CW's Cult Smart, Promising, Creepy
Television Review: Cult, "Pilot"
by R.J. Carter
Published: July 15, 2012
Re-published: February 20, 2013
Well this is something new. It's not often I find a show with a fresh concept. If you're looking for something scary and disturbingly cool, then you can settle in to watch Cult on the CW. And if that's not enough, then you can pull back and watch Cult on the CW.
Hey, I'm as big a fan of metafiction as the next person, but seeing a show called Cult running as a fictional series inside a show called Cult is bound to twist a few people's minds. It's like reading a book called Inkheart to find out it's about a book called Inkheart -- only with a Charles Manson-like central figure and a "cult" of devoted fans of the series.
These elements of the show help frame things up for the real mystery, involving disappearing siblings, secret societies, and Live Action Role Playing (LARP) fans who love to take their appreciation of Cult to the next level, looking for clues within the show for an extra layer of meaning and dressing up like the characters.
Things begin with FBI agent Kelly Collins (Supernatural's Alona Tal) on an obsessed mission to find her missing sister. She's certain that cult leader Billy Grimm (Prison Break's Robert Knepper) has done something to her as retribution for Kelly having managed to break away from his control. The tension mounts as she and her partner investigate a creepy old shack that's obviously been painted up by members of the cult, all of which leads up to a spring-loaded cat moment.
Just as you're recovering from this shock, we pull back, and suddenly you're in a bar, watching the events play out on CW's hit show, Cult -- along with several other bar patrons who gather here at the Fan Dom Main Cafe to watch their favorite show, compare notes, and blog their findings, feelings, and suspicions. There's a whole underground network of Cult fansites, according to Cult set researcher Skye Yarrow (Jessica Lucas of Melrose Place). One of the patrons is Nate Sefton, who believes the scene we just pulled back from revealed the final clue he's been looking for. Soon enough, he's twigged to something dangerous enough to call his brother, reporter Jeff Sefton (Matt Davis, The Vampire Diaries).
Snap! That should be enough to get an investigation done right away. Unfortunately, Nate's had a history of obsessing over things, as well as abusing drugs. Jeff just wants to get his life straightened out, and doesn't need Nate screwing things up for him again. But when Nate disappears leaving behind rather gory evidence, Jeff is inexorably drawn in to a world that seems to be playing out in plain sight, in front of millions of viewers each week... if only he can decipher the same clues his brother has. But mysterious "others" are out to prevent him -- even pin things on him, if they can. Working with Skye and armed with a pair of 3D glasses, Jeff is about to discover a very creepy world existing all about him.
Right away, you should be able to tell that Cult is not your average suspense drama. It even opens with the flashed warning, "Do Not Watch This!" -- a sure fire way to make viewers stick around for a little while, at least. And that's all the time executive producer Rockne S. O'Bannon needs to get into your head and under your skin. He's certainly in a position to know about whacked-out fans and obsessive fan sites, and finding a way to make a show about them is twisted genius.
Off hand, I'd be hard pressed to say anything bad about this debut. Partly because I'm excited about it... and partly because I'm scared what might happen to me if I did. If I disappear, perhaps I should find a way to code a hidden message into my reviews... just in case.
Cult debuts early 2013 on the CW Network. Check your local listings.