Archive for the ‘cryptozoology’ category

“We Are Gone,” The Terror, Episode 10

May 22, 2018

All good things must come to an end, and so The Terror wrapped up its tenth and final season episode (“We Are Gone”) with more than a bit of Grand Guignol, complete with cannibalism and the Tuunbaq ripping into Hickey and his rebellious men, literally tearing the sadistic psychopath in two before succumbing to its poisonous diet. You are what you eat, after all…

We were given more of a close-up of the Inuit monster in this conclusive episode, his countenance a disturbing mixture of human and bestial elements, almost resembling someone’s crazy old uncle; maybe Uncle Fester of The Addams Family. A “spirit who dresses itself as an animal,” the mythological creature was said to consume not only the flesh but also the soul of its victims. 

Where human flesh eating was concerned, there are suggestions in the historical evidence that some cannibalism occurred in the actual Franklin Expedition, although it was ramped up for horrific effect in the Dan Simmons novel as well as the series adaptation of it. In this television adaptation, surgeon Goodsir poisoned himself unknown to his captors and slit his wrists, his body then becoming a fatal feast for them. Other subtle differences between the book and the screen adaptation occurred as well, and without issuing spoilers I did find the novel’s ending more satisfying. If you were captivated by the televised series, check out the book as well as a really well done and worthwhile horror tale…

“A Mercy” Episode on, “The Terror”

April 23, 2018

When the going gets tough, it’s time to throw a party as a counter to the growing anger, despair, and psychosis growing among the crews of Erebus and Terror, as we are shown in Episode 6 of the series. The party is a wild one, thrown in an enormous tent rigged by the seamen, complete with drinking, hot tub bathing, and men wearing dresses, ahem!  There are seamen wearing animal head masks…yes, 19th century furries!   Rum is even being fed to the brain-dead crewman Private Heather, his skull torn open in an earlier Tuunbaq attack.

Unfortunately, one of their own, Dr. Stanley, has quietly gone mad, and he seals off the tent before dousing it and himself with oil, and igniting both.  Stanley’s arms-spread self-immolation is evocative of a scene from The Thing from Another World, and is perhaps the most horrible thing in the episode, rivaled only by Lady Silence‘s staggering bloody entrance, her tongue self-removed in an attempt to forge a shamanistic bond with the Tuunbaq.  We do see the creature briefly, his face a disquieting mix of ursine and human features.

With their food supply starting to run low and the canned food producing recognized symptoms of lead poisoning, expedition leadership now plans to abandon both their mission and their vessels in a risky trek on foot hundreds of miles south to civilization. The ill-fated party was an effort to boost morale prior to food rationing, climatic suffering, and the further predations of their Tuunbaq adversary, although clearly it had the reverse effect, adding also to the mounting body count.  

With only four episodes left to run, we unlike the poor devils in the Royal Navy know that this will end badly, because as Captain Crozier observed, “The place wants us dead…”


“First Shot a Winner, Lads” on “The Terror”

April 17, 2018

Well, the Royal Navy would appear to have fully engaged the Tuunbaq on Season 1, Episode 5 of The Terror, with blood drawn on both sides but the British at least putting on a good show for Queen and country.- –Well played, Lads!  We are given a bit more of a glimpse of the creature, which is set on fire, hit with a cannon shot, and survives just to run off into the snow mist!  “He’ll be back,” we can almost imagine Arnold Schwarzenegger saying…

I like to watch this show in a darkened room to heighten the atmospheric effects, with the pursuit and battle sequence of the episode taking place at night in a blinding snowstorm in the bitter cold.  The filming techniques almost make you feel like you are there as part of the beleaguered crew, about to receive a severe thrashing at the paws and claws of something incomprehensible that moves on its own terms, and may not even be destructible by mortal weapons.  A vicious and cunning predator is not the only problem the crew faces, having flesh cut off due to frostbite, an alcoholic captain, and the matter of spoiling and lead tainted food that is slowly poisoning them.  The enigmatic Inuit woman named Lady Silence breaks her reticence to convey that she doesn’t control the creature, and is really as afraid of it as the English are.  “It’s bound to no one,” she says…

Dread is a difficult emotion to convey in horror, and many horror tales fail to convey it at all.  It is a refined, rarified sense of fear.  Dread is subtle and builds slowly out of bits and pieces, taking its own good time.  The Terror is developing a sense of dread as effectively as about anything seen in recent years on television, and I look forward to the upcoming matches of the Royal Navy versus the supernatural Tuunbaq…

“Punished, As A Boy” on “The Terror”

April 10, 2018

To dispense with what the episode title refers to, it appears that when you’re “punished as a boy” on a 19th century British ship, you’re flogged on your bottom rather than on your back, complete with all of your shipmates watching for both pain and humiliation.  We do get to see this, unfortunately, complete with blood spattering, agonized grunts from the punished, and the man’s behind resembling raw hamburger following his ordeal.- – Hey, horror isn’t pretty!  

This is grim stuff, but things are getting pretty grim indeed, with the Tuunbaq creature shredding members of the expedition brutally and pretty much at will, leaving some as only bloody smears on the ice, removing part of another’s skull to expose his brain (“It looks like pudding!,” remarks the ship’s surgeon), and tearing two others in half to crudely reassemble their bodies together.  The Tuunbaq has also demonstrated that it can move onto the English ships pretty much at will, and escape unscathed.  We’re kind of at the stage now that we were in The Thing where the men realize that the alien is inside the camp, and they’re relatively ineffective at countering it.  Composure and discipline are beginning to fall apart, just as some of the men’s gums are starting to turn black from lead poisoning brought by their spoiling and badly- packaged tinned food.

