Warning: light spoilers (and scary images) for American Horror Story: Cult lurk below.
Turn on all the lights: we're on the cusp of another exciting season of American Horror Story. The seventh installment of the iconic series hits TV screens on Sept. 5, and we're about to be plunged into a world of cults, clowns, bees, and serious paranoia. If you're a die-hard horror fan who's dead inside (like me!), then there's no question: you're going to watch the sh*t out of Cult. However, if you're on the fence about horror and have an undeniable curiosity about the new season, you're probably wondering if you can stomach it. I hate to tell you this, but the answer is probably no.
This season of AHS gets under your skin in more ways than one, and it exploits some of the most basic fears in the horror genre. The first and most obvious fear is clowns. In the show, main character Ally (Sarah Paulson) suffers from coulrophobia, which is an irrational fear of the "fun" circus performers. Actually, though, it's pretty common to fear clowns. That's why It, with its terrifying Pennywise the Clown, is one of the most terrifying stories ever (and why people are freaking out over the very realistic remake).
And the thing is, there are a lot of clowns on this show. We see the return of Twisty and his mangled face from Freak Show. In addition, there are a bunch of other creepy clowns. They're a groups of miscreants who may be hallucinations of a very rattled Ally, but they seem to also be a very real group of troublemakers who are terrorizing families all over town.
If the clowns don't get you, the home invasion scenarios will. Cult has a pretty astounding way of building tension and terror into a lot of its scenes, especially when a character is alone. In the premiere, Ally has a traumatic experience in a grocery store, but then it seems to follow her home. In the vein of The Strangers and Hush and other such terrifying in-home horrors, a lot of Cult's worst sequences take place in the safety of residential homes. And this isn't just silly break-ins. Citizens are getting ambushed in bed. Some are getting murdered. If you're getting the urge to lock your door right now, you might want to skip.
So, let's say you can handle the clowns and the home invaders. Can you deal with the tiny holes? Ally's other huge mental hurdle is trypophobia, which is basically a fear of tiny clusters of holes. In the show, Ally can't even look at a piece of coral in the office of Dr. Vincent (Cheyenne Jackson). During one particular gross hallucination, her biscuit is suddenly filled with holes, and blood oozes out of all the pores. It's enough to make anyone squirm, let alone someone who's actually disgusted by the phenomenon.
The thing about these three huge aspects of terror on Cult is that they all intermix. After all, it's the group of clowns that does most of the home invading. The trypophobia may manifest in miscellaneous ways, as we mentioned above, but one of the clowns literally has a face full of tiny holes. All of these big fears lump into one gargantuan sense of unrest. In every scene, anything could manifest that could set you off and really have you gripping your seat cushion. Or, you know, maybe you'll just be bombarded with all three. Watch American Horror Story: Cult if you dare, but my distinct sense as a horror fan who's dead inside is that it's pretty damn scary.