Anyone who knows me is familiar with my affinity for horror movies, but if there’s anything I love more, it’s a good horror show. Especially anthology horror shows (a la American Horror Story). And that’s exactly what AMC’s The Terror is—there are currently only two seasons, but they’re both worth watching.
The first season, simply called The Terror, is a fictional story based around Captain John Franklin’s lost expedition in 1845. It follows the story of two ships—the HMS Erebus and HMS Terror—that set out to explore part of the Northwest Passage in the Canadian Arctic.
But the expedition was lost. Despite a search party that went out in 1848 and many others in the decades after, only random items from the original expedition have been recovered. Thanks to modern science we can extrapolate what happened, but the fact is that no one really knows the whole story because those who lived it, well, died. That’s the factual part of the story, of course.
And that’s where season one of The Terror comes in. It’s a fictional telling of the story that pulls inspiration from the scientific evidence but adds a chilling horror element to the story by way of a largely unseen monster called the Tunnbaq.
Pair that with the real-world horrors of 1800s life on a ship in a previous-unnavigated section of the Northwest Passage, and well … you have all the right ingredients for a tense and exciting horror series. Part of what makes The Terror so scary is what you don’t see—the things that might happen or what’s coming next. Don’t expect any jump scares here because this is much better than cheap thrills.
Because this is an anthology series, season two of The Terror, called The Terror: Infamy, has nothing to do with the first season. However, it does share a common theme with season one: it’s a fictional story based around actual events.
Infamy takes place during World War II in a Japanese-American camp. It’s centered around Chester Nakayama (Derek Mio) and his family, who are taken from their home on Terminal Island. As hard as life is in that situation, the real horror comes from the sinister yurei that haunts Chester and his family.
I won’t give away the history of the yurei as it’s told in Infamy, as that’s a major part of the plot throughout the season—where did it come from and why is it after the Nakayama family are two key questions. But I will tell you that Infamy draws a lot of inspiration from Japanese horror, which carries a much different feel than most American horror.
Japanese horror is often more psychological than its American counterpart, and that’s true in Infamy. It carries an intensity that’s not uncommon for Japanese horror and Japanese horror-inspired films and shows, which is a big part of the appeal of Infamy. It’s also creepy as hell, which is another mainstay of the genre.
It’s honestly hard to talk about Infamy without giving away too much, so I’d suggest just giving it a watch if you’re a fan of Japanese (or psychological) horror in the first place. And while it’s not quite as creepy or gory as some J-Horror movies (it was made for broadcast television, after all), it doesn’t feel watered down in any way.
All told, both seasons of The Terror are very different but equally excellent. If you’re a fan of the horror genre in general or just like watching something with dark overtones that keeps you guessing, this is a series worth watching.
And the good news is that it was recently renewed for a third season. There’s no info on what it will be about, but I’m already excited.
Both seasons of The Terror are available on Hulu or available for purchase across various streaming platforms.