The premise of “Cult” feels like a new age serial version of John Carpenter’s “In the Mouth of Madness.” Wherein the former title examined the rabid fandom of literary fans with author Sutter Cane who was an amalgamation of HP Lovecraft and Stephen King, the new “Cult” examines the sheer lunacy that can arise from the fandom of television shows. The series so far isn’t an indictment on the dangers of fandom, but it does explore how passionate fans can be, and how they can often breed a cult-like following that’ll do anything to honor the spirit of their favorite series.
What’s interesting is that much of the pilot of “Cult” is constructed like the aforementioned Carpenter horror film, where the episode is so absolutely meta and self-contained, that we can never be sure what is reality, nor can we be certain what is a clue for our audience, or what is merely a red herring. What we think is the prologue of the show is something else entirely, the dialogue is often cryptic in delivery, and there are many subtle subliminal clues peppered throughout the episode that could lead the fictional and actual audience to decode the mystery of “Cult.”
Meanwhile, the show’s reality is focused on the rabid fandom of a horror show named “Cult” on the CW, which is the name of the show on the actual CW, and the world within “Cult” often feels sentient and aware of the audience watching, even though there are visual clues that the individuals within the series are merely actors. The sub-plot behind the scenes of the show within the show is that the producers want to turn “Cult” in to an even larger entity than it already is. Which the show’s head writer does not want since he’s confident in the show’s momentum, while a production is horrified at the repercussions of even more influence on the world that “Cult” can obtain. The series plays on the “Psycho” gimmick by not introducing the actual show’s protagonist until at least thirty minutes in to the pilot. Matthew Davis stars as Jeff, a journalist and blogger who is called by his long lost little brother to meet him at a diner. Jeff’s brother Nate is convinced that he is being watched, and followed, and the only way to save him is to help him uncover the secrets of “Cult.”
Though there are moments of sheer paranoia, Jeff is convinced his brother has gone back to drug abuse. Jeff is given a pair of 3D glasses and is given some minor verbal clues, as Nate basically retreats to his home. When Jeff goes to visit his brother to check on him, Nate has disappeared and Jeff soon begins to connect the dots once he discovers his brother’s Nate’s clues and the pair of glasses he possesses are connected to the show and its current storyline. One thing that one has to wonder is what exactly is happening and who or what is this reclusive creator of “Cult” that no one can reach or even speak to? Has the show accidentally conceived a legion of hardcore fans willing to do whatever it takes to keep the show’s secrets? Or has the show’s mysterious creator unearthed a parallel universe where Jeff’s double is a female detective, and the women named Meadow she is looking for throughout the series is Jeff’s doppleganger brother Nate? Is the “Cult” on the television the reality and the “Cult” we’re watching fiction?
Nevertheless, “Cult” has so far proven to be a very clever and engaging horror show and one that will hopefully flourish for a few seasons. For a network whose biggest hit was “Gossip Girl,” and currently “Hart of Dixie,” there may be a chance that “Cult” will barely last two seasons. But then, it could end up being a respectable hit and provide us with a very excellent genre gem we can analyze for years. Wilder things have happened. I hope to see more from this universe, that’s for sure
“Cult” airs Tuesdays on the CW Network.