Netflix's 'Katla' Is a Stunning Sci-Fi Series That Will Chill You to the Core
The streamer's first original series out of Iceland is an eerie must-watch.
The eerie new Netflix sci-fi series Katla drops viewers off in Vík, a real-life Icelandic village positioned dangerously close to the subglacial volcano the show is named for. Although Katla hasn't actually erupted violently in more than a century, the premise here is that the volcano activated a year ago, imperiling the town and traumatizing the few residents who remain, while also somehow unleashing mind-boggling supernatural phenomena in the form of naked, ash-covered doppelgängers.
Created by Contraband and 2 Guns director Baltasar Kormákur, Katla pairs nicely with the captivating foreign Netflix original Dark; while the German time-travel series, which concluded after three seasons last year, is more complex, both shows create suspense through slow pacing and deeply intertwined storylines. The eight episodes follow Vík's remaining residents, including Grima (played by Guðrún Ýr Eyfjörð, a.k.a Icelandic singer GDRN), who remains tethered to the damn-near apocalyptic conditions of her hometown, despite the disappearance of her sister Ása (Íris Tanja Flygenring) during the eruption and the suicide of their mother in their childhood years. She works closely with the head of police, Gísli (Þorsteinn Bachmann), as a rescue worker, and quickly finds herself entrenched in the mystery affecting her village as the arriving changelings gradually unravel them mentally and cause them to confront their demons.
With such a chilling premise, it's only fitting that Katla, Netflix's first original out of Iceland, is shot on location on the south end of the island nation. The stark landscape of Vík is so vividly haunting, and the grim side effects of Katla's recent activity—from the monstrous thunderstorm cloud that menacingly hovers over the subglacial volcano to the dangerous ash storms that threaten everything in their paths—are absolutely horrifying, making the inexplicable appearance of the ash-covered humanoids even more unsettling.
Katla's eeriness is also the byproduct of its sluggish tempo. For a show in which clones mysteriously appear near a dangerously active volcano, Katla resists the urge to rush things. To be fair, the changelings that are popping up on the glacier near Vík aren't aliens, violent creatures picking off residents one by one, or any of the typical intimidating adversaries that prevail in the science fiction genre. As the changelings collide with Vík's residents, their true nature and the reason for their bizarre emergence start to become clear. While the story might not culminate in the seismic reveal you might expect, given Katla's premise, the understated twist (which I won't spoil here) has huge implications for the Icelandic series and ensures that Katla doesn't cast aside its creepy and carefully crafted aesthetic for a feel-good ending.
Taking into account that the series closes with a cliffhanger, it's unclear whether Kormákur envisioned Katla as a one-and-done or as the first chapter of an even bigger, mind-blowing story. Regardless, the artful and chilling sci-fi series absolutely stuns over the course of its eight episodes, and deservedly earns a slot on our list of the most compelling shows of the year.