With The Walking Dead a full eight seasons in and counting, AMC’s new great horror hope is The Terror. Boasting a stonking survival-horror premise, one hinged on actual historical events and a cruel paradox – when the great outdoors is so expansive, so mind-bogglingly vast, there’s almost zero chance of escape – throw in a supernatural threat and a slasher-type setup into the mix, the dramatic stakes are desperately high.
Headlined by the great Ciarán Hinds (Captain John Franklin), Jared Harris (Captain Francis Crozier) and Tobias Menzies (Captain James Fitzjames), The Terror has reimagined a notorious 1845 maritime-exploration disaster as a 10-part creature feature. It’s based on the 2007 doorstop-sized historical fiction novel by sci-fi author Dan Simmons and told in non-linear style, a structure the show looks to have bravely kept judging from episodes 1 and 2. The Terror springboards off the search for the Northwest Passage, a treacherous route over the top of Arctic Canada, which teased a navigable path from the North Atlantic to the Bering Sea and into the Pacific. It was an all-consuming obsession for the 19th century British Navy, for political reasons as much as bragging rights.
At the midpoint of their journey into frozen realms, ships HMS Terror and HMS Erebus became trapped in sea ice, and henceforth hunting season is on in a big way. Teasingly glimpsed during The Terror’s excellent opening episodes, the thing lurking in the wilderness is described by a shaman as “a thing of muscles and spells”, and horror fans will no doubt immediately recall the gloopy and icky delights of John Carpenter’s The Thing (1982). But the tone here is set more to eerie chills than body horror gruesome (at least for now).
Of course, Franklin and his officers are warned to turn back on several occasions, but the arrogant Brits are having none of it. Classic. If it’s not the extreme weather conditions that gets the crew or the starving to death, it could well be the hungry-hungry wildlife as much as the lurking beast.
Brought to the screen by producers and showrunners Soo Hugh and David Kajganich (who penned the forthcoming Suspiria remake for Luca Guadagnino), Ridley Scott’s name crops up in the opening credits as an executive producer. The pair described the great director’s involvement as that of an experienced master happy to offer Hugh and Kajganich a helping hand at any time. His 40-odd years of movie-making experience especially came in handy, they explained in the Q&A after the world premiere screening at the 68th Berlin Film Festival, when discussing how to get every cent from the production design and special effects budgets. Scott’s advice paid off because The Terror looks a very classy affair.
With its realistically dull candle and torch-lit photography, interpersonal bickering and dramas among the crew, those top-class production values (amazingly, the show was made almost entirely in a Budapest film studio), accurate period costumes and a creepy slow-burn approach punctuated with blood-and-guts, The Terror promises an epic tale of mental and physical hardship and supernatural horror; the real and the fantastical coming together in nightmarish circumstances.
The Terror begins on 24 April at 9pm on AMC UK, exclusive to BT.