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Tag Archive: thriller


Sometimes writers find the right obscure but fascinating event of the past to tap for the next fictionalized tale.  The Terror, a new series beginning tomorrow on AMC, has the potential of being the next clever idea in the historical horror category.  By all accounts it looks like a secret prequel to John Carpenter’s The Thing (just as the movie Split was a secret film in M. Night Shyamalan’s Unbreakable saga).  That’s not really the case for this suspense-thriller, supernatural-horror series despite its similarly chilling, desolate, Arctic setting, blood and gore horrors, and lurking menace.  It’s a fictionalized account of actual events from 1845-1848, written by author Dan Simmons in his 2007 novel of the same name.  But it couldn’t look more like a John Carpenter creation.  It begins tomorrow night on AMC.

The novel is such prime fodder for a novel it’s incredible it hadn’t been adapted before in this way.  In the real world the British Captain John Franklin was leading an Arctic exploration for the Northwest Passage with two ships, the HMS Terror (The Terror!  Yes, really!), and the HMS Erebus (in Greek mythology Erebus was a primordial deity representing the personification of deep darkness, shadow, and chaos).  It is no secret that the expedition is noted in history books as a famous lost expedition.  The British character names sound like you’d expect in a fictional seafaring crew penned by the likes of C.S. Forester, Patrick O’Brian, or Robert Louis Stevenson: Commander James Fitzjames, Dr Harry D.S. Goodsir, Cornelius Hickey, Seaman Magnus Manson.  Playing Captain Franklin is Ciarán Hinds, the brilliant character actor we’ve loved in everything from Mary Reilly and Jane Eyre to The Sum of All Fears, Road to Perdition, The Phantom of the Opera, Munich, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2, The Woman in Black, John Carter, and Shetland (and he was the voice of Steppenwolf in Justice League and starring now in Red Sparrow).  The captain of the Terror is played by Sherlock Holmes film star Jared Harris (Far and Away, Last of the Mohicans, Lady in the Water, The Riches, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, Fringe, The Man from U.N.C.L.E.). Fitzjames is played by Tobias Menzies (Star Wars: Rebels, Outalnder, Casino Royale, Law & Order: UK, Black Mirror, Doctor Who, Game of Thrones).  Alistair Petrie (Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, Victor Frankenstein, Hellboy) plays Dr. Stanley.  And Greta Scacchi (Emma, The Player, Presumed Innocent) plays Lady Franklin.

The production for The Terror looks gorgeously historic, the ships and costumes as intricately crafted as those in the A&E Horatio Hornblower series and Master and Commander.  The show’s production design is by Jonathan McKinstry (known for the original Total Recall, Band of Brothers, Penny Dreadful, The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles, The Borgias, and Sphere), with supervising art director Matthew Hywel-Davies (Doctor Who, Torchwood), and set decorator Kevin Downey (Mary Shelley, King Arthur, Penny Dreadful, Little Women).  Costumes were created by Annie Symons, who designed the wardrobes for King Arthur, The Woman in Black 2, and TV shows The Hollow Crown, Doctor Zhivago, Sweeney Todd, Dracula, and Great Expectations.  Showrunners are David Kajganich (In the Clouds, A Bigger Splash) and Soo Hugh (The Killing, Under the Dome, The Whispers).  The fact that Ridley Scott (Alien, Blade Runner, Alien: Covenant, Coma) is executive producer has been heavily marketed.

Here is a preview for tomorrow’s first episode of The Terror:

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Review by Elizabeth C. Bunce

One thing every woman knows, from childhood, is not to watch movies about serial killers when you are home alone.  It’s as basic as “don’t talk to strangers” and “don’t wear socks with sandals,” but it’s hard to manage when October wanes, spookiness abounds, your husband has gone to visit his parents for the weekend… and Lifetime airs Alphabet Killer, which the DVR cable guide announces stars Eliza Dushku, Carey Elwes, Timothy Hutton, and Michael Ironside.  Had I read in advance of this film’s dismal box office showing and even worse reviews, I might have passed it over for Haunted Hotels or a Psych rerun, but I was nevertheless drawn in by that intriguing combination of genre favorites.

Although critics and viewers panned the film on its tiny (No, really–all of two theaters, according to Wikipedia) theatrical release in 2008, it’s actually entirely watchable, if you come at it as if it’s a made-for-TV movie (which is what I thought. Eventually the bleeped-out curse words gave it away, but by then I was committed).  The story is more or less loosely based on a true crime from 1970s Rochester, NY, when three young girls with “double initial” names (i.e. Melissa Maestro, a character in the film) were murdered, their bodies dumped in local towns also starting with the same letter.  I say “more or less,” because the details of the crimes are very similar to the real case, but the story is set in the present day, and all of the characters and circumstances of the plot are entirely invented.

The film follows unstable homicide detective Megan Price (Dushku) as she works the case, all the while losing her grip on reality, due to adult-onset schizophrenia.  Elwes plays her superior officer and fiance, in a casting move that really ought to be creepy (especially in a movie about a pedophile), and yet somehow works.  We don’t mind Elwes and Dushku together, thanks to Dushku playing a bona fide adult with no trace of the teenaged characters that made her famous.  Hutton appears in a nice role as the head of Price’s mental health support group, and the only character who seems to consistently believe in her.  Ironside’s role is small, as the stock, uncooperative small-town sheriff, but he’s always fun to watch.  Overall, the film (at least the edited-for-TV version) shies away from gore and horror, instead relying on psychological suspense and an incredibly moody setting.  While the identity of the killer is somewhat predictable, in the tradition of films like Clint Eastwood’s Bloodwork, it still plays out well, treading the tricky path between Price’s efforts to solve the mystery, and her efforts to hold onto her sanity.

If the film succeeds, which I think it does, it’s mostly because of the cast.  I wouldn’t seek out the film, necessarily, but if you have a gap to fill in your Carey Elwes marathon, it’s worth a view.  Luckily Netflix has Alphabet Killer available as streaming video, should you find yourself alone on a late October evening with nothing spooky to watch.