“Fake News” is Scarier Than Ever in Episode 5 Of AHS: Cult

by Ben Martin

[PLEASE NOTE: This recap of American Horror Story Season 7: Cult, Episode 5: Holes DOES CONTAIN SPOILERS. It is assumed you have already viewed the episode. If you have not, it is recommended you do so.  Episode 5: Holes can be seen on FX, On-Demand or via your preferred streaming service.]

The most recent episode of American Horror Story is appropriately titled, “Holes.” Like the previous episode, this one shows us all the strings behind the clown puppets and in doing so,  continues its streak. Opening in the present, we’re presented with a montage of “fake news.” One grisly murder after another is being committed by the cult and being covered exclusively by Beverly Hope (Adina Porter). Said montage does a great job of illustrating not only the repulsive nature of fake news; but also the “If it bleeds it leads,” mentality. Beverly is also covering Kai’s (Evan Peters) bid for city council. Of course, she structures every story showing the (presumably soon to be politician) in a positive light; managing to avoid any objective criticism. (Much like certain news channels do with our current president.)
This is all apropos as politics are always tit-for-tat. Beverly’s boss, Bob (Dermot Mulroney) is outraged by all this; understandably so as it makes their station look tantamount to a tabloid. Bob maintains that this is not real news, only fear mongering. (Couldn’t that be said for the majority of local news coverage though?) He then threatens to fire her if she continues to report this “fake news.” Beverly retorts by telling Bob that she’ll make sexual harassment claims, should he try and do so.

In other news, our focus then shifts to the cult’s latest meeting. In this scene, we’re introduced to a cult member we’ve never seen before named RJ (James Morosini). RJ is quieter than the other members of the group. He also gives off an air of hesitation over some of these corrupt activities of which he’s a part. This will become an issue for the young man later. The main point of the meeting is the cult upping its fear factor. Both Kai and Beverly believe that they must induce even more fear in people. A large part of this decision is due to the fact that the local news refuses to release the footage of  Serina Belinda (Emma Roberts) and her cameraman’s respective deaths, that took place in the previous episode.
Thus, the unanimously decides to start recording all of their crimes themselves. Apparently, they’re going to do so to be able to control the distribution of fear. I would imagine that we’ll see a lot of this snuff footage released online throughout this season’s future episodes. Then one of the cabal arrives late, and it’s none other than Ivy (Alison Pill). Thus fully revealing herself as a member of the cult and confirming many of our suspicions. With that, the cold open ends.
Meanwhile, Ally’s (Sarah Paulson) phobias are worse than we’ve ever seen them before. She reveals to Dr. Rudy (Cheyenne Jackson) that her Trypophobia or fear of small holes, is getting much worse. This phobia is bolstered by the fact that she had a nightmare in which she had little holes in her skin that she then proceeded to scratch her skin raw. Dr. Rudy isn’t surprised by this based on his Ally’s current situation. She and Ivy are still estranged, despite the fact that all her money’s tied up in The Butchery. In fact, she believes the restaurant is a large part of why she and Ivy’s relationship became strained. Ally cites noticing this as early as September of last year, in the midst of the election. To make things worse, Ally is only allowed to visit with Oz (Cooper Dodson) under Ivy’s supervision.
Ally has much more to worry about as we’re shown Ivy and Winter (Billie Lourd)  riding in a car together. They are on there way to commit a murder with the rest of the cult. The two discuss the state of things, including Ivy’s relationship woes; proving the twisted the pair have a bond. Upon rendezvousing with the others, it’s revealed that the intended victim is none other than Bob. Obviously, Beverly wants to get rid of him and so does Kai. However, the primary purpose of this slaying will be to change the power structure of the local media. The cult breaks into Bob’s house to find him in his kitchen. As Bob begs for his life, they beat him down. Bob then says, “I HAVE A GIMP UPSTAIRS!”, for some reason feeling that would change his fortune.
Instead, the cult just takes this into account by dragging him up to his attic. In the attic, they find Bob’s gimp, who is a leather outfit, including a mask that blinds him. Moreover, the gimp is suspended from the ceiling by hooks in his skin. I feel this image gives both Pulp Fiction (1994) and even Hellraiser (1988) a run for their money. The cult film themselves brutally stabbing Bob to death. Ever wanting to increase the fear factor, the cult indulges in creating Satanic Panic. While stabbing Bob, they chant, “HAIL, SATAN!”, Which is incredibly creepy. Plus, it will no doubt distract from the actual motive of these crimes. The clowns then follow suit with the gimp, which RJ greatly protest. Ivy doesn’t handle the act well either, resulting in her vomiting. As a result of this, this Beverly raises her concerns to Kai regarding RJ’s loyalty; to which he concurs.

