American Horror Story: Cult “Holes” REVIEW

American Horror Story: Cult “Holes” REVIEW

0 comments 📅06 October 2017, 23:01

Airing in the UK on FOX, Fridays at 10pm
Crystal Liu
Director: Maggie Kiley

Essential Plot Points:

  • We open with a report from Beverly about the murders. Bob is NOT impressed. He uses ‘fake news’. Beverly calls Bob on not using the tape of Serena’s murder.
  • He fires her. She threatens him with a press conference and leaves, job intact, for now.
  • At Kai’s house, the cult are meeting. Kai, Winter, Meadow, Harrison, Detective Samuels, Gary the hand remover, Beverly and RJ, her cameraman.
  • Beverly points out that the theatricality of the murder is for them and no one else right now. Which inadvertently confirms that these folks are the clowns.
  • Someone comes downstairs and Kai berates them for being late. Ivy apologizes. And our hearts sink.
  • Ally is washing up when she notices an unusual lesion on her neck. She picks at it until she tears her skin and bugs emerge. We flash to a therapy session and see that she was having a nightmare.
  • He talks her down and she reveals Ivy has left with Oz. She also reveals that Ivy has cancelled the credit cards and will have to sell her house in order to survive. Ally, in a rare moment of actual intelligence, says ‘It was like she prepared…’ Doctor Vincent asks if she had any idea if their relationship was tenuous and…
  • Flashback! To September 2016
  • Ivy is doing the books for the restaurant and they’re making a loss. Ally gives her a present they cannot possibly afford, they argue and Ivy storms off.
  • We see another flashback to a disastrous supervised visit Ally had with Oz at the restaurant. The kid is traumatized, Ally is trying too hard and it does not go well. Back in the present Doctor Vincent comforts Ally as best he can.
  • Winter and Ivy are driving and talking about what ‘needs to be done’. They talk about how much they hate this country and how it needs to change in order to make a better world for Oz.
  • They meet up with Kai and the others, mask up and head to Roy’s house to kill him in as flamboyant and ‘satanic’ a way as possible. Roy wails about the gimp he keeps in the attic. Said gimp is suspended by a wide variety of hooks in their flesh. They debate whether to let ‘it’ go and Kai kills the gimp. The hooks rip, and the dead body falls to the floor. Ivy throws up and is comforted by Winter.
  • The other Clowns show Bob the body, stab him and leave Beverly, mask off, to deliver the kill shot.
  • And then, cleaned up, Beverly reports on the story while RJ films her. Problem solved.
  • Later at the Butchery,  Beverly and Kai talk about the ‘weak link’.
  • We flash back to five weeks ago and the coffin murders. We see RJ complain bitterly about how long its taking. We go back to Beverly and Kai agreeing something has to be done.
  • Ally is wandering around the house, with nothing to do. She sees Harrison dragging some oddly heavy bags into his house and watches him through Oz’s telescope. One of them is distinctly body shaped. Then she sees Detective Samuels appear and the two kiss.
  • Ally heads over, with an axe handle.
  • She finds Meadow, in an open grave, mouthing ‘Help me’. And, of course, leaves her where she is, runs home and calls 911. Which is ‘experiencing high call traffic’ so she calls Ivy and begs for help.
  • Then someone starts pounding on the front door. Ivy keeps her on the line and then…Meadow appears at a back window screaming for help.
  • Meadow tells her the truth; everyone is in the cult. Then a bag is dropped over her head and she’s dragged away.
  • At the cult meeting, Ivy is suspicious, especially when Meadow doesn’t show. Winter reveals that the clown footage has given Kai a massive bump in the polls but it isn’t enough. Especially as he feels dissension in the ranks. A problem he will solve. Right now.
  • He takes them out back to where the cult member we’ve barely seen before, RJ, is tied to a chair.
  • Kai hands Ivy a nail gun and tells her to drive the first nail in. He tells her that the world record for nails in the head before death is 13 and if she really does care, she’ll put him out of his misery.
  • She shoots. He lives.
  • They take turns.
  • He still lives.
  • Kai quotes Hamlet ‘Good night sweet prince’, and shoots RJ in the medulla oblongata, killing him.
  • Beverly and Kai pinky swear. He asks what scares her the most. She asks who he really is. Kai tells her the truth; his parents died. Worse, his father became abusive after a motorbike accident. Worse still, his mother killed his father and then herself.
  • Beverly is dubious. She never heard of any murder suicides. Kai explains that his brother helped dispose of the bodies.
  • Actual impressive twist!
  • He walks Kai through how to cover up the deaths and make things right with Winter. This involves showing her the decomposing bodies. In the padlocked bedroom where they died. Kai reveals he talks to them sometimes and breaks down crying in the present as he does so. Beverly, still clearly not quite sure she believes him, consoles him.


