Bump in the night

Published date16 January 2024
Publication titleSignal
IT was the severed human tongue lying on the floor that sold me

Up until that moment, the new season of True Detective had intrigued. It had a creepy tone, a mysterious, potentially supernatural, mass murder and a blizzard of unexplainable phenomena swirling around in the freezing Alaskan air.

But it was the severed tongue that sealed the deal. Especially as the detectives quickly surmised that the tongue could only belong to someone who could not have been where their tongue currently was.

There was also a ghost.

It’s fair to say that a decade on from its debut, True Detective is finally back on form with its new season, which began streaming on Neon from yesterday. It’s a show with a rocky history. There was its brilliant, game-changing first season in 2014, a massively disappointing follow-up in 2015 and a well-received but largely ignored third outing in 2019.

The first season was supremely eerie and genuinely gripping, with a peculiar blend of mystery and cosmic horror. But after that breakthrough season, the show began leaning away from those occultist elements and icky strangeness and turning down the weirdness.

So it’s incredibly pleasing that True Detective: Night Country is going all in on the spookiness. Set in a small, snow-covered, Alaskan town right as the sun sets for the length of 60 nights, this season follows police chief Liz Danvers as she sets about investigating the sudden disappearance of eight scientists from an Arctic research base.

This set-up immediately reminds of John Carpenter’s seminal horror flick The Thing. Only here the whole science team goes at once, rather than being picked off one by one. But the base is filled with a menacing threat that, for now anyway, remains unexplainable.

As does the aforementioned severed tongue, which Danvers finds in the base’s rec room, along with a hastily abandoned moulding ham sandwich and a scene from the movie Ferris Bueller’s Day Off looping endlessly and loudly on the telly.

Despite the rec room’s bright fluorescent lights, the scene is tense and the mood grim. Which also acts as a...

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