Director – Brad Turner, Steven A. Adelson, Jeremiah S. Chechik, Duane Clark, Mike Rohl, Bradley Walsh, Jeffrey Reiner
Cast – Billy Campbell, Kyra Zagorsky, Jordan Hayes, Neil Napier, Hiroyuki Sanada, Mark Ghanimé, Meegwun Fairbrother, Luciana Carro, Chimwemwe Miller, Catherine Lemieux, Amber Goldfarb, Patrick Baby, Robert Naylor, Christian Jadah, Julian Casey, Alain Goulem, Alexandra Ordolis, Jeri Ryan, Vitali Makarov
Release Year – 2014
Reviewed by John of the Dead
I enjoy horror-themed television shows but have refrained from writing about them because it is not time-efficient for me to write about every episode. Writing about the season as a whole works much better for me, so that is what I will do.
Helix debuted in January of this year on the Syfy channel and combines two of my favorite elements: horror and biology. The storyline follows a team of scientists from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention who are sent to a research facility deep within the arctic to investigate the potential outbreak of a deadly disease. The lead scientist is Dr. Alan Farragut, a man who has traveled the world containing some of the world’s most dangerous viruses. With many qualified scientists employed at the center he questions why he of all people is assigned to head the case – then he learns that his estranged brother is an employee at the research center…and he has been infected as well. What the team assumes will be a simple task of containing the virus (an easy task given the location) and then destroying it proves to be a gross underestimation of the situation. Lies, deception, a shadowy corporation, and an ever-growing population of infected mutants stand in their way.
Like most television series you will be bombarded with dramatics, but they aren’t so bad here. The character relationships are set up for this, with the involvement of Alan’s brother, Peter, and his second in command, Michelle, being his ex wife who cheated on him with Peter. It sounds stupid because it is stupid, but as the series grew I quickly forgot about it as other character revelations surfaced. Eventually, you learn that quite a few of the show’s characters have ties to each other that existed way before they were brought together.
This outbreak is obviously the source of the horror, and I enjoyed how it was used. The research facility, which thanks to its location is not subject to any laws, was up to some shady research that was intended to expand beyond the confines of the most inhospitable land on Earth. Eventually the scientists wise up to this, but by that time it is too late. Aside from dealing with the private corporation behind the outbreak, they must deal with the repercussions of the outbreak: the infected. Unlike most infected films these days, those who contract the virus are not immediately “turned”. They suffer minimal effects at first, but when they reach the final stages they are maniacal beasts with an insatiable urge to infect more at all costs. I was glad to see the infected show up early on in the series, which allowed them to progress and adapt to keep things interesting. Of course, the location also makes for a nowhere-to-run scenario, so the tension is always high with the infected lurking within the ventilation ducts and pouncing on the unsuspecting.
The direction of the series is surprisingly solid for a Syfy channel creation. I was surprised to see fair acting from pretty much everyone involved, and even more surprised to see very little CGI during. If there was every CGI it was typically during overhead establishing shots of the research base – scenes that hardly matter if they are CGI. When it came to the horror we were treated to live-action effects and gore, which was never overly gory but gory enough for those fans of infected films who want to see some of the good stuff. More than anything though, what I really enjoyed about this series was the atmosphere and locations/sets. The research base easily sucked me in to what was going on, and it was equally creepy as it was captivating. I could be wrong, but it at least looked like the show had a pretty serious budget behind it, and it made for an enjoyable experience I will revisit when Season 2 premiers in January 2015.