Later that same night, things haven’t gotten much better for Ally. Being paranoid and home alone, what more can she do than spy on her neighbors? By doing so, Ally sees Harrison (Billy Eichner) burying something in his yard. Following that, Ally sees him go inside and make-out with Detective Jack Samuels (Colton Haynes). After waiting a moment, Ally can’t resist going over to find out what Harison buried. When she does, she finds Meadow (Leslie Grossman) buried six feet deep, in an open grave. In a panic, Ally flees back to her house attempts to call 911. Alas, she’s unable to reach them due to high call volume. Not knowing what else to do, Ally then calls Ivy. But, her call is interrupted when Meadow suddenly bangs on window, screaming for help and telling her everyone is in on the cult. Meadow is then suddenly grabbed by an unseen individual.
We cut to the neighbor’s house where we see that’s where Ivy answered the call. The cult is gathered at the neighbors for another meeting. It seems they spend about as much time plotting as they do killing. Everyone is thrilled about the fact that their leader, Kai, is leading in the polls. Kai, however, has a more significant concern and convinces his compatriots that RJ isn’t to be trusted. This turn takes us to one of the series most brutal sequences to date. In order to eliminate the weak link, the cult puts fourteen nails in RJ; each one of them taking turns until he perishes.
The last portion of “Holes” concerns Kai’s secret origin as Beverly demands to know why Kai’s doing all this. We flashback to 2014, where we see a younger Kai, fresh out of college with a Bachelor’s in Religious Studies. He’s a quiet, young man, still living with his parents. His mother is meek and sweet. However, his father is abusive after having been in a motorcycle accident, resulting in being confined to a wheelchair. One night, Kai’s mother decides she has had enough. She proceeds to kill her husband and then herself, which the future cult leader witnesses. Kai calls his older brother for help, who is revealed to be Dr. Rudy.
Fearing what this murder-suicide might do to his reputation as a psychiatrist and his newly founded practice, Rudy persuades Kai that they should not inform the police. Together, they put their parents’ corpses in what was formerly their bedroom. They then cover the bodies in lye, quickening decomposition and locking the room. Winter finds out everything months later when she comes home from college herself. She’s obviously unsettled by it, but not as much as one might expect. Then again, this is Winter we’re talking about. This episode concludes with a chilling scene in which Kai tells his dead mother’s corpse,”I’ll be someone someday and make you proud.”

For me, “Holes” proved to be one of the best and disturbing episodes of Cult thus far. To go a step further, I also found this episode to be one of AHS most unsettling installments in general. The reason this episode works so well is probably unfortunately due to the fact of our current political and overall violent climate in America. It pains me to say that, but I do think that is why the horror here is resonating. From a narrative standpoint, the non-linear narrative structure also helped keep the plot intriguing; just as it did last week. However, the structure does seem to be a little sloppy, which I found to be this episode’s only problem. A couple of episodes ago, it appeared Harrison was getting arrested for Meadow’s murder. But, in this episode, we see her still alive, in the present. I found this confusing; but for all we know at this point, that’s intentional. Despite Cult managing to bum me out just as much as it does horrify me, I look forward to whatever’s coming.

Episode 6: Mid-Western Assassin airs Tuesday, October 10th at 10:00 PM on FX.

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