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True Detective’s ‘Scariest Season Yet’: Night Country in Review

CairoScene editor-at-large and Tomato Meter-approved film critic Wael Khairy reviews the third season of ‘True Detective’.

Cairo Scene

True Detective’s ‘Scariest Season Yet’: Night Country in Review

Early on in the fourth season of ‘True Detective’ titled ‘Night Country’, viewers with an eye for detail will spot an old VHS tape of John Carpenter’s ‘The Thing’ carefully placed on a shelf in one of the indoor scenes. Everything from the cold harsh arctic setting to the plot revolving around an investigation of bodies frozen in a state of fear pays tribute to the Carpenter classic. But while ‘The Thing’ falls more under cosmic sci-fi horror, this season is more of a supernatural thriller with cosmic horror elements in it. Issa Lopez’s chilling take on the series is unquestionably the scariest season of ‘True Detective’ yet.

On December 17th, a resident of a fictional Alaskan town called Ennis discovers seven naked scientists buried deep in ice. One of them appears to have clawed their eyeballs out, another has bitten off their own flesh, while the rest appear to be screaming in complete utter terror as if frozen in fear for the rest of eternity. One of the strong points of this season is that it follows in the footsteps of the first season by having one show-maker write and direct all six episodes. This complete creative control over the material maintains the tone of impending doom throughout the season. Having experimented with horror herself with her debut, ‘Tigers Are Not Afraid’, Lopez manages to keep viewers hooked from the get-go. However, it’s around the third episode that viewers won’t be able to turn away from the dreadful horror unfolding before their eyes.

With ‘The Silence of the Lambs’ under her belt, and now this, I believe no one can portray an investigative detective better than Jodie Foster. She commands the screen and acts in circles around her co-stars (which says a lot given that the whole cast delivers terrific turns). Unlike the smart yet reclusive Clarice Starling, the character Foster plays in ‘Night Country’ is the polar opposite of that persona. Liz is bad-tempered, grouchy, yet sharp and witty. Her partner, Evangeline Navarro, played by Kali Reis is more in tune with her spiritual side and believes there’s more to this case than meets the eye. She believes in the realm of the unknown, and that something beyond our rational understanding of reality is taking place. In true ‘True Detective’ fashion, both characters can’t stand one another, yet they agree to put their differences aside to solve an otherworldly case of murder.

Any doubts you might have about the new ‘horror’ direction the show embarks on will quickly be dispelled by the first episode of ‘Night Country’. Foster, Reis, and López collaborate to create a chilling thriller that blends elements of the supernatural with the mundane in a town where secrets seem to be hidden in every corner of the enveloping darkness surrounding the townspeople. As the season progresses along, this cold darkness gradually seeps into the lives of the townspeople in Ennis, Alaska. Like the first season, ‘Night Country’ excels in making the location a character in itself. The town of Ennis becomes a crucible for the unexplained.

Florian Hoffmeister’s cinematography in ‘Night Country’ stands out as a visual feast, with the frigid landscapes mirroring the characters' internal struggles. The icy landscape becomes an ominous backdrop, enhancing the pervasive sense of dread that permeates the entire season. The filmmakers utilize this frozen setting not only as a milieu of isolation but also as a symbolic representation of the characters' entrapment in an unfolding cosmic nightmare.

Following a couple of questionable seasons, it is refreshing to see True Detective being handled by capable hands unafraid of taking the material into new uncharted territory. Although ‘Night Country’ doesn’t delve into bleak philosophical matters as intricately as the first season, it still resonates by exposing us to the darkest qualities of humanity. This shadowy world harbours horrors beyond comprehension. However, as the characters confront these unspeakable horrors, they begin to gain a deeper understanding of their traumas and personalities. The filmmakers behind ‘True Detective: Night Country’ never quite reach the heights of the first season, but then again who ever does? This instalment strikes a balance between the familiar and the new, delivering a profound reflection on the complexity of the human condition. It is in fact, must-see horror television.

‘True Detective: Night Country’ is currently streaming on OSN Plus.

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