Like any sub-genre of horror, sci-fi horror/thrillers can be hit or miss. And if it’s a SyFy original, there’s an even greater chance for it to be a miss. (Sorry SyFy, I know you’ve been working on rebuilding your brand . . .) This “original” is one of the TV channel’s recent efforts to produce high quality and interesting content to bring fans back. Did it work? Is this show going to pioneer the return of viewers for its ingenuity and greatness? May the audience be the judge of that.
Helix feels like a story that’s been told before. ::cough:: Resident Evil, Contagion, The Thing . . . ::cough:: That’s because the premise isn’t groundbreaking for the genre. Set on an isolated Arctic base controlled by an ethically questionable biotech company, a mysterious viral outbreak takes the lives of a few scientists which then merits an outbreak investigation conducted by a small team from the Center for Disease Control (CDC). We’ve seen it before — when humans mess with viruses, genetics, and play “God” things generally don’t end well.
The small ensemble cast of characters is full of doctors and scientists and a couple military/security types. There is not shortage of deception, ego, and intelligence among the characters. Power struggles are a common occurrence throughout the series and part of the conflict-building. And seriously, where would we be without vengeance?
The first season takes place over a span of 13 days with each episode covering the events of a single day. In the beginning, shit hits the fan in the form of black goo spewing infected who run about the facility violently spreading the contagion. And in less than two weeks, while still an issue, the viral outbreak isn’t the only problem the scientists and medical professionals have to deal with.
But is it SCARY? Well, it offers a fair share of pop scares and has some genuinely hair-raising scenes. From the juxtaposition of lighthearted music with disturbing and violent sequences to the build up of intrigue coupled with the stark Arctic isolation, it sets up a proper unsettling ambiance from the very beginning. I’d say that the show is entertaining for the most part and something a sci-fi horror fan might enjoy if there’s nothing else to watch.
Overall, I enjoyed Helix despite its often predictable plot turns and at times melodramatic characters. The aspects of the show which I enjoyed most were the mystery and horror — when I didn’t quite know who was on whose side and even which was the “good guy” side. Will I be watching week-to-week when season two kicks off January 16th on SyFy? Probably not. I’ll wait until a few episodes appear online or until the entire second season appears on Netflix.
Set your DVR or nestle into your couch bright and early to catch the Helix – Black Goo Marathon tomorrow on SyFy.