Ally cries out about Hillary Clinton.

(Spoiler alert: Ally voted for Jill Stein. Oops.)

Trump’s win triggers all of Ally’s phobias, which include blood, confined spaces, coral and, yes, clowns.

Her affable therapist Dr. Vincent (Cheyenne Jackson) tries to work with her to manage her fears. Her wife, Ivy (Alison Pill, “The Family”), wants her to return to work at their restaurant, the Butchery on Main (which has to go down as the most unfortunately named eatery on TV).

To look after their 10-year-old, Oz (Cooper Dodson), they hire a nanny named Winter (Billie Lourd, “Scream Queens”), who shouldn’t be looking after a head of lettuce, much less an impressionable child.

Across town, blue-haired Kai (show regular Evan Peters) celebrates Trump’s victory by dropping a bag full of cheese puffs in a blender and giving himself a facial.

Kai begins a run for city council after one councilor is murdered in his home (those clowns get around) by essentially promising fear in every crockpot.

Based on the first three episodes FX made available for review, “Cult” is a condemnation of the truly “deplorable” among us as well as a witty skewering of liberal correctness run amok. (Ally is aghast to learn her murdered neighbors were renters.) Even our heroine’s name — Ally — is a reflection of how she sees herself aligned with the minorities in her community. (They don’t agree.)

It rather cheekily suggests that the definition of a conservative might be a liberal whose friends are murdered.

What does the title refer to? It could be an actual cult, but I prefer to think of it as a statement on the cult and cultivation of belief, how each of us can be guilty of acting on biases about others that run so deep, we aren’t even aware of them until catastrophe strikes.

Then again, I could be overthinking it.

With Ryan Murphy, it could just be a statement about a gathering of killer clowns. “American Horror Story” usually drops a swerve or two in its season that leaves you questioning everything that has gone on before, and I would expect “Cult” to do no less.

I have to single out the memorable title sequence, which, among its creepy visuals, features actors pulling on grinning masks of Trump and Clinton. “American Horror Story: Cult” has a nightmare for every political persuasion.