The Terror: Infamy has a tough act to follow. Season One of the period horror anthology series, exec produced by Ridley Scott, dramatised the disappearance of Victorian explorers in the Arctic, and was an effective nightmarish thriller.
This second outing is set in a Japanese community in America just days before Pearl Harbour. Chester Nakayama (Derek Mio), a Japanese-American photographer, wants to leave his childhood home on Terminal Island for the mainland. Mysterious deaths and a ghostly presence named Yuko also haunt the island, and when America goes to war with Japan, members of Chester’s community are forced into internment camps, victims of racist paranoia.
There are inescapable parallels between these camps and those at the US-Mexico border today. The Terror: Infamy would always have been an uncomfortable watch, but never more so than in this context. When documenting the brutality of the internment camps, it’s a bleak, brilliant drama rooted in the personal experiences of many of its creative team – most poignantly, those of George Takei, who plays a community elder. As a child, Takei was imprisoned in an internment camp, and he acted as historical consultant for this series.
And while the story might be historically accurate, it falters significantly when it steps into the supernatural: the spirit plaguing Chester’s community isn’t half as scary as Season One’s monstrous Tuunbaq.
Rather than horror enhancing the historical narrative, a fundamental reason for series one’s success, this time round the spectral element undercuts the chilling reality of its setting. The Terror: Infamy is a much-needed confrontation between America’s past and present, but it doesn’t deliver on the scares its title promises.