The Terror, AMC’s anthology horror series is in its second season. Dubbed The Terror: Infamy, this season revolves around Chester Nakayama, a Japanese-American college student living on California’s Terminal Island during World War II (WWII). Last episode, we saw the mysterious death of one of the Nakayama family’s friends, a woman who has revealed herself to a yurei, and the beginnings of Japanese-American internment when Chester’s (Derek Mio) father is taken away in the middle of the night.
Now, in episode two, “All Demons Are Still In Hell,” we’re immediately shown the cruelty of internment. Chester’s father Henry (Shingo Usami) sits in a cell, washed in moonlight, repeating, “I am not a spy.” All the while you hear screams in the background. Similarly to the first season of the series, the showrunners use environment, light, and circumstance to build a terror in the audience. The reality of the events supersede the supernatural horror, which is reserved for the back-half of the episode.
As “All Demons Are Still In Hell” continues, we meet the rest of the Nakayama family and the other Terminal Islanders as they are evicted from their homes by the US military, forced to find a life somewhere with no direction or aid from the government. Just when the family finds themselves space, they’re evicted once more, sent to an internment camp to live in converted stables, covered in hay and feces, allowed to only take two suitcases, and forced to fit their entire life into one small piece of luggage.
While Chester’s family is bussed to the camps, he attempts to find Luz (Cristina Rodlo), his girl and the mother of his child. In this moment, the reality hits the audience even harder as orphans of all ages, including babies, are taken to be sent to the camps for the “safety” of the United States.
It’s safe to say that this scene brought tears to my eyes, because maybe, just maybe, if we didn’t erase the trauma this country inflicted on Japanese-Americans, just maybe history wouldn’t be repeating itself and kids wouldn’t be in cages today, as one of the consultants on The Terror: Infamy and cast member George Takei has pointed out.
If you’re unaware, The Terror: Infamy is one of the first series to depict the internment of Japanese Americans on such a massive scale. From the recreated internment camp sets to the experiences of the characters, it’s clear that AMC has focused on allowing the horror of the reality for Japanese Americans at the time to accent the horror of the haunting. In addition to playing Yamato-san, Takei also serves as a consultant on the series, using his experience in two camps after WWII to help tell this story in an authentic way.
Beyond Takei, there is an emotion that leaps from the screen, especially when you realize that others involved have immediate connections to WWII and the Internment of Japanese-Americans. For one, Mio is a fourth-generation Japanese American, whose grandfather lived on Terminal Island and was sent to Manzanar internment camp after Pearl Harbor, similar to the story that Mio brings to life as his character Chester.
But being uprooted and abused by the military isn’t the only thing to fear in this episode as more information about the evil spirit is revealed. The Terror: Infamy lives firmly in the Kaidan genre of Japanese horror, a genre built on and around ghost stories. In this episode. We learn the name of the specter haunting and killing the community, a bakemono.
Episode two excels in its exposition, plainly laying out the lore of the bakemono for non-Japanese audiences without sacrificing narrative. This is a feat that is hard to pull off when presenting a culturally specific theme to a wide audience. While we learn about how the ghost works, we still do not know why she came across the Pacific. That said, the older members of the community are scared, and they seem to know that she has attached herself to Chester.
While I haven’t spoken about this much, the costuming in the show is superb. Also, the dialogue, with characters slipping in and out of Japanese, is heartening; it is reminiscent of something I see my Spanglish speaking family in. That said, The Terror: Infamy continues to be a show to watch if you’re both a fan of horror and of history.
This year, Chernobyl showcased how history, in its rawest form, can produce horror, dread, and terror. The Terror: Infamy follows these same lines. “All Demons Are Still In Hell” is terrifying not because of its spirits, but for its raw portrayal of the cruelty and violence that has always been a part of this country.
New episodes of The Terror: Infamy air Monday nights at 9/8pm CT.
Photo Credit: Ed Araquel/AMC
Kate is co-founder, EIC, and CCO of BWT. She’s also a Certified Rotten Tomatoes Critic, host, and creator of our flagship podcast, But Why Tho? and Did You Have To?. She also manages all PR relationships for comics, manga, film, TV, and anime. She has an MA in Cultural Anthropology and Religious Studies focusing on how pop culture impacts society.