During the What the Fest!? Film Festival, a four-day showcase of everything ranging from horror, thrillers, sci-fi and more, AMC gave guests a sneak peek into an unseen episode from their new series, “The Terror”. Though I unfortunately couldn’t make it to the festival, I did have a chance to watch the entire series for review. “The Terror” is based off the 2007 novel of the same name by author Dan Simmons and has easily become not only one of my favorite books, but one of my favorite series of all time.
“The Terror” centers around the explorer ships HMS Erebus and HMS Terror which sets off on an uncharted voyage in 1846 to find the Northwest Passage. While en route, a decision is made that results in both ships being ice locked and isolated. With hope beginning to dwindle, and an unseen force stalking the crew, those aboard try to fight for survival not just from the supernatural, but from the harsh weather and themselves. The show stars Jared Harris (Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows), Tobias Menzies (Casino Royale), Paul Ready (“Utopia”), Adam Nagaitis (The Commuter), Ian Hart (Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone), Nieve Nielsen (The New World), and Ciaran Hinds (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2).
Let me first start out by saying that I had read the book a few years ago and absolutely loved it, so when I learned that AMC was releasing a series based surrounding the novel I was elated. Based off the true story of the voyage of these ships, the combination of horror and the historically accurate time period made this story both horrifying and fascinating. The show does a great job of transferring Dan Simmons’ novel from page to screen and in its 10 episodes we clearly see how these men go from comrades, whether through real time or in flashbacks, to enemies in the most horrific of situations. As the series continues from one episode to the next the terror of what is outside the ship gets overtaken by the insanity and fear the crew displays, proving once again that humans can be just as deadly as any monster.
When hearing that anything is based on a true story, there is usually a lot of speculation. In the case of “The Terror” most of the characters featured were members of Sir John Franklin’s crew and their disappearance has led many to theorize on what could have happened. In regards to the Monster, which is a fictional character in Simmons’ book, it has a lot of parallels within Inuit mythology. What’s interesting about that is it would seem the monster was how the English perceived the Esquimaux tribe and the fear that they had of those who were different from them. The show does a fantastic job of showcasing the ignorance and judgmental nature that these men inhabit and the resulting consequences from their actions. This plays out in such a terrific way especially when religion is used heavily as their motives for decision making.
For those looking for a bit more in terms of horrific imagery, you are in luck. “The Terror” is draped heavily in blood loss and gore. Set against a monotone color palette of white, grey, and soft blue, the contrast is striking when the bloodshed begins. Not all of this is at the hands of the creature, though it does a great job of satisfying those who love seeing people ripped to shred, it is also highlighted through the actions of the crew, mostly those who turn towards cannibalism, as well as the sickness that is spreading throughout the ships. This results in immediate tensions between the crew members as they do whatever they can to survive.
Speaking of the palpable tension, the actors all bring their A game to this series, with standouts being Jared Harris, as Frances Crozier, Tobias Menzies, as James Fitzjames, Paul Ready as Harry Goodsir, and Adam Nagaitis as Cornelius Hickey. Having already been familiar with Jared Harris and Tobias Menzies from their previous work in film I knew they would be the perfect fit for the show, but I was truly blown away by Paul Ready and Adam Nagaitis. Though opposing characters in regards to personality it was very interesting to see where their stories would go when the real terror began to sweep in. However, that’s not to say these were only ones with breakout performances as the whole cast was brilliant from the first episode to the very last.
Overall, AMC’s “The Terror” is easily one of the best adaptations of a book I have seen as well as one of the best series I have ever watched on television. The best part of this show is that it fills the void that fans of history or fans of horror are looking for. With beautiful cinematography and production design it’s easy to see why “The Terror” is getting so much attention. If you are already a fan of the show, I would highly suggest reading the book afterwards to fill in any questions you may have. For those just hearing about the show, I suggest catching up now so that you can see what all the buzz is about. “The Terror” arrives each Monday at 9pm/8c on AMC.