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The Real Reason AHS Fans Think Cult Is So Scary

"American Horror Story: Cult" is the 7th season of the hit anthology series created by Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk. When "American Horror Story" Season 1, "Murder House" premiered in 2011, viewers couldn't have predicted how the show would become equal parts terrifying and addictive. Each subsequent season of "AHS" infuses standard horror tropes with disturbing twists and invents new and unexpected monsters.

"AHS" invites viewers to enter haunted houses, a freak show, and a mental asylum. It introduces them to powerful witches, warlocks, and the Antichrist. The show also put its own spin on real-life monsters, such as in Season 3, "Coven," which features the series' incarnations of the serial killers The Axeman of New Orleans and sadistic socialite Madame Delphine LaLaurie. Murphy and Falchuk created an elaborate backstory for the infamous Hotel Cortez in Season 5 and tapped into American folklore for Season 6, "Roanoke."

These are, for the most part, just stories, right? Aliens, magic pills that incite creativity and bloodlust, ghosts, vampires, and the like provide creepy entertainment, but they aren't real. They are the catalysts for jump scares and fodder for campfire tales. However, "Cult," which lacks all the garden variety big-bads that feature prominently in other seasons of the show, is considered by many "AHS" fans to be the scariest installment. What is it about "Cult" that continues to get under viewers' skins?

Cult is too realistic

On the "American Horror Story" subreddit, u/Mat_teo10 wrote, "Before I started watching Cult, I thought it wouldn't be such a scary season. I was thinking 'How can this be so scary?' Although when I finished episode 2 I was so startled. Can someone explain to me why? Is there a reason for this? Do I have some sort of phobia?" "Cult" centers around Kai Anderson (Evan Peters), a charismatic young man who capitalizes on the chaos following the 2016 presidential election, using fear to further his twisted and often nonsensical agenda. "This season overall is scary the tone of it what's happening in the world that's the whole point," wrote u/InTheGardenOfSpite. "It's scary because it's the most realistic of the seasons. Because you can visually imagine it happening in your reality," agreed u/pebe820.

"Cult" very adeptly captured the mood of the entire nation after Donald Trump was elected president. While Stephen King is the "Master of Horror," Truman Capote's non-fiction classic "In Cold Blood" makes readers check to make sure their doors are locked. The Boogeyman can't get you, but there are plenty of other things that can. "It's easy to not be scared by ghosts, vampires, supernatural, etc., BUT it's just humans who are the monsters and doing the bad things. I completely agree," wrote u/HappyApple0157.

People see parallels between Kai and real-world figures

"AHS" is supposed to be a way to retreat from the real world, but "Cult" doesn't give viewers that luxury. Even though Kai unravels to a point of extremism that seems absurd, some fans see the season's main story arc as political and social commentary. "It showed the wayyyy far extremes of both sides. People being willing to die for a dumbass politician (this is just plain stupid) and people blaming every issue the world has (or they have) on their spouse for not voting for the candidate THEY wanted them to," commented u/Pantera42.

"Cult" isn't just about Kai and his acolytes; the series revisits stories of other infamous cult leaders. While Murphy takes a great deal of creative license, he draws parallels between these charismatic leaders and the people willing to live, die, and kill for them no matter what the cause. This was pointed out by u/Jaba-Jay, who wrote that they initially found the premise "so far-fetched and unbelievable" before drawing parallels with current events.

Ally's fears resonate with viewers

According to some fans, it's not just Kai and his followers that make "Cult" so scary. One of Kai's victims, Ally Mayfair-Richards (Sarah Paulson), is riddled with phobias and anxiety throughout much of the series. Ally's struggles appear to resonate with some fans. "This season focused on phobias. I can't look at clusters of holes and these were featured in many of the promos," wrote u/desandmol. Ally is riddled with so many phobias in the first few episodes, she's in a constant state of panic, and her fear is palpable and, to some, entirely relatable. "I'm scared of holes and clowns. This season terrified me," stated u/KatieMcb16.

While the consensus is that "Cult" just hits too close to home on multiple levels, one viewer offered another reason this season could rank as the show's scariest. "Evan disappeared so far into Kai Anderson that it didn't feel like I was watching an actor," wrote u/FunnyRevolutionary17.