“Neighbors from Hell” Are Clowning On You In American Horror Story: Cult Episode 3

by Ben Martin

[PLEASE NOTE: This recap of American Horror Story Season 7: Cult, Episode 3: Neighbors from Hell DOES CONTAIN SPOILERS. It is assumed you have already viewed the episode. If you have not, it is recommended you do so. Episode 3: Neighbors from Hell can be seen on FX, On-Demand or via your preferred streaming service.]

Like last week’s American Horror Story, this week’s episode, Neighbors from Hell seems to be another building episode. That is, except for a fantastic cold-opening. A couple is being seen by Dr. Rudy Vincent (Cheyenne Jackson) because the wife suffers from Taphophobia (or Taphephobia, the irrational fear of being buried alive.) Her fear is born out of abuse she suffered as a child when locked in the closet. In her adult life, her Taphophobia manifests itself as a recurring nightmare in which she goes from sex to death, ultimately being buried alive. In waking life though, it seems she has made significant progress, according to Dr. Vincent.

That night after their session, the couple goes home with a desire for sex, but are given death instead. In this excellent sequence, the couple is attacked by the clown cult and buried alive, upright; having been bolted into their respective coffins by the clowns. To cap the scene off the clown cult mark the location with a red smiley face on the wall.

From there, the focus shifts back to our main protagonists. Ally (Sarah Paulson) and Ivy (Alison Pill) are being investigated by Detective Jack Samuels (Colton Haynes),  concerning last week’s shooting. The preliminary investigation over Pedro’s (Jorge-Luis Pallo) shooting, proves Ally’s  innocence as it’s determined the shooting was accidental. However, a large portion of the community views Ally as a racist murderer. Such perception is made evident  when she and Ivy attempt to go to work at The Butchery. Upon the couple’s arrival, there is a large group of protestors outside the Mayfair-Richards’ restaurant; Ally can’t go anywhere near it. It seems she has been dubbed, “A lesbian George Zimmerman.”

After seeing all this, Ivy goes to work while Ally tries to leave without being seen from her car. While doing so, she is once again surprised by Kai (Evan Peters). He tells her that she is brave her defending herself and needs to keep living her truth. Adding that should she ever have trouble with the protesters again, he would take care of them. Later in the episode, Kai proves to be a man of his word by miraculously making the protestors part when Ally re-encounters them. Since it’s not as if Kai is Moses parting The Red Sea, I can’t help but theorize that he might’ve hired the protestors.

The Mayfair-Richards’ neighbors, the Wiltons, don’t miss an opportunity to get in on the action. Harrison (Billy Eichner) and Meadow Wilton (Leslie Grossman) show up on Ally’s doorstep wearing sombreros. Adorned to the maximum of a racial stereotype, they also accuse Ally of murdering Pedro due to his race. Adding fuel to the fire, the Wiltons claim Ally is, “Exercising her white privilege.” Then, they proclaim, “This is not the end of it!” It turns out; the neighbors threat is not an idle one. A couple of days later, the Mayfair-Richards find a naked man in their living room, doing things that bear no mentioning here.

In angry shock, the ladies demand to know what he’s doing there. The man responds that he was let in by Winter (Billie Lourd) and that he was answering the sex-ad that they posted online. Not surprisingly, Ally and Ivy find that their neighbors posted the ad. Continuing their harassment of the Mayfair-Richards, the Wiltons also give Oz (Cooper Dodson) a guinea pig, of which they know Ally will not approve. However, after some argument and resolution, Oz’s moms decide to let him keep his newly gifted pet. This indulgence of their child will prove dire.

In addition to all of this, Ally sees what looks like a chemical truck slowly rolling through the neighborhood late one night. The vehicle is emitting a green, smokey chemical; which the following morning, is discovered to have killed plants and birds in the Mayfair-Richards’ yard.  Upon seeing the truck again a few nights later, Ally goes out investigate and is almost run-over by it. To combat all that is going on, Ally has an emergency phone session when Dr. Vincent. He believes that Ally’s fears are getting worse. Leading him to suggest that she consider voluntarily admitting herself into an inpatient facility for a couple of weeks. Ally rejects his suggestion out-right. As the session closes, we see there is a set of smiley pins on the doctor’s desk, implying that he’s involved in the clown conspiracy.

Things don’t get any easier for the Mayfair-Richards family when they arrive home after a nice private dinner; all of them are in high spirits. This elation is brief, however, when Oz runs into the kitchen, and he sees his guinea pig  in the last seconds of its life, being microwaved to death! Immediately after the pet’s insides splatter all over the microwave, Ally rushes over to the neighbors. She vehemently accuses them of murdering the pet, but they are insistent that they had nothing to do with it.

As they leave the Wilton’s in a huff, Ally and Ivy see the mark of the cult on the side of their neighbors’ house. Despite Ivy’s plea to warn the Wiltons, Ally refuses to let her wife do so. This moral debate is cut-short when Ally sees a group of men, covered from head-to-toe, spraying the green chemical in her yard. Without thinking, she runs over and rips off one of the chemical sprayers gas-masks. To her shock, this only reveals a smiley face, not a human one. The smiley-faced perpetrator then sprays Ally with the gas, causing her to pass out.

After going to the hospital for blood tests, the family gets a day or so of solace. Alas, this is very short lived when Oz panics and calls-out to his mothers. They find that his computer has frozen, due to a virus. When they demanded he open the laptop, it’s revealed the child clicked on a link he shouldn’t have. This link took him to a porn site containing a video of Ally in the tub, being seduced by Winter. Understandably, Ivy doesn’t take such an infidelity lightly and proclaims that she and Oz are leaving. Again, their dispute is cut short when they see police lights at their neighbors’ house.

Upon going outside, they see Harrison, being dragged out; covered in Meadow’s blood. As he’s being arrested on suspicion of murdering his wife (also known as Uxoricide), the neighbor shouts that Ally is responsible for it. During all the commotion, Ivy and Ally have managed to lose track of Oz. They run back to their house only to find their son standing there in awe. As they follow his gaze, they are shocked to see a trail of blood smeared up the wall. At the end of the crimson trail is another big smiley face. As the realization that they have now been targeted sets in, the episode ends, cutting to black.

I must say that I’m still quite entertained by where the season is going. However, I found this episode to be mediocre. As I mentioned in the opening of this recap, this was another building episode. The issue is that this time, it all felt very repetitive as opposed to last week. I mean, how many times can we see Ally freak-out? Also, I’m not as intrigued as I would like to be and this is because I feel I know where the season is going. It is revealed that (in addition to Winter) the neighbors, the detective and most probably Ally’s therapist, are part of Kai’s cabal.

Once again, this leads me to hypothesize that Cult is going to take some sort of Rosemary’s Baby (1968) route. I sincerely hope I’m wrong about this because the only thing better than being entertained is being intrigued and surprise. Not to mention, the show has seemingly forgotten about its political backdrop this week. Despite all this, I look forward to next week’s episode. I ultimately am intrigued and have enough faith in creators Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk. It’s my hope that they stop clowning around so much in the next episode.

Episode 4: 11/9 will air Next Tuesday, September 26th at 10:00 PM, on FX.

Ben Martin

Ben Martin is a life-long movie & TV lover. In his teens, he decided he wanted to do more than just watch the things he enjoyed. So Ben decided to start writing his opinions on TV & movies a well. Mr. Martin also writes screenplays, short stories and opinion columns.