Archive for the ‘television’ category

The C, the C, the Open C on “The Terror”

May 14, 2018

 

Watching a late episode of The Terror series is somewhat like regarding a mummy; there are things here that are distinctly unpleasant to see, but not only can’t you not look away, but you keep on going back for more!  As someone who is also reading Dan Simmons’ novel as they watch the series, you might even say that I’m double-dipping, a true misery porn junkie.  This is depressing and disturbing stuff, but I can’t stop returning to it because it’s so well done!

As people with an understanding of what actually happened to the historical Franklin Expedition, we know what the characters do not know as the story unfolds, namely that they are all doomed and that this doesn’t end well for them, regardless of what they do.  When faced with extreme and desperate conditions, we are shown the polarities of how people can respond to dire circumstances in the now separate camps of Captain Crozier versus the mutinous and psychopathic rebel leader, Hickey.  Crozier has become elevated as the series has progressed, whereas Hickey has gravitated towards the bestial.  Whereas Crozier has remained a civilized man and become almost a spiritual leader, for Hickey cannibalism is now literally on the table.

We say goodbye to Commander Fitzjames in this episode, his condition deteriorating rapidly and an assisted suicide conducted by Crozier.  Captive in Hickey’s camp and witness to a murder, surgeon Goodsir (pictured) is forced to butcher the body for consumption lest Hickey kill another for failure to comply.  And Ice Master Blankey, already minus a lower leg from a previous confrontation with Tuunbaq, goes out solo in a suicidal mission against the creature to buy his compatriots some time.  Ingeniously, the guy wraps himself in forks so as to make the monster’s job less easy, and perhaps enact revenge from within should he be ingested…the guy’s going down, but you gotta love his spirit!

Betrayed by a double agent in his own camp, Crozier is captured by Hickey’s men, with the final outcome to this and other hanging issues to find resolution in episode 10, the last of the season.

 

“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…


Janice Buys A House…

April 27, 2018

“Cycling is my passion!,” declares Janice, sister of Progressive insurance’s arch sales rep, Flo.  The trouble is, sister Janice isn’t terribly passionate about anything, like so many today.  Peddling her exercise bike at a snail’s pace while chewing gem and taking “selfies,” Janice maintains that she is “blasting her quads.”  So when disturbingly perky and intensely focused sister Flo appears at Janice’s house in her trademark white uniform to push the notion of using Progressive’s Home Code Explorer feature, Janice can only complain that Flo is ruining her workout, finding all kinds of reasons not to look at Flo’s presentation.  “I’m in a meeting!,” she contends as she scrolls idly through her phone.- – Isn’t technology wonderful, keeping us all connected?  One can hardly fault Janice for giving Flo the brush-off.

There’s a little bit of trendy Janice’s self-defeating absurdities in many of us, or at least we may know someone somewhat like her.  If not, Flo’s dysfunctional family resonates in the American psyche…and actress Stephanie Courtney has played Flo in over 100 commercials, together with all the members of her fictitious “family…”

(Aside:  This blog has been quietly converted to a paid plan, which means ***No Commercials*** for you, valued readers, and a few other bells, whistles, and shiny things...)

“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…”


The Aspen Dentist At Large…

April 19, 2018

The Aspen Dentist is ubiquitous, appearing in his crisp white clinical dental jacket in such locales as a beauty salon, a carnival, a garage, a frozen food aisle, and a restaurant.  The man has emerged from a sarcophagus, for cripes sake!  In some of his commercials, he is even whisked through the setting on a motorized reclining dental chair!  I am forced to consider that he may be some kind of trans-dimensional being, appearing as he does on multiple planes of reality unrelated to dentistry.  The dreaded dental chair is some kind of conveyance, like the Silver Surfer’s surfboard.  Or perhaps he is an alien, trying to disarm our suspicions as he operates from a flawed and troubling model of what his kind believes constitutes normal human behavior.  You have been warned…call Fox Mulder while there’s still time!

Parallels may be made to Progressive Insurance’s “Flo,” who is also in the world while not of it.  Flo and the dentist are disturbing approximations of reality, tuned to another wavelength entirely different from that of we mundanes.  There’s something not quite right about them.  Perhaps there’s even a hint of madness conveyed, dancing beneath the surface.  One should not approach or stare too closely, or perhaps you may be pulled into one of their parallel universes, never again to emerge, at least with your sanity intact.  Maybe the dentist is here to harvest our tooth enamel…or perhaps in the afterlife, the Almighty will intone, “Tsk, tsk…you really should have taken better care of your teeth!”  Is the Highway to Hell like the road to gum disease?!  At Foxsylvania, we dare to ask such questions…

So open wide, and no matter how you brush or floss, you’re doing it wrong.  And how do you wish to pay for today’s services?- – With your soul?, ahahahaha!  


“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…