The Wild, True-Life Stories of the Cult Leaders That Inspired ‘American Horror Story’

The latest episode of American Horror Story: Cult, “Drink the Kool-Aid,” opens with a sequence that chronicles the rise of three different real-life cult leaders: Marshall Applewhite of Heaven’s Gate, David Koresh of the Branch Davidians, and Jim Jones of the Peoples Temple. Evan Peters steps into the acting shoes of all three men, whom we meet through what resembles old found footage (but is really carefully created by director Angela Bassett, a frequent AHS actress, as excellent behind the camera as she is in front). Evan Peters’ Kai narrates the footage, giving a brief rundown of the accomplishments each of these dangerous men and the various ways they were able to influence their followers.

The manic and maligned Kai is so obsessed with the sort of individual power afforded to these messiah-like leaders that he airbrushes their stories from something utterly horrific (all of them were responsible for massive loss of life) to something aspirational. And though he gives a quick history lesson, he doesn’t get into the nitty gritty of the horror these men wreaked on their devoted. So we’ll do it for him.