American Horror Story: Cult “Don’t Be Afraid Of The Dark” REVIEW

American Horror Story: Cult “Don’t Be Afraid Of The Dark” REVIEW

0 comments 📅15 September 2017, 22:01


Airing in the UK on FOX, Fridays, 10pm
 Tim Minear
Director: Liza Johnson

Essential Plot Points:

  • Ally freaks out, runs downstairs and tells Ivy about the clown. They go upstairs, armed, to search for it but don’t find anything.
  • Ivy, not unkindly, says she’s not sure how much more of this she can take. She hugs Ally as Ally admits there may be something very wrong with her.
  • Oz hears something in his room. He gets up, looks around and…Twisty steps out of his closet. Oz runs from his room, locking every door as Twisty and another clown pursue him. He hides in the bath but they find him.
  • Ally and Ivy are starting in on makeup sex when Oz screams and wakes them up. He was asleep. OR WAS HE?!
  • We see a news story about Kai, who was hospitalized by the attack last week. No one is mentioning he provoked the incident and Kai is using his 15 minutes of fame to run for office. For the chair vacated by the murder of Councilman Kang last week…
  • At home Ally watches the new neighbours move in. Their stuff is brought in in barrels and one of the movers is dressed in a biohazard suit…
  • Not unreasonably she heads over to have a quick word and then immediately flees.
  • At the restaurant, Ally breaks up a near fight between Roger, Ivy’s second in command and Pedro a Mexican staff member.
  • Winter brings Oz home and he sulks at her. She gives him a Twisty doll.
  • Oz asks what happens if the clowns come back. Winter replies ‘They won’t come back for you.’
  • They pinky swear and Winter talks Oz through admitting he’s terrified of the house next door.
  • Ally and Ivy come home and find the house deserted. Winter arrives, tells them Oz is across the street and they run over there.
  • The neighbors are Harrison and Meadow. They’re sweet and a little weird, and keep bees. They’re…nice. In a very brittle and slightly nasty way. They admit that they’ve fought back from bankruptcy and that’s why they went for the house. After the ‘murder suicide’ it was cheap.
  • As they talk, Meadow and Harrison are revealed to be painfully honest; Meadow is a skin cancer survivor who can’t be in the sun for longer than 10 minutes. Harrison is gay and the pair of them married because of a pact they made as teenagers.
  • As they leave Ally freaks out. There are literally bloodstains on the floor. But, later that night, Ivy is very relaxed. She finds them charming. Oz interrupts them and asks to sleep with them that night as he’s frightened. They bring him in and then…the alarm triggers at the restaurant. Ally, feeling emboldened, volunteers to go and check it out.
  • When she gets there the place is still locked up and the lights are out. There’s no breka in but the alarm is going full blast. She types in the disarm code and the silence is sudden and absolute.
  • And then she hears something in the butchery. And spots a pool of dried blood.
  • And then she turns around to see one of the staff, dead, face blue, suspended on a meat hook.
  • We see Ally making tea. It turns out it’s a week later and Ally thinks she killed Roger, the staff member on the hook. In reality she was trying to save him. Ally brings Doctor Vincent around to console her and it doesn’t take. Ally feels vindicated, her phobias protecting her.
  • In flashback, Ally goes to visit Harrison and Meadow. Harrison has a massive gun cabinet and cheerfully lets her keep one.
  • Doctor Vincent is NOT okay with this. At all. And Ally is far from okay with her wife calling her therapist.
  • A while later, Kai visits Ally. He’s campaigning door-to-door. He’s charming, plausible and Ally debates him.
  • And then he asks why she has a knife behind her back. He terrifies her and she leaves.
  • At the restaurant Ivy is loading the Butchery back up with Pedro. He’s terrified, the Police are treating him like a suspect and as he puts it, ‘its scary being brown’.
  • Winter is putting Oz to bed. He admits he’s sometimes not sure if he’s awake or asleep and she replies ‘If you’re not sure, just ask.’
  • Downstairs Winter finds Ally looking at her bottle of pills. Ally doesn’t want to take the pulls and Winter suggests other ways to unwind. She runs Ally a bath. Ally sits in it and slowly, but surely, relaxes. Winter bathes her and things start getting intimate when-the alarms go off and the power goes out.
  • A clown walks through Oz’s room. Oz asks him if he’s awake or asleep. The clown says ‘You’re asleep’ and leaves.
  • Harrison appears at the window and tells an utterly plausible story about the power going out across eight blocks and it being a terrorist attack.
  • Winter gets ready to leave and Ally panics, begging her to stay. Winter insists that she needs to go protect her home.
  • Ally panics and calls Ivy, begging her to come home. The line goes dead. Ivy pcks a box of stuff for Ally and asks Pedro to take it over there.
  • At home, Ally is wandering the house in a panic. And when the ice cream van the clowns travel in pulls up that turns into a full on panic attack.
  • And then she finds out the alarm has been cut.
  • And then a clown blows her candle out.
  • Terrified and alone, Ally grabs the gun Harrison gave her. She gets Ozzy and runs for the back door. She tells ozzy they’re going to run for the neighbours, there’s a flash of movement and…
  • She shoots Pedro. 


