In 2016, 60 members of the Lonergan Institute fled their camp in Olympia, Washington. They are known as #TheDeleted.
If there's one person who can bring the creeping unease and emotional pain of cult victimhood to life on screen, it's American Psycho creator and all-around fucking genius Bret Easton Ellis.
You know that moment in The Silence of the Lambs where Lecter drops the fava beans line and Clarice suddenly realizes what kind of pitiless, sadistic monster she's dealing with? That's what Ellis's stuff is like. Get seduced by the louche charm until it bares its teeth and the brutality scratches you raw.
Ellis's new TV show The Deleted examines the paranoia, fear and darkness of a group of pretty, young things who escaped from a cult. Here's how the disturbing new series was directly influenced by real-life events.
Aberrant Sexual Behavior
- Real-life cult: Skoptsy
- Where: Oryol, Russia, 1771
Sex and power are often intertwined, and if cult leaders aren't after your money, they're probably after some weird sex stuff. The Deleted suffered through a series of warped perversions within the institute, tinged with the uncomfortable ambivalence that, at certain points, they may have liked it. How do you define consent in an organization that strives to take that away from you?
One of the strangest examples of a cult policing the sexuality of its members arose in 18th century Russia. The Skoptsy believed that curbing physical lust between its members was of such great importance, that anesthetic-free amateur castration was enforced. Thousands of peasants underwent complete removal of the penis or breasts in a misguided attempt to revert to a state of humanity destroyed by Eve's Original Sin.
Exploitation Of Young Or Vulnerable Members
- Real-life cult: Traveling carnival of satanism
- Where: Georgia, USA, 1991
Although cults prefer physically healthy members who will contribute to their business, a degree of emotional vulnerability is key to attaining what all cult leaders really want: control. The Deleted are an emotionally damaged group of young people, with one sobbing, "Guidance is the only thing that makes the pain go away, it's the only thing." A successful cult leader will create a void in their victim's life — separation from normal support systems such as family, friends and jobs — and offer themselves and their teachings as the only source of comfort to their followers.
Once deprived of other stimuli, cult followers may experience a rush of elation following a moment of approval from their leader, keeping them beholden to the sect. Mark Goodwin, who brutally murdered and mutilated a man who wanted to join his cult, said of the practice, "Satanism is like a drug that's addictive and harmful. You get high, and once you're over it, you've got to inject even more than the first time. It's the same with satanism."
Strange Hierarchy And Layers Of Deception
- Real Life Institution: Church of Scientology
- Where: California based, 1954–present
Members of cults are often segregated for nonsensical reasons by the upper echelons of the group, in a bid to retain power from within. In The Deleted, there are different tiers within the Lonergan Institute, with only those at Tier 4 or above privy to information about the cult's more nefarious practices, such as the "disappearing" of people.
Mysterious real life institution Scientology is the most famous example of an organization creating an elaborate system of classification for different clearance levels, with eight levels of Operating Thetan to progress through before the colorfully named ''unreleased levels'', such as Psychic Telekinesis Thetan Unleashed and Supreme Being.
It's All About Control
- Real-life cult: Movement for the Restoration of the Ten Commandments of God
- Where: Kanungu, Uganda, 2000
The Deleted may have left the Lonergan Institute, but in many ways they've never freed themselves from the cult's influence and control.
The members of the Movement for the Restoration of the Ten Commandments of God were so cowed into submission that they rarely spoke out of fear of bearing false witness. Their leader Paulo Kashaku banned soap and sex, as a means of dehumanizing and therefore controlling his subjects.
Still, even the most downtrodden of people will kick back eventually, which may have been the cause of the Movement for the Restoration's demise. A fire ravaged the group's HQ in Kanungu, which appeared to be a mass suicide — until forensic investigators proved that many victims had died before the fire was lit, having been poisoned, stabbed or possibly strangled. Murder is the ultimate form of control, and for the Movement, as for the Deleted, there is no escape.
Watch The Deleted. Now Streaming only on Fullscreen: http://full.sc/thedeletedseries