I’m not going to go on about the many complexities and layers of character and plot going on in the story, which can be appreciated on a variety of levels; we limit ourselves to just a few paragraphs here.  But central to the story and ever growing in importance is the enigmatic and appropriately-named Lady Silence, the Inuit woman whose father was accidently shot by the English in an earlier episode.  She was seen engaging in some kind of interaction with the Tuunbaq, perhaps a ritual.  Is she controlling the creature, or what is the nature of her relationship with it?  Hmmm…we’ll just have to wait and see!

 


“The Ladder” Episode of “The Terror”

April 3, 2018


Well, I certainly didn’t see that coming!  Season 1, Episode 3 of The Terror was almost a snooze fest until three quarters of the way through the hour when the Royal Navy’s tent station to catch the creature attacking them is set upon from above by the crafty Tuunbaq, who snatches one of the men and scatters them all, including Captain Franklin (pictured), who was basically paying the men a morale visit, and enticed to stay so as to share in the glory of the kill…

bad career decision!  Curse the creature for not playing by the rules, and walking up to the lures to be shot!  Defenseless, isolated, and disoriented, Captain Franklin staggers about the polar wastes before being seized by the creature, separated from his leg, and then jammed through a hole in the ice.  It was not the kind of retirement plan he had in mind from the Royal Navy.  Only a leg left to bury, too…

Good horror doesn’t play by the rules, either.  It builds up a sense of tension and dread, and then springs something on you that you weren’t quite expecting, often while you were anticipating quite another outcome. While ironically the men set out to slay the monster had been told to show it no mercy, it was they who were shown none. Horror’s vehicle here is to overwhelm and then subsume prideful men.

Alas, Captain Franklin, we barely knew you, but you seemed to be a likable if vain man.  And in the Of Ice and Men scenario, the ice seems to be winning…



The Terror – – Go for Broke; Gore

March 26, 2018

 

Watching The Walking Dead Sunday night,  I was unexpectedly treated to an unannounced and unadvertised preview of The Terror.  Quite a change of scenario, but I’ll take two hours of horror over one any night!

“An adventure for Queen and Country!”

Probably, not everyone will be able to get into The Terror because of its period drama aspects.  The pilot episode (Go for Broke) was mostly set-up and mood-setter, and some will be turned off by the rather trudging pace initially prevalent.  I love this kind of thing, however, and enjoy its attention to detail and atmosphere.  It’s all there; the dim  lighting, the creaking of the great wooden ship, and the magnificent desolation of the arctic.  Life was far more elemental in the mid-nineteenth century in a way that we early 21st century folks can only dimly imagine.

Executive producer Ridley Scott brings a touch of Alien space horror to this tale, however.  All of the elements are there; combine a bunch of superstitious sailors in close quarters in unknown and dangerous situations, and you’re bound to get a body count.  Even the first episode, Go for Broke, brought us death, disease, delusion, and even a “space walk” in the form of deep sea diving.  

The creepiness factor slowly started to ramp up in the second episode, Gore.  Locked in ice, the two ships send out expedition teams to seek the best passage through the ice, one of which meets with severe mishap when the tense group spooked by a night storm shoots an Inuit man in the company of his daughter.  A member of this team shortly later is seized and carried off by a creature that they think is a bear, but most likely is a Tuunbaq.  Taken back to the ship, the Inuit male succumbs to his injuries, his daughter advising the commanding officers (who profess that they want to help despite having shot her father) that they must leave or will vanish…

The sci fi/horror themes of malfunction, isolation, and paranoia that factored into such classics as The Thing are beginning to kick in here, and I’m on board for this arctic nautical nightmare!

 

“The Terror” is Coming!

March 19, 2018

I love creepy stuff, and there’s so little of it that’s done really well!  For this reason, I’m really looking forward to The Terror, an upcoming horror series on the AMC network. Based on a novel by Dan Simmons and the ill-fated real life Franklin Expedition, The Terror looks like wonderful stuff indeed.  

Incorporating elements of the movies The Thing with Alien and the rich period atmospherics and fine acting of the Penny Dreadful tv series, The Terror has it all.  It kind of combines a real-life historical event, the Franklin Expedition, with a horror/fantasy overlay. This kind of thing has been done in a lot of sci fi/alternative history fiction, and has lately been seen in films like Abraham Lincoln:  Vampire Hunter.

Now the ill-fated Franklin Expedition was real stuff which was kicked off in 1845 when the HMS Erebus and HMS Terror left England in search of a segment of the Northwest Passage, a kind of 19th century wormhole which it was felt would convey trade to the Orient.  The vessels, advanced for their day, became hopelessly ice-locked in the Canadian Arctic, forcing their crews to abandon ship and walk in search of a settlement.  They faced slow and miserable deaths from exposure, starvation, and lead poisoning caused by their badly-canned food.  All 129 souls on board the ships died from their ordeal.

In the television horror drama, the Royal Navy expedition instead of finding the Northwest Passage discovers a cunning, monstrous gothic-style predator who stalks the crew in a game of survival which could impact the region and its indigenous people forever.  For a tale of frozen wastes, sailing ships, and Arctic monsters I’m booking passage on The Terror for sure!