1) Joey's Pick: The Terror (season 1)
In an effort to better relate to sociopaths, and because I’m tired of Liz calling me a wuss, I decided to take a more keen interest in the horror genre. Being the unimaginative dork that I am, I perused my many streaming services for a recommendation that seemed like an ideal introduction. While browsing Hulu, I found it. The Terror. “Brilliant,” I said. There is no way that isn’t scary. The title alone sounds like it could easily be literally one of the first three scary things ever made. I was half expecting to see Bela Lugosi throwing slow motion haymakers at a tall man with elephantitis. What I got instead was an immersive and thrilling rendition of the namesake novel by the criminally underrated Dan Simmons. The Terror is a fictional reimagining of Sir John Franklin’s ill-fated 1845 expedition in search of the Northwest Passage (history spoiler, everyone dies). The Terror follows the crews of the expedition’s two ships, Terror and Erebus. Somewhat ironically, the show begins where the expedition ends, when the two ships become stuck in the ice and are forced to wait out the winter. What began as a typically optimistic and intrepid voyage becomes a tooth-and-nail fight for survival as the crew struggles to survive in the unforgiving conditions of the Arctic Circle. Due to the showrunners’ adherence to Simmons’s meticulous, almost infuriating commitment to detail and historical accuracy, the seemingly tedious long periods of no action is where the show excels. The military culture of the Royal Navy is always present as the characters use what was advanced technology at the time to conduct activities that would appear pedestrian and unnecessary to anyone not stuck in frozen boat in the middle of nowhere. Whereas in most stories the antagonist is a person, in The Terror, it is the ice itself. You can almost feel the insufferable cold seeping through the screen as the crew bundles up in as much wool as the British empire could possibly supply. As a viewer, you find yourself sharing in their misery as it envelops every inch of their world. But the crew soon learn the ice is not the most dangerous thing in this, the part of the world where no one goes for obvious reasons. A ferocious beast that may or may not be a polar bear terrorizes the crew, driving home the point that no one and nothing wants them there. Terror serves as an indictment of imperialist hubris, complete with a subplot about how it’s totally not cool to slaughter native people. Happy belated Columbus Day.
P.S. Season 2 takes place in a World War 2 Japanese internment camp, in and American Horror Story-style episodic iteration that will surely deliver more of the same.
Lizbette's Pick: It Chapter Two
I’ve gotten some interesting reviews about Andrés Muschietti’s IT Chapter Two, so I decided to dedicate my blurb to it this week. Most of my friends and acquittances claim to have certainly enjoyed the film but admit to it through gritted teeth. When asked how it fared in comparison to the first, most people said it wasn’t as terrifying. Interestingly, when I went to watch the film, I couldn’t understand what my people were talking about; not 30 minutes into the movie I was more horrified than I had ever been during part one. Let me preface this discussion by saying that our personal circumstances and lived experiences are, in my opinion, what primarily shape how we receive and interpret popular culture texts. Consequently, my being more affected by IT Chapter Two might be entirely because its content pushed more buttons than the first. Regardless, upon reflection, I also came to the conclusion the part two and part one have completely different scare tactics. The horror in part one seemed more of the “jump scare” variety; terror through shock. Part two, on the other hand, was more disturbing than surprising. Because the Loser’s Club is all grown up and revisiting the past, part two is very much about conquering your inner demons, acceptance, and closure in the service of concluding one chapter of life and freely beginning another. This, to me, is one of the most terrifying and challenging things that a person can do; many people never do it while others don’t survive the process. It’s no longer just a difficult childhood the characters have to overcome, it’s a slew of adult life issues which are rooted precisely in that difficult childhood; double the work, double the terror. Another thing I think threw audience’s off was that part two is more focus on character discovery and development; less action, more context. This film definitely has more of a dramatic character. Additionally, the comic relief is abundant and, most of the time, amusing enough. Pennywise did not disappoint, and the adult cast was great with the occasional exception of Isaiah Mustafa (Mike Hanlon) and Jay Ryan (Ben Hanscom). Some of the special effects/makeup bordered on campy, very much à la cheesy 80s horror, which felt a bit awkward considering the rest of the film is anything but. Nonetheless, it was worth the three hours in a movie theater. The film brought up feelings of pain and nostalgia that were surprisingly potent; I ended up spending a good deal of time processing my own past through the film’s lens (warning: this exercise put me in a funk for quite a while). IT Chapter Two is a thought-provoking horror/drama, and if you go into it expecting the usual scare, you may end up disappointed.
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