While past seasons of American Horror Story had utilized supernatural elements to create thrills and chills, Ryan Murphy decided the seventh season of his famous anthology series would be different. American Horror Story: Cult decided to focus on real terror that's visceral in the modern era, and taken from people's darkest phobias and insecurities. Done appropriately, they can be just as compelling as any ghost or ghoul. Fans had long wondered if the series would ever dive into cults and cult leaders and it finally did, revealing the terrifying ramifications of blind belief without critical thought.
Though it has a heavy political emphasis, Season 7 isn't specifically about the 2016 election in the way viewers might think; it's about the cult that can surround any personality, regardless of affiliation. At the heart of the series is Ally (Sarah Paulson), who is being terrorized by a group of miscreants in killer clown masks. The costumes, while not as elaborate as some of the other ensembles made by costume lead designer Lou Eyrich, still give a surprising amount of depth to a series with many layers to already unpack. Here are 10 hidden details behind the costumes of American Horror Story: Cult.
10 EACH INNER MEMBERS' COSTUME HAD TO BE UNIQUE
In order to protect their identities, he members of The Cult's inner circle wore a mask. Each of the masks represented a clown character, ranging from the sort that resembles Twisty from Freak Show to a harlequin doll head. In order to make them unique, distinct molds had to be made to give each member a personality.
For instance, the Holes mask featured electric green hair, fangs, and a pocked face, while the Harlequin Clown featured a painted doll mask with a blonde tuft of hair on top and an Elizabeth ruff collar. Each was terrifying and whimsical in its own way despite the fact that the Cult members were anonymous.
9 EACH CLOWN MASK REVEALS SOMETHING ABOUT THE WEARER
The inner members of the Cult that terrorize Ally wear specifically designed clown masks, and each of them give an indication of the identity of their wearer beneath. For example, Winter Anderson wears a Jigsaw Mask, which can stand for the fractured state of America with its red, white, and blue hues.
The Holes Mask is worn by Harrison, peppered with holes because he's missing things in his life being a gay man married to a woman. The Brains Mask is worn by Detective Samuel, who in his line of work uses his "brains" to solve cases, and Ivy wears a half-donkey half-elephant mask as a Hillary supporter and Trump hater.
8 ALL THE MASKS WERE DIFFICULT TO WEAR
The standout costume components on Cult are the masks worn by the members of Kai's group, each with their own symbolic meaning. The masks were created by the AHS prop department, who then immediately licensed them to prop and replica companies right after the show was made.
This meant that come Halloween time, fans could go and purchase masks that were made using the exact same molds used on the show. Each mask was created using regular and foam latex, giving them a lot of amazing detail but unfortunately not designed to be seen out of according to Evan Peters.
7 EVAN PETERS HAD TO RESEARCH HISTORICAL FIGURES
Evan Peters is a veteran of the anthology series, having appeared in six other seasons by the time he started filming Cult. He was no stranger to playing characters based on real life people, such as the roles he played in Freak Show and Hotel, but in Cult, he played real historical figures.
To play the parts of Andy Warhol and Charles Manson, Ryan Murphy had him watch endless documentaries and scour photos. Peters was able to see how they moved, spoke, and wore their clothes, before collaborating with Lou Eyrich to come up with the right costumes to represent their essence.
6 HE DIDN'T KNOW HE HAD SIX COSTUME CHANGES
Evan Peters has said in interviews that he'll agree to do anything Ryan Murphy wants without reading a script, that's how much he respects him as a director and visionary. When he heard that AHS was going to air a seventh season, he naturally jumped at the chance to work with Murphy and the old gang again.
He never knew by agreeing to do Cult that he would have to portray six different cult leaders and historical figures. He needed specific costumes for playing Marshall Applegate, David Koresh, Jim Jones, and Charles Manson, as well as Andy Warhol and a new cult leader Kai Anderson.
5 HE'S VERY INVOLVED IN THE COSTUME PROCESS
Like longtime AHS actors Jessica Lange and Sarah Paulson, Evan Peters has earned the right to make creative contributions to his character. In Freak Show and Hotel, he compiled his own photographs of the historical figures he was playing and went over them with costume designer Lou Eyrich to determine how best for him to wear their ensembles.
Peters displayed his usual level of research for Cult, despite having six different characters to prepare and portray. To play Jim Jones, he even listened to tapes from the real Jones shortly before the Jonestown Massacre, which he found incredibly disturbing and heartbreaking.
4 SARAH PAULSON HAD NO IDEA THE COSTUMES WOULD BE SO TERRIFYING
Sarah Paulson, like fellow Cult star Evan Peters, is a veteran of American Horror Story. She'd already been in six other seasons by the time Cult began filming, and she thought she was used to its horrors, especially since Asylum had her character deal with being traumatized.
Cult presented a different level of personal horror for Paulson altogether because Ryan Murphy decided to use her actual fears. Paulson is terrified of bees, and especially clowns, as well as having trypophobia. She found the clown costumes in the series particularly terrifying, especially Holes.
3 THEY HAD TO STAND UP TO LOTS OF FAKE BLOOD
Sarah Paulson certainly had her work cut out for her in Cult, with dual roles requiring not only several costume changes but interacting with a lot of fake blood. One of her characters, Ally Mayfair-Richards suffers from Haemophobia, or the fear of blood, which features prominently in Cult.
As Paulson's characters are assaulted by their worst fears, the costume department had to make sure that her costumes could withstand all the fake blood being thrown on them. When reshoots would be necessary and Paulson would need to be wearing the same clothing in a different scene that had just been drenched in blood, the costume team had to hope they could get it all washed out in time.
2 IT TOOK 18 HOURS TO AGE SARAH PAULSON
Sarah Paulson is no stranger to sitting in a makeup chair for a season of American Horror Story, having already played a two-headed character in Freak Show that required a harness and a whole other head be placed on her body. Cult had equally demanding visual effects just in a different way.
In Cult, she needed to be made to look like Lana Winters (a character she'd played in Asylum) but much older. She had to sit in the makeup chair for over eighteen hours to get it correct, especially since she was supposed to look 75 but still retain her beauty.
1 THE GREEN CLOAK HAD MEANING
In the finale of Cult, after Ally has won by a landslide and tucked in her son Oz for bed, she is seen slowly walking away from the mirror and flicking up the corners of an emerald green cloak. This cloak (called a SCUM cloak) was first worn by feminist activists in the '60s and used to identify one another.
The scene plays out in two ways - the cloak could indicate that Ally was a member of SCUM all along (which would be difficult given Bebe's murder), or that she's been newly corrupted by another "cult" so to speak, albeit a more altruistic one than Kai's. Then again, it always boils down to our personal point of view.