The Terror is a horror anthology show that follows very loosely the true stories of supernatural frights throughout history. The first series follows the tale of two Royal Navy Ships on a mission to find a passage from Britain through to China and India. As they trawl through the icy wastelands they’re hunted by a mysterious and terrifying creature. What follows is a slow descent into what can only be described as Hell on Earth.
The term “slow burn” is used a lot for television series. It’s said as a way to tell you that you have to give the show a chance. It doesn’t quite kick off as soon as it starts. It’s understandably something that can put people off. The Terror is indeed a slow burning show. It takes its time to set up the mission, the crew and the environment its working in. Then it will immediately have someone just get dragged off the ship and ripped to pieces.
The series directors clearly took inspiration from Jaws when deciding on how to best shoot the creature. Throughout the first half and quite a ways into the second you barely see anything other than a silhouette and the remains of the people it devours. The practical effects that are used to depict the shreds of humans are brilliant and visceral. You can practically smell the flesh rotting.
Really though, the namesake of the show isn’t the arctic predator. It’s the mindset of the crew as they plunge into disarray and eventual madness. The best parts of the show are the ways that officers and seamen cope with the horrors that surround and invade their ships. All of this is acted phenomenally by a stellar cast. Ciarán Hinds perfectly portrays a humble commander who’s clearly in well over his head. Tobias Menzies brings his usual charisma to his role as the second in command. But the real stand out, as usual, is Jared Harris. Harris never fails to steal every scene he’s ever been in. This doesn’t just go for brilliant shows like The Terror and Chernobyl but slightly less great ones like Carnival Row. Even in The Crown, where he’s only in one episode, he’s stayed one of the best parts of that drama.
The Terror can be quite demanding of it’s audience. Like a lot of military films and programmes, it’s difficult to identify characters. Everyone wears the same clothes and they all have very similar hairstyles. There’s also quite a lot going on, especially considering this takes place on two rather small ships. A few plot points can be quite speedily and vaguely explained (sometimes even not at all) but this is merely a testament to how jam packed this thrill ride is with content.
Horror Television is certainly having a renaissance as of late. With a thrilling combination of Jaws and John Carpenter’s The Thing with a slight sprinkle of The Bounty; the first season of The Terror should remain one of the great examples of what this genre can achieve in this medium.
The Terror is available on Blu-Ray, DVD and Digital May 3.