American Horror Story: Cult is the seventh installment of FX’s horror anthology series. The season opens the night of the 2016 presidential election. As many folks are literally sobbing over the results, Kai Anderson (Evan Peters) is overjoyed. This outcome gives him free reign to wreak chaos. He begins to amass a collection of cult-like followers, preying on their fears, and manipulating them into doing his bidding…which is to spread fear and terror throughout the neighborhood. At the same time, he also sets his sights bigger, eyeing a open seat on the city council, which conveniently became vacant after a horrific murder-suicide.
One of those devastated by the election outcome is Ally Mayfair-Richards (Sarah Paulson). All of the news outlets had been reporting that Hillary was a shoo-in, so Ally thought nothing about her decision to symbolically vote for Jill Stein, but now this choice is driving a wedge between her and wife Ivy (Alison Pill). The couple has been under pressure since they sank all of their money into opening a new restaurant. They recently hired Winter Anderson (Billie Lourd) to be a nanny to their son, ten-year-old Ozzie, but are unaware that she is Kai’s sister, and that he sent her there on a mission. Due to the stress, and depression about the election, Ally starts to feel paranoid, like someone is out to get her and ruin her life. She has always had a deep phobia of clowns, and starts to see things, believing that her family is being hunted down by the same group of killer clowns that murdered her neighbor the councilman (even though the police could find no evidence that it was murder or that clowns were involved). Ally ends up in a downward spiral and starts doubting everything, including her own sanity, and seeks the advice of therapist Dr. Rudy Vincent (Cheyenne Jackson). Ally’s paranoia is only further sparked when new neighbors Harrison (Billy Eichner) and Meadow Wilton (Leslie Grossman) move into the home of the murdered couple.
The seventh season of American Horror Story is quite a solid one. It starts off with a pair of episodes that give some truly heart-pounding moments. While I’ve never been afraid of clowns, I have never been a fan of them either, and in this series they are quite creepy and terrifying! When the season opens, we are put into this mysterious situation. Is Ally losing her mind, or is there really something sinister going on? What kind of mayhem does Kai have planned? And why is this season called “Cult” when we haven’t really seen any cults?! As the season progresses, the story backtracks to fill in the gaps leading up to election night, and to the present, and lets the viewer know what’s really going on. We learn more about Kai’s cult, its members, and what they have been doing. The show becomes less scary, but no less horrifying. Things get more gory, and the horror comes from what Kai is able to get his followers to do, and the horrible acts and manipulations they perform on their fellow human beings, without any remorse. For much of the season’s seventh episode, the series jumps back in time for a side story, to explore the Zodiac murders, and the possible role would-be-Andy Warhol assassin Valerie Solanas (Lena Dunham) may have played in those crimes. In addition to playing Warhol in that episode, Evan Peters also makes appearances as Heaven’s Gate leader Marshall Applewhite, Waco Branch Davidians leader David Koresh, Jonestown Kool-Aid man Jim Jones, Jesus, and cult leader Charles Manson in later episodes.
This show is so wonderfully cast—Sarah Paulson and Evan Peters have been in this series from the beginning, and continue to do amazing work. Billie Lourd and Alison Pill join the franchise for the first time, and also knock it out of the park. However, my favorite characters this season are probably the couple played by Leslie Grossman and Billy Eichner—who is the complete opposite of his usual loud and obnoxious TV persona. The amazing cast also includes Emma Roberts, Mare Winningham, Frances Conroy, Adina Porter, Colton Haynes, Chaz Bono, Dermot Mulroney and Cameron Cowperthwaite, among others.
The nice thing about American Horror Story is that each season is a self-contained story with different characters and a different setting. So viewers can jump in at any point without having seen any/all previous seasons. I had already seen this season when it originally aired, but I still enjoyed it all over again on this DVD release. I had originally sat down just to watch and episode or two, but ended up binging the entire season—the story and characters just sucked me in all over again.
For some reason FOX has chosen not to give this season of American Horror Story a Blu-ray release in the U.S., even though it is getting one in the U.K.. The picture quality of the DVD looks decent, but is definitely noticeably duller and less detailed when compared to the original HD airings on FX. The audio track is likely the same as the FX airings, and provides clear dialogue and brings the creepy atmosphere of what’s happening on screen to life. The eleven episodes of the seventh season are split across three DVD discs, each offering a Play All option. Unfortunately, the only bonus features included are a collection of short promos for the season. The discs are packed in a standard DVD keepcase without a slipcover.
- All 11 episodes of the seventh season:
Disc 1: “Election Night”, “Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark”, “Neighbors from Hell”, “11/9”
Disc 2: “Holes”, “Mid-Western Assassin”, “Valerie Solanas Died for Your Sins: Scumbag”, “Winter of Our Discontent”
Disc 3: “Drink the Kool-Aid”, “Charles (Manson) in Charge”, “Great Again”
- 480p / Anamorphic Widescreen 1.78:1
- Audio: English Dolby Digital 5.1, Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0, French Dolby Digital 2.0
- Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French
- FX Promo Spots (1:44)
Collection of five 15-20 second promos for season 7.
American Horror Story: Cult is one of the better seasons of the horror anthology series. I thoroughly enjoyed re-watching the season on this DVD release. While the video presentation is still quite good, it’s disappointing to see an HD series get a DVD-only release with pretty much no bonus material. It is also an inconvenience to TV-on-Blu-ray collectors who will have a difficult time displaying the seventh season next to the first six seasons in their collection, if their media shelves have been sized for Blu-ray cases (as mine are). That said, this release still comes recommended based on the quality of the series/season itself.