Skip to main content

The Major Way American Horror Story: Cult Is Different From Previous Seasons

sarah paulson american horror story cult

For six seasons, American Horror Story made its way down the many avenues of the horror genre, jumping from haunted houses to mystical witches to vengeful vampires to Nazi-inspired mutants, with all kinds of weirdness in between. But it turns out this new season will go in a completely different route from previous years -- different from Minotaurs and Voodoo demons, you say? -- as American Horror Story: Cult will be the first time the FX series will be completely set within the "real" world, without any supernatural elements taking place.

Don't go expecting to see Coven's Nan making any appearances from beyond the grave, or to see Edward Philippe Mott's ghost haunting any tunnels, as American Horror Story: Cult will focus on real-world phobias, as well as the kind of fear-mongering techniques that cults of personality use to sway populations into doing things that might not otherwise be considered bound by morals. According to Collider, Ryan Murphy was clear about human-on-human horror is the only kind that will go down in the clown-filled world of Cult.

On the one hand, I quite love this approach, as American Horror Story is no stranger to awkwardly expanding its storytelling through randomly introduced threats and characters, often with supernatural elements at play. Getting into the heads of modern-day Americans, by way of politically-stoked unease, is a pretty great way to anchor the scare tactics for this season. Though the Trump/Clinton election was an early talking point tied to American Horror Story: Cult's theme, the season will apparently leave the overt politics behind for a closer look at the darker ways that groups of people, big and small, can be driven to specific emotional responses by those looking to take advantage of such things. (To that end, Evan Peters will be playing not just the blue-haired Kai Anderson, but also a host of real-world cult leaders like Charles Manson.)

On the other hand, taking the supernatural elements out of American Horror Story: Cult would seemingly make things slightly more complicated when it comes to tying all the seasons together. Sure, Ryan Murphy and the creative team would just need to leave all references to the past out of it, but we already know we're going to get more Twisty the Clown, and John Carroll Lynch will apparently return for two episodes to reprise the jaw-less "entertainer." He'll definitely need to return in flashback form, since he was killed in Freak Show by the double-faced Edward Mordrake, who took the clown's spirit into his roving band of ghouls; we can't have people coming back from the grave without anything supernatural happening, after all. Perhaps Twisty will directly inspire one of the cult leaders that Peters is playing.

Sarah Paulson, Alison Pill, Evan Peters, Cheyenne Jackson and Billie Lourd will be leading things on American Horror Story: Cult, while there are many others filling out the supporting cast, such as Colton Haynes, Billy Eichner, Mare Winningham, Frances Conroy, Emma Roberts, Adina Porter, Leslie Grossman and Chaz Bono. Girls' Lena Dunham is also involved, and while many other characters are being kept cloaked in mystery, it was recently revealed she'll play that most radical of extreme feminists Valerie Solanas, arguably most famous for trying to assassinate Andy Warhol.

Check out the recently released first trailer for American Horror Story: Cult, which doubles down on the dangerous clowns that have spanned the show's marketing campaign.

American Horror Story: Cult will be waiting outside our front doors, waiting to freak us out when it premieres on FX on Tuesday, September 5, at 10:00 p.m. ET. To see what other shows will be clowning around on the small screen soon, head to our fall premiere schedule.

Nick Venable

Nick is a Cajun Country native, and is often asked why he doesn't sound like that's the case. His love for his wife and daughters is almost equaled by his love of gasp-for-breath laughter and gasp-for-breath horror. A lifetime spent in the vicinity of a television screen led to his current dream job, as well as his knowledge of too many TV themes and ad jingles.