SO much better. It’s still got problems (The point of the Gimp sequence was what exactly?) but this is a vast step up for AHS: Cult after two almost entirely broken hours of TV.

There are three main reasons for that success. The first and most important is that we’re seeing behind the curtain AT LAST. The reveal that Ivy’s in the cult is the biggest emotional hit the show has landed so far and the reveal on Doctor Vincent isn’t far behind. Sure it’s not exactly a surprise but him being Kai’s older brother is not something we saw coming. After two miserable hours of every trope possible, the show is on it’s toes and surprising us again.

Then there’s the fact that by seeing behind the curtain we also get to see the untidy side of villainy. The clowns huffing and puffing as they drag the coffins in as absurd as it is terrifying. They’re not supernatural, just broken people wearing clown outfits and that makes them all the more disturbing. There’s no romance of evil here, no sweeping operatic monstrosity. Just a pair of brilliant, frightened, broken young men and the people they break so they don’t feel so alone.

And finally, these combine to give the show a sense of momentum for the first time in three weeks. Cult had ground to a halt, content to simply laugh at Ally’s pompous self righteousness and Kai’s chest puffing personal myth. Now, at LAST, it’s moved past that. We can see that Ally is being sculpted and steered for something, see Kai is broken in ways he may not even be aware of. Better still the clowns, a generic, flat scary image have become a deeply disturbing riff on Fight Club‘s Project Mayhem. Fractured, unsure of nothing but that they want to break everything. As a result they become what the show has tried and abjectly failed to do so far this season; become the embodiment of every aspect of America’s ongoing political identity crisis. The message here is simple, stark and horrifying. We’re so far off the map that no one, not even the people who always wanted to be here, know what’s next.

That’s heady stuff and here, at last, it works, There’s still work to do, RJ being the sacrifice has precisely no emotional impact and the Bob scenes are painful in particular. But those aside, at last, the show is breaking stride. A good start to what we hope is a consistent improvement.

The Good:

  • The Serena v Bob confrontation is very Fight Club. In the good way.
  • The re-positioning of the clowns as Project Mayhem style terrorists is three weeks overdue and so very welcome.
  • The final twist(s)!
  • ‘Latin is inherently scary’-A touch on the nose but this is the best gag the show has done this year.
  • ‘You really think what’s going to upset these people is the asymmetry of the coffins we’re going to put them in?’

The Bad:

  • What the Hell was the point of the Gimp scene? Other than random torture porn cruelty?
  • Also while we get that the Clowns referring to the gimp as ‘it’ is meant to emphasize their cruelty, it’s a sour note. This is a show that, across the last two seasons especially, has excelled at exploring how different doesn’t always mean bad. As a result, that moment felt both cruel and a lot like a backwards step.
  • Meadow and Ally racing to see who was the more awful.
  • Harrison and Detective Samuels kissing. Not because it’s bad but because the context for this is where exactly?
  • Is the show actually going to do anything with Samuels besides having him in the background of some scenes and occasionally nail gunning people?

And The Random:

  • If the entire cult were at Kai’s place murdering RJ, who kidnapped Meadow?
  • Maggie Kiley has directed for Riverdale, Scream Queens and the movies Brightest Star, Dial A Prayer and Caught.
  • Crystal Liu worked on Glee and was recruited from there for American Horror Story. She’s been promoted through the ranks constantly since then and has written for Hotel, My Roakoke Nightmare and now Cult. She is also the show’s story editor.
  • James Morosini, who is wasted as RJ, has previously appeared in Feud, Fameless, The Great Indoors and others. Interestingly, IMDB have him appearing as RJ in episode 10. Flashback? Zombie? We’ll have to wait and see. 


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.