Created by Elise McCredie and Matt Cameron from the 2019 novel ‘In the Clearing’ by JP Pomare, ‘The Clearing’ is a Hulu (Disney+ internationally) psychological thriller series from Australia. The story follows two women — Freya Heywood (Teresa Palmer) and Adrienne Beaufort / Maitreya (Miranda Otto). When Freya was much younger she was part of a cult headed by Adrienne and is still traumatized by her experience. When a girl goes missing in the present day in rural Victoria, Freya begins to suspect that people involved with the cult are responsible.
The narrative of the series shifts back and forth between the past and present, weaving a complex story of justice, trauma, and redemption. If you have watched and loved the series, here is a list of recommendations that might suit your taste. You can watch most of these shows like ‘The Clearing’ on Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon Prime.
7. Devil in Ohio (2022)
Like in ‘The Clearing,’ a dangerous cult is at the center of the narrative of ‘Devil in Ohio.’ Moreover, the relationship between a woman and a mother figure serves as a key plot device in both shows. The story in ‘Devil in Ohio’ follows Dr. Suzanne Mathis, a hospital psychiatrist, who encounters an unidentified young woman at her workplace. They start to connect after Suzanne calms the girl down. Eventually, the girl reveals that her name is Mae.
Without anyone else to foster her, Suzanne takes Mae to her home, where the younger one is introduced to Suzanne’s family. As the series progresses, it becomes apparent that Mae used to be part of a devil-worshipping cult. As Suzanne devotes herself to protecting the girl, she becomes increasingly alienated from her family.
6. The Leftovers (2014-2017)
Most of the foundational principles of the Kindred involve a post-apocalyptic world. They fear that humanity will destroy itself in World War III, so they are preparing young children to survive on that altered Earth and bring humanity back from the edge of extinction. The cults in ‘The Leftovers’ have come into existence after a near-apocalyptic event in which 2% of the world’s population has suddenly disappeared. As the old beliefs fail to provide a believable explanation of what happened, they come to be regarded as obsolete. In the absence of conventional beliefs, the cults take root in the everyday lives of the people.
5. America Horror Story (2011-)
The seventh season of ‘American Horror Story’ is also called ‘American Horror Story: Cult.’ Set in the fictional suburb of Brookfield Heights, Michigan, in 2017, the story revolves around members of a cult terrorizing the residents in the aftermath of Donald Trump winning the 2016 US Election. While the cultish behavior exhibited by characters in this show leans more toward surrealism and horror, it is still triggered by real-life events such as Trump becoming the president. ‘The Clearing’ is more rooted in reality, whereas ‘American Horror Story: Cult’ is a reaction to reality. But both shows accurately depict how cults function and torment and terrorize their victims.
4. Servant (2019-2023)
Created by Tony Basgallop and with M. Night Shyamalan serving as an executive producer, ‘Servant’ always keeps the audience guessing about the presence of the supernatural in its narrative. The plot follows a Philadelphia-based urban couple whose infant son seemingly perishes in a tragic incident. To help his wife, Dorothy, deal with her trauma, the man, Sean, gets her a reborn doll. When she becomes too attached to it, Sean hires a nanny. Unbeknownst to the others, the nanny, or Leanne, is on the run from a cult. Like the Kindred, the beliefs of the Church of Lesser Saints in ‘Servant’ are doomsday centric. Both sects believe that they are their respective leaders are the messiah.
3. The Third Day (2020)
Created by Felix Barrett and Dennis Kelly, ‘The Third Day’ tells the story of a man and a woman arriving at Osea Island at different times and finding themselves entrapped in the strange customs of the locals. Sam (Jude Law) and Helen (Naomie Harris) have a shared past that isn’t revealed until later. They arrive on the island in summer and winter, respectively, seeking different things. There is also a third part of the series, called ‘Autumn,’ which connects ‘Summer’ and ‘Winter,’ creating a complete narrative. Like in ‘The Clearing,’ ‘The Third Day’ is predominantly set in a rural area, where the cult controls every aspect of life.
2. Welcome to Eden (2022-)
Like in ‘The Clearing,’ it is underscored in the Spanish series ‘Welcome to Eden’ that the cults target the vulnerable and directionless young men and women, catching them before their personal philosophy takes shape. In ‘Welcome to Eden,’ a group of young partygoers arrives on a mysterious island, where they are given a wristband. Later, some wristbands start to light up, and the people they belong to receive a drink called Blue Eden. They wake up the following day to discover that the boat has left without them. The owners of the island welcome them to stay there until the boat returns, but things soon take a dark turn, and the young men and women start to realize that they are being inducted into a murderous cult.
1. The Family (2019)
‘The Clearing’ is a fictionalized retelling of an Australian cult called The Family. In contrast, ‘The Family’ is a documentary series about a conservative Christian group known as the Fellowship, or The Family. It is a U.S.-based nonprofit religious and political organization that actively stays away from publicity, leaving much about it shrouded in mystery. The series explores the history of this organization and the role it has played in US politics since its inception in April 1935 by Abraham Vereide.