American Horror Story hits it’s gear shift episode early this year and it’s not an entirely smooth change. There’s nothing inherently with this week’s story but it feels like an odd combination of running in place and sprinting along. The running in place comes from the fact we hit all the same beats again. Ally is menaced by clowns, Winter is creepily protective of Oz. Ivy is worried. Doctor Vincent is shifty. All of that’s great, all of that was great last week too.

Yet the half of the episode that sprints along also stumbles a little bit. The feud between two of Ivy’s staff would have made much more sense if it had been baked in last week or blown up a week or so down the line. Here it’s tantamount to watching characters at the start of Casualty and trying to guess which one is going to have a horrible accident first.

Likewise, Ally and Ivy’s new neighours are a little…off. Billy Eichner and Leslie Grossman are tremendous fun but their characters are so ‘LOOK AT HOW STRANGE WE ARE’ straight out of the gate that it just feels a little perfunctory. Similarly the ‘WHO IS TRULY BEHIND THE BARS?!’ conversation between Kai and Ally is both great and massively, relentlessly on the nose.

However there’s still some stuff here that’s genuinely great. The clowns’ ability to seemingly come and go at will is very weird and interesting. Likewise their affinity for Oz. And how are they all connected to Twisty? And is Doctor Vincent in on it or just looks exactly like he is? All of this works really well and with the addition of Eichner and Grossman there’s a lot of stuff to enjoy this episode. Paulson, Pill and Lourd are three of the best leads AHS has ever had and Evan Peters is tremendous as Kai. But with the inciting incident now very much done, we’re ready for the show to step up a gear next week.

The Good:

  • The handcuffed pinky swear in the opening credits is a lovely, horrible, image.
  • ‘People are going to believe what they want to believe. The trick is figuring out what they want to believe, and giving it to them.’
  • The hesitation on ‘your…wife’ is one of the smartest, darkest character notes we’ve seen in a long time.
  • ‘Is there anything else you need to tell me?’
    ‘…nothing yet.’
    ‘That’s not…completely reassuring.’
    ‘It’s the best I can do for now.’
  • ‘Where are you getting your numbers from?’
    ‘…Facebook.’-This would be funny if it wasn’t so often true.

The Bad:

  • Ally behind the bars of the new protective gate on their home, looking like a prisoner, is about as on the nose as it gets.

And The Random:

  • The situation that gets Pedro to the back door is immensely contrived and, crucially, relies on someone who (probably) isn’t in on the grand scheme of things. What would have happened if Ivy had gone home? Although perhaps the victim doesn’t matter. Rather, scaring Ally into killing someone is the point.
  • Writer Tim Minear has had a long and storied genre career. He’s written for Lois and Clark, The X-Fiules, Angel, Firefly, Dollhouse, American Horror Story and wrote and directed for the Emmy-shortlisted Feud: Bette and Joan. We’ll always love him for deeply weird, instantly cancelled Drivestarring Nathan Fillion in a dark as Hell conspiracy theory take on Cannonball Run.
  • Liza Johnson has directed the excellent Elvis & Nixon and Return as well as short films such as In the Air and Karrabing! Low Tide Turning.
  • Leslie Grossman has appeared in The Good Place, 2 Broke Girls, Scandal and many other shows and movies.
  • Billy Eichner has appeared in Bob’s Burgers, Parks and Recreation and many others. He’s the star, executive producer and creator of quiz show Billy on the Street on Funny or Die.


Review by Alasdair Stuart

No Comments

No Comments Yet!

You can be first one to write a comment

Leave a comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.