Archive for the ‘sci fi’ category

“Terror Camp Clear” Episode of “The Terror”

May 8, 2018

With all hell breaking loose both within and without on episode 8 of The Terror, Captain Fitzjames unleashed a rocket on the rampaging Tuunbaq running amok in their camp, hitting the over-sized, long-necked polar bear-like creature a good shot but basically just changing its course.  This was a very cool use of retro technology, and Fitzjames looked good while deploying it, showing courage under extreme duress.  Mid-19th century weaponry just wasn’t up to the job, sadly…

The climatic battle scene followed an episode fueled by paranoia and rebellion in which seaman Hickey almost staged a successful mutiny after blaming his slaughter of two crew mates on an Inuit family who were then killed in reprisal by the Erebus/Terror crews.  Hickey then whipped the camp into a frenzy by rumors that an Inuit counter-attack was imminent, using it as justification to seize arms and distribute them among his followers.  When Hickey’s ruse was discovered and countered, we were fixing to see a hanging when a cocaine-addled crewman Collins posed a distraction, staggering in and closely followed by the Tuunbaq monster, who was either irate that natives had been killed or was uncontrolled by the departure of the shaman-like Lady Silence.

Anyways, Hickey escaped in the confusion of the Tuunbaq’s killing spree together with sympathizers and captives, and in alienating the Inuit population the expedition’s members have lost their best remaining chance of survival. With their bodies becoming covered with loathsome sores from scurvy and lead poisoning, things will continue to go downhill from here in the two episodes remaining of The Terror

“Horrible From Supper” on “The Terror”

May 1, 2018

Smelling human flesh burning in the fire which had taken down the carnival in the previous episode, a starving and troubled crewman confesses to ship’s surgeon Goodsir that it smelled good.  “My nose and my stomach, they don’t know horrible from supper.  But I do!,” he agonizes.  This exchange explains the episode’s title, one in which the men of the doomed Franklin Expedition begin to have more to fear from themselves than from the supernatural.  As a Walt Kelly character from the comic strip Pogo once remarked, “We have met the enemy, and he is us!” While the Tuunbaq  monster does not make an appearance, his handiwork is seen in the form of the decapitated heads of the advance expedition sent out in episode 2 for civilization from the becalmed ships…poor devils didn’t make it further than 18 miles away before having their heads handed to them, quite literally.

Abandoning the ice-locked Erebus and Terror ships, the crew drags supplies and rowboats on sledges over the frozen terrain, with their badly canned food proving over half rancid and 100% lead-tainted.  The effects of the lead poisoning are becoming increasingly visible, with acts of violent madness emerging to layer onto the on-going grinding hardships that are inexorably wearing down the British seamen, geared now for physical survival rather than adventurous discovery.  This is “misery porn,” and the worst lies yet ahead.  

We are given glimpses of that grim future in the deteriorating mental health of a number of the crew who are beginning to turn from their fellow mates to acts of rebellion and even murder against them.  With the captain’s dog being surreptitiously harvested as food and an officer initiating first contact with an Inuit group brutally slain by the mutinous (and now mad) Cornelius Hickey, it’s time to start your countdown to cannibalism clocks ticking…


“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…

“Lost in Space” Revamped on Netflix…

April 14, 2018

The original Lost in Space tv series ran from 1965 to 1968, and was set in the then-distant future year of 1997!  In the Netflix reboot, the year is 2048, the Robinson family is still with us, but Dr. Smith is a woman!  “Oh the pain, the pain!,” as the original Smith memorably would whine.

At least they got the robot (whose name was “Robot”) right.  He no longer looks like he was cobbled together from a vacuum cleaner and several kitchen appliances.  In fact, this robot is not even of human construction, but is alien in origin, and has a dark past.  Although the robot doesn’t sing, ” I am a cybernetic hero,” he will say, “Danger, Will Robinson!”  Gone from the series, however, is the cheesy, camp-classic fun that made the original series a hoot.  This version is serious, gritty, filled with Hollywood explosions, and almost no fun at all.  Like many reboots, it has very little reason to exist.

A movie version of Lost in Space from 1998 with Matt LeBlanc was darker and had its moments, but was commercially unsuccessful.  In this reconceptualization, the Robinson family is not on a solo mission but is one of a number of colonist families trying to populate the Alpha Centauri system.  The Jupiter II winds up sinking into a frozen lake, and most of the first episode apparently involves trying to retrieve daughter Judy from said lake before she buys the farm.  Will Robinson thankfully plays less of a central role in this series than he did in the 1960’s original, allowing some updating and expansion of the other characters.  

The ten-episode series is family-friendly and action or crisis oriented, but while drawing from the original series, fails to recreate its spirit or substitute anything in its stead, making it truly lost in space…

  

Rampage:  Megafauna Rampant…

April 11, 2018

I’m glad that my cousin, Ralph, finally made it to the big screen!  He always had dreams of going to Hollywood, and deserved it after all those years of parking cars, pumping gas, and hanging out at furry and video game conventions.  It was annoying to him that people would pull at his costume only to discover that it wasn’t one. – – Ahh, his mother would have been so proud of him!  On the other hand, I wasn’t granted Ralph’s athleticism, being only a bookish writer…fortune, thou art a cruel mistress!

I suppose it was inevitable that they’d make a movie loosely based on the vintage video game, Rampage, and starring Dwayne Johnson.  After all, Doom turned out so well!  In the long-ago, I can remember playing the video game, and never doing terribly well…such is the the story of my life!  Anyways, in his latest action film outing, the Rock plays primatologist Davis Okoye who is attempting to intervene on behalf of his albino silverback gorilla, George, the object of a rogue genetic experiment gone awry. – –Tell me about it!  George, Ralph, and other mutant animals grown to enormous size are, well, rampaging through North America, and causing big trouble and general mayhem.  It’s up to Dwayne Johnson and others to find an antidote…

This sci fi/fantasy offering sounds like good brainless fun, and is opening April 13th at a theater near you!  A CGI-heavy movie, it also features Jeffrey Dean Morgan of The Walking Dead, minus his Negan bat, Lucille.  I expect that Ralphie will give a memorable performance, and even if he doesn’t, I’m still proud of the big lug… 😉

“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!