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TV Review: The Terror

The Terror, The Terror TV Review, TV Review, Drama, Thriller, Horror, AMC, Ciaran Hinds, Tobias Menzies, Jared Harris

SYNOPSIS: Inspired by a true story, The Terror centers on the British Royal Navy’s perilous voyage into unchartered territory as the crew attempts to discover the Northwest Passage. Faced with treacherous conditions, limited resources, dwindling hope and fear of the unknown, the crew is pushed to the brink of extinction. Frozen, isolated and stuck at the end of the earth, The Terror highlights all that can go wrong when a group of men, desperate to survive, struggle not only with the elements, but with each other.

The Terror, The Terror TV Review, TV Review, Drama, Thriller, Horror, AMC, Ciaran Hinds, Tobias Menzies, Jared Harris

REVIEW: After AMC hit paydirt with The Walking Dead, they announced their intent to adapt Dan Simmons' acclaimed historical horror novel The Terror. With director Ridley Scott producing, the period drama with supernatural elements could draw thespians and fans of high drama while also courting the fans of zombie headshots. The resulting 10 episode event series (reported in some places to be the first season of an anthology series) is definitely one of the most ambitious projects that AMC has attempted but absolutely not designed for the same audiences as The Walking Dead. The Terror is a great watch and blends elements of the Russell Crowe film MASTER AND COMMANDER with John Carpenter's THE THING. If a movie about sailing and monsters in the Arctic piques your interest, The Terror is for you. But, more than just a scary story, The Terror is a historical chronicle of a real unexplained chapter in history that works brilliantly as a complex cable drama.

Set in 1847, The Terror follows the ill-fated expedition of Sir John Franklin (Ciaran Hinds) and Francis Crozier (Jared Harris) as their ships, the HMS Erebus and HMS Terror, attempt to discover the Northwest Passage through the Canadian Arctic towards the Pacific Ocean. After several failed expeditions, Franklin is hopeful that this will be his ticket to the history books while Crozier, his second in command, still stings from his proposal being rejected by Franklin's niece. Eventually, the two ships become locked in the ice for months which is where the bulk of the series is set. Now, I don't have to tell you what happens when dozens of able-bodied sailors have to resort to when supplies run low and hunger sets in, but The Terror does not shy away from showcasing the horrors of starvation and madness along with the dissention amongst the ranks. In fact, from the very first scene of the premiere episode, you know that The Terror is not going to pull any punches when it comes to blood and death.

Each chapter of the ten episode run of The Terror is intercut between the crew stuck aboard their frozen vessels and flashbacks to their lives prior to departing on the expedition to the Great White North. The non-linear approach to telling the story is lifted directly from Dan Simmons' novel. The marketing for The Terror is heavily stressing the fact that the story is based on actual events but records of what happened to Franklin and Crozier and their crews has been lost to history. Simmons instead used the actual crew of the Erebus and Terror to populate the characters in his novel but everything else is fictional including the horrific monster hunting them down. Simmons' novels all veer towards elements of the supernatural and The Terror is no exception. While I won't spoil the events of the show, there are moments watching this series where you could believe that there is nothing supernatural at all and everything could have a natural explanation. But, the excellent use of atmosphere and editing does an admirable job of making the viewer question not only their sanity but the reliability of what the characters themselves are seeing and experiencing.

There is also a lot to be said about the production values of this series. While films like MASTER AND COMMANDER have taken the visual spectacle of 19th Century sailing vessels to a new level of realism, The Terror strands those massive ships in the ice. Production took place in Budapest and Croatia to simulate the Arctic wastes of Northern Canada while full scale ships were built on a massive soundstage to replicate the frozen tundra and seas. Despite the scale of everything, The Terror is a claustrophobic thriller that evoked memories of scenes from THE SHINING and THE THING. When you are in that esteemed company, you know you have done something right. Whatever the marketing will have you believe, The Terror is not a jump out of your seat thrill ride full of spewing blood, though there is a fair amount of death and violence. This is a series for the dedicated viewer who will not be left disappointed by having a little patience.

The Terror, The Terror TV Review, TV Review, Drama, Thriller, Horror, AMC, Ciaran Hinds, Tobias Menzies, Jared Harris

Led by Ciaran Hinds and Jared Harris, two of the best actors working today, the cast is full of great performances from recognizable faces like Game of Thrones alum Tobias Menzies who plays Franklin's first officer, James Fitzjames. At one point, The Terror was being developed as a feature film, hence Ridley Scott's involvement, but this is a story that cannot be packed into a two hour movie. Rather, Harris and Hinds allow for a simmering tension that builds over each progressive episode and eventually comes to a head. it also allows for the less familiar actors to align themselves with either captain, eventually leading the way for the unfortunate deaths of everyone involved. Once the true nature of the monster stalking the sailors is made evident, you won't even flinch at the suspension of disbelief it requires because you have become so invested in the fates of each of these unfortunate characters.

The Terror is a top notch drama that also works as one of the scariest series in recent televison history. While not full of jump scares, The Terror works as a manipulation of the viewer's expectations while also a look at what the average person will do when put into a survival situation. You can do your own research online about the lost Franklin expedition which in and of itself is a bit of a scary story. What AMC achieves with this take on the tale is great television and great entertainment. I hope the producers don't try to stretch the story into a second season and instead try another original tale as this ten episode run works and doesn't need to be expanded at all. 

The Terror debuts on AMC starting March 26th.

Source: JoBlo.com

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