Cults are one of the recurring stereotypes in the horror genre. Cults bring unsettling feelings to the audience through their dogmatic beliefs and sometimes violent and inhumane rituals. Netflix's limited series 'Devil in Ohio' centres on cult activities. It has a promising start but fails to explore its horror elements.
The story is led by Dr Suzanne Mathis, a psychiatrist at an Ohio hospital. One day a girl ends up in her hospital with several wounds. Suffering the trauma from abuse, she can't reveal her identity to Suzanne and other hospital staff. Though the girl tells her name Mae, there is no luck finding her family. So, Suzanne takes her home and asks her children to make room for Mae until she can find a foster home for her.
The story takes turns after that. Mae is not just an ordinary girl who suffered abuse; she is also doctrine by the satanic cult of her hometown, Amontown. She has had an uncomfortable appearance since her first day with the Mathis family. Soon she starts to influence and exert control over Suzanne's three daughters in the cult's ways. These begin to take a toll on the family.
Like Mae, Suzanne also had trauma from the past. She gives her shelter sympathising with her. But soon, she realises it's a mistake as Mae is disrupting her family from the inside, and people from the outside turn her life upside down too.
Why is the sheriff from Amontown desperately searching for Mae? What does the cult want from her? Why is the neighbouring rural Amontown so mysterious? What sinister secrets is it hiding? Suzanne must find out answers and save her family from the devil.
This one-off series has eight episodes, each lasting 40-49 minutes. This series will not be renewed for another season, so it might be why Netflix is not exploring the potential.
The pilot episode has a promising start, with a disturbing ambience circling Mae and her cult activities. But as the story progresses, those promises turn out false; those unsettling feelings never keep or ramp up the suspense.
Though the show has the name Devil in Ohio, little of the devil is present here.
Moreover, some characters feel left out and do not impact the main story. For example, Peter, the husband of Suzanne, is mainly shown interacting with his clients for his business. Still, the scenarios are of no use to the plot and render the character useless. Only three characters mostly carry the show - Suzanne, Mae, and Jules, Suzanne's daughter. Madeleine Arthur portrays Mae very well, as she is most successful in the horror and thriller genres.
Devil in Ohio has a great story as a suspense thriller. The first part indicates that it could be a horror series. Still, Netflix's unwillingness to explore the story and genuinely adapt Daria Polatin's original book makes the show lose that potential.