The talent behind “The Terror" discusses what went into the dramatic third episode.
“The Terror,” Season 1, Episode 3
THE FIRST BIG dramatic crescendo for AMC’S horroron-the-ice series comes in the third episode of the anthology series, when, in his quixotic quest to discover the Northwest Passage through the Arctic for the British Admiralty, Captain Sir John Franklin (Ciaran Hinds) is violently killed by the monstrous Tuunbaq. Executive producers David Kajganich and Soo Hugh wanted to maintain the show’s ubeer-realistic approach while creating a sequence so evocative viewers felt like they got a glimpse of the mythical creature, even though it remains completely obscured. “One of our first rules on the horror side of the show was to always be a bit closer to the action than the audience is used to being,” Kajganich says. “Our mandate was to infuse this death with a subjective point of view, that we stay in the show’s tone that even death come from a subjective experience,” adds Hugh. “It came from a psychologically almost surreal vantage point.”
“Turning up all the geography on a relatively tight stage was difficult. We set up Ciaran on the end of a crane arm with a camera pointing at him, so he was waving around as though he was being transported by the Tuunbaq to a fire hole, basically a hole in the ice that they made to get through to the ocean. That’s where Ciaran finally gets dumped. We built a set with the full thickness of the fire hole up on a platform so that we could see Ciaran being dropped into it from underneath, and then the sides of it would pull out, so then the camera could be in the side of it and see him wedged in there. Then we had to set that on a 45-degree angle for certain shots. That was probably the more complex part of it in terms of the jigsaw puzzle of set pieces, to get the sequence together.”
“This scene plays out in broad daylight in the middle of the ice landscape. I asked our production designer to build me a set in a way that would be a little bit of a maze made of ice ridges, so that Franklin would have some environment around himself that the creature could theoretically be hiding behind when we don’t see it. We shot it on green screen and then just put the background, but essentially, everything else was done in-camera. There’s a couple of quick shots of this monumental place inter-cutting with the icebergs that are flashing past his eyes. It took us out of the reality and immediately introduced this very subjective experience.”
“To me, it was almost like a kind of dance. The Tuunbaq is almost waltzing with him around the room. When I thought of the shots of the Admiralty and the shots of the ice, I could begin to intercut those quite effectively with his point of view; it was almost shot like he was being taken for a dance, rather than being dragged to his gory death. That’s what Dave and Soo always wanted: not to be what you expect from a more modern horror.”
Despite the freezing look of the series, “The Terror” was not shot outside, let alone in the Arctic. Instead, the cast and crew filmed on soundstages in Croatia and relied heavily on CGI.
“There were a lot of costumes contributing to Franklin’s portly belly — Ciaran isn’t that size at all! It was just trying to make him comfortable with that additional bulk. There was a lot of layers on that costume, so I think we even chopped out the arms of the under layers just so they could move more freely, and did some false fronts because of the bulk of it. We had to build in all kinds of safety rigs because he was basically picked up going down that hole.”