Sommerleigh Pollonais, Horror Head Writer
Plot: One year after the violent eruption of the subglacial volcano Katla, the peace and tranquility in the small town of Vik is dramatically disturbed when specific people rise from the ash. Some of these people have been reported as missing, some are confirmed dead, and all of them have a reason for returning that is still yet to be determined by the shaken handful of townsfolk that have remained in Vik.
Review: Katla is at its core (Get it? Volcano? Core? I’ll stop now) a story of trauma and how we need to face our past traumas to overcome them. The fact this story is told through a sci-fi/horror type lens is what draws you in.
Told over eight episodes, this Icelandic tale had me hooked from the first chilling conclusion and as each new episode unfolded I found myself saying, “What the hell?!” more and more as the story unfolded. When you watch as many movies and shows as I do things tend to get a tad predictable, so I’m always extra excited when I can’t tell what’s about to happen next.
Katla is a very real, very active volcano located in Iceland and directors Baltasar Kormákur and Sigurjón Kjartansson make glorious use of it and the surrounding area. I have no idea how much of this was CGI as I honestly couldn’t tell; I was just blown away by both the beauty and the beast that was Katla, and it was also an eye-opener watching the after effects of living in a town that’s located near an active volcano. Everything is covered in ash and soot, yet there’s an almost otherworldly beauty to it all. It’s also the perfect setting for a story such as this.
Similar to the Australian series Glitch, there are people who are seemingly returning from the dead including Asa, a young woman who went missing a year prior, and Mikael, a young boy who died in a hit and run accident. Things only get stranger though as we have “doubles” or copies of people also appearing. For instance, unlike Asa and Mikael, there’s a woman named Gunhild (the first to appear) who is a much younger version of another woman named Gunhild, who used to live in the area 20 years ago. All of the copies have the memories of the originals, so the question becomes, why is this happening?
As much as I enjoyed Katla, I don’t think it will appeal to broader audiences. The slow-burn storytelling style requires a level of patience not all viewers may have. And even though there are elements of either science fiction or the supernatural at play here (no spoilers from this viewer) the real power behind this story is the drama and the overarching themes of how we deal with our grief. So for those going into this one expecting jump scares or bloody action, they’ll be very disappointed.
That’s not to say Katla won’t creep you out though, as the directors do a wonderful job of instilling a sense of real dread in the atmosphere as the more I watched the more I found myself genuinely worried for the characters. The best horror movies are the ones that get you to invest real emotion and Katla does a fine job of this.
The final episode of Season 1 does a fantastic job of both satisfying the viewer while leaving you squarely on the edge of your seat (here’s hoping there’s a Season 2 on the horizon). There’s a sense of relief as we get a clearer picture of why the copies are here but there are also scenes (especially the final one) that makes you wonder if things are about to get much worse for the townsfolk of Vik.
This one might not be for everybody, but if you’re a fan of Netflix’s other amazing series Dark and you’ve been looking for something with a similar tone, I think Katla might be just what the doctor ordered.
Sommer’s Score: 7 out of 10
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Sommerleigh of the House Pollonais. First of Her Name. Sushi Lover, Queen of Horror Movies, Comic Books and Binge Watching Netflix. Mother of two beautiful black cats named Vader and Kylo. I think eating Popcorn at the movies should be mandatory, PS4 makes the best games ever, and I’ll be talking about movies until the zombie apocalypse comes.
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