Warning: This story contains spoilers for American Horror Story: Cult.
As we eagerly and apprehensively await the premiere of American Horror Story: Cult, hints and teasers have been released that have given us some insight into what to expect from the latest season of Ryan Murphy's horror anthology. We know that it begins with the 2016 presidential election, we know a bit about series regulars Sarah Paulson's and Evan Peter's roles in this season, and we know that it involves clowns.
Yes, clowns have been used for decades now in horror films, but the reason for their appearance in American Horror Story might be more "ripped from the headlines" than we realized.
We have all probably put the bizarre 2016 reports of clown sightings out of our minds — either by forcibly putting it out of our minds or simply by becoming distracted with more pressing current events. What once was splashed all over the news has become a faint flicker in the search history of our phones and computers. Before clown hysteria swept the nation, it first appeared lurking in the shadows of Greenville, SC in August 2016.
As reported by The Verge, this was the catalyst for a nationwide whirlwind of local news reports of similar sightings. Among the reports was an incident of a man hiding in the woods in Kentucky, a man chasing kids out of a subway in Manhattan, and schools being shut down in Ohio amid clown-related threats inciting panic. It became so prolifically discussed that it was even addressed in a White House briefing in October 2016. For your peace of mind: the sightings that kicked it all off were debunked as being untrue, but they certainly did inspire a lot of other clowns to come out and play.
Did those clown sightings represent the manifestation of our collective fear of the unknown? Perhaps. Is it an excellent, cinematic tool with which to inspire fear and panic in the hearts of many? Director and showrunner Ryan Murphy seems to think so.
The Hollywood Reporter reviewed the first three episodes of Cult in advance of the premiere and mentioned it features a gang of killer clowns. They give away much, other than the clowns are butchering people in the town where the season is set. In Entertainment Weekly's review of the season's intial episodes, they cite a clown theme throughout, nothing that the show features the return of Twisty the Clown from Freak Show.
It seems that Murphy has taken a once newsworthy series of events and brought it to its most gruesome conclusion.
American Horror Story: Cult premieres on Tuesday, September 5 on FX.
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