This American Horror Story: Cult review contains spoilers.
American Horror Story Season 7, Episode 9
American Horror Story: Cult serves up a sweet treat for its season 7 Halloween episode. Don’t take a chance on biting an apple with a razor blade in it, “Drink the Kool-Aid.” Sometimes we all want to drink the Kool-Aid. It’s not just refreshing, it’s mind numbing. And it is so much easier than fighting over realities that drive you insane. There is an old expression along the lines of give me the strength to deal with the shit I cannot change, and if that doesn’t work, pass me a bottle and a bottle of pills. Mixed into a sugary drink, this is a cocktail we can all swallow. We drank so much Kool-Aid, America faced a national obesity epidemic long before President Trump brought his orange-flavor-colored influence to American Horror Story: Cult.
Before the credits even roll, we hear the history of fringe community mass suicides, told by City Councilman Kai Anderson. Each of the leaders – Marshall Applewhite, David Koresh and Jim Jones – are played by Evan Peters, who plays Kai. Peters marvels at the all-powerful penis of the Branch Davidian patriarch. He foams with his followers and the Holy Spirit at the Jonestown, Guyana, Peoples Temple. But he rides to glory on the Hale-Bopp Comet. Transcendence is key to salvation and the only way to save the nation is through blind loyalty and mute trust. Soldiers lay down their lives in battle. True believers fall on their own swords.
While it’s easy to tame testosterone with treatises of terror, estrogen doesn’t respond well to oppression. Ally Mayfair-Richards (Sarah Paulson), Ivy (Alison Pill), and Winter (Billie Lourd) are a ménage a trois of repressed rebellion. Ally learned to put aside her fears by being buried in them over the past few episodes. She’d been seeing Kai’s brother, Dr. Rudy Vincent (Cheyenne Jackson), for a wide range of phobias. Kai is leading a wave of terror into a national political movement and sacrificed his brother to the altar of betrayal last week. Ally herself put the finger on him, and watched him die. She joined the cult to reunite with her wife and son Oz (Cooper Dodson), who may or may not be some kind of predestined savior baby.
This is because, like David Koresh, Kai is also imbued with magical sperm. The dominant alpha male of the political movement that moved Beverly Hope (Adina Porter) from reporter to leader to kitchen help to isolation chamber prisoner isn’t only a jerk. He is a prodigious jerkoff. Unlike the guy in American Pie, Kai pried the seminal run off like a regular Johnny Appleseed, paying off the karma of his wild youth by donating to the local sperm banks. It is a long term strategy that pays off in unequal dividends.
Kai has many talents. He knows how to scare people, he knows how to tell a story, and he really knows how to set up a joke. Kai’s biggest gutbuster tonight comes after a loyalty pledge. It’s not exactly a hazing, and this reviewer doesn’t want to give too much away, in spite of habitual trigger and spoiler warnings, but the punchline has to do with losing voters. Now, you may not spit up your cherry soda through your nose on this one, but the gag reflex alone is a killer.
Allie is also a killer. She’s chalked up more notches on her skittle than Twisty the Clown in an entire comic book series, which she proudly reads and recommends to her son. When she’s not yanking people’s innards through meat hooks she’s making sure no one delivers takeout during blackouts. Tonight she serves hot and cold revenge. Sure, all she had to do was boil some water for the pasta, but she also had to chill the perfect wine. Allie is a very adaptable strategist. She pulls in inspiration from the most unlikely sources, and can improvise with the best of them. As she digests the scene of her great revenge playing out in front of her, we can almost hear the gears turning toward newer and bigger plans. She is also one of the few characters who doesn’t have daddy issues. That doesn’t mean she doesn’t have an issue with father figures.
Allie is up against some heavy competition to win her son’s trust back, much less show that motherly love is more fun than brotherly love. It is ultimately less stifling, as the guiding light of the new Fear Is Trust movement puts Oz in time out for fact-checking late night chats on his cell phone. She survives the impromptu Pepsi challenge with a new resolve and a keen sense of paranoia. This is not the same as the phobias she previously succumbed to. Paranoia is strength in the new world order. It is not only something Kai could appreciate, it is something his army of macho posers can respect. Some of these men would willingly drop their cocks in a blender to please the newly announced senatorial candidate. They are only looking to fill a void and Allie has so many holes it’s scary to everyone, but her.
One of the best things about “Drink the Kool-Aid” is how some of the most horrifying subtext is played out in the most mundane of settings, a boring city council meeting with gaping apes or a quaint kitchen table set for two. American Horror Story: Cult ends the episode on a terrifyingly ambiguous note, Allie’s ascension in Kai’s attentions. We know she can’t turn a Manwich into a last meal until her son’s plate is clear, but she is also quite capable of much longer term plans. I’d vote for her.
“Drink the Kool-Aid” was written by Joshua Green, and directed by Angela Bassett.
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