Episode 438: Drag Me to Hell

“What really upsets you is the fact that you chose the losing side in this battle between the Almighty and the forces of Evil!”

At the top of today’s episode, vampire recluse Barnabas Collins asks his servant for an update on current events. Ben says that he was at Vicki’s witchcraft trial today, and stayed late to hear the verdict.

Barnabas pauses, and says, “I don’t like the expression on your face, Ben.”

Look, dude, you’ve had just as much time as the rest of us to get used to the look on Ben’s face. It’s a bit late in the day for constructive criticism in that department.

438 dark shadows compete barnabas

Anyway, it’s hardly fair — there’s no way that Ben can even compete with Barnabas in the melodrama department, not when they’re serving up bombshells like the surprise witness at Vicki’s trial. Ben explains that things were starting to look promising for Vicki’s release, until Barnabas’ dead wife, the witch Angelique, walked into the courtroom to testify.

Barnabas assumes his most shocked expression, and gasps, “Angelique!”

Which is great. That’s one of my favorite Barnabas catchphrases. He says her name that way every time she makes one of her surprise supervillain returns, which happens a lot more often than you might expect.

438 dark shadows stunned barnabas

Unfortunately, they haven’t quite figured out if Angelique still has a role in this storyline. Barnabas comes up with a belated explanation for why she even bothered to show up at the trial — “she knew that Miss Winters’ acquittal was something that I wanted, and she wouldn’t allow me the satisfaction of helping her” — but it rings hollow. The real reason why Angelique showed up was that it was Friday, and they’ve got Lara Parker just standing around, waiting for another chance to be evil.

They don’t really want to commit to giving Angelique a meaningful place in the storyline right now — after all, they only killed her a little over a month ago. So once the Stunned Barnabas Face wears off, there’s nothing else to do but change the subject.

438 dark shadows crafty barnabas ben

So we do a quick pivot to Crafty Barnabas Face, as he resumes his favorite hobby, which is planning cold-blooded murder. This time, the target is Reverend Trask, the shouty witch hunter who railroaded Vicki all the way to a guilty verdict. That’s bad enough to qualify him for Boss Battle status, which means Barnabas gets to flex his kaiju muscles and stomp on another giant monster.

438 dark shadows collinwood trask naomi

Just to make sure we’re on board for the murder scheme, they offer up a scene where Trask menaces Naomi, one of the few nice characters who’s still alive and at large.

Now that Trask’s secured a conviction, he wants to search Vicki’s room at the Old House and destroy her remaining possessions. This is a funny little moment of historical accuracy, achieved entirely by accident in a “stopped-clock is right twice a day” scenario.

This is actually something that happened during the Salem witch trials in 1692. The local constabulary ransacked the homes of the imprisoned witches, confiscating their furniture and farm equipment, breaking whatever they couldn’t carry, and — in a weird detail that’s survived through the centuries — dumping out the beer in John Proctor’s tavern and carrying away the barrels. This wasn’t really done out of a religious desire to destroy the Devil’s handiwork — it was mostly a way to recoup the expense of housing and feeding the prisoners while they languished in jail for almost a year — but it’s the closest brush with history we’ve had in a little while.

438 dark shadows disgust naomi

Naomi refuses to give Trask the keys to the Old House, which gives her the opportunity for a nice character scene. She’s fed up with the officious men in her life telling her what to do, and Trask gives her the opportunity to blow off a little steam.

Naomi:  I will not allow you to set foot in that house.

Trask:  Mrs. Collins, I realize that my presence here upsets you.

Naomi:  You’re putting it charitably, Mr. Trask. Your presence here disgusts me!

Trask:  May I suggest, Mrs. Collins, that what really upsets you is the fact that you chose the losing side in this battle between the Almighty and the forces of Evil! You aligned yourself with the Devil himself!

438 dark shadows windup trask naomi

There’s the wind-up…

438 dark shadows wham trask naomi

and WHAM! She smacks him across the face.

438 dark shadows slap trask naomi

It’s a good slap, too; nice follow-through. This is actually the second slap in a row this week — Peter slapped Vicki yesterday, to knock her out of a panic attack. Dark Shadows used to be a relatively genteel show; I think they’re getting more physical all of a sudden. I kind of like where this is heading, especially if characters like Trask are on the receiving end.

438 dark shadows miniseries trask

But that’s not the only tough moment for Trask today. Arriving back at his quarters, he gets the first dose of what appears to be Barnabas’ multi-step plan to torment and then kill the guy.

So we’ve got a minute of Barnabas off-stage breathing heavily into a microphone, and calling Trask’s name with a throaty growl.

Barnabas:  Trask… Traaaasssk!

Trask:  Who is it? Who’s in this room?

Barnabas:  Your victims, Trask! Your innocent victims! The chained… the tortured… the miserable creatures condemned by you!

438 dark shadows playing trask

Now, you might ask at this point why — if Barnabas is planning to kill Trask — he feels the need to first give him an annual performance review. But the tormenting is actually the main event, from the audience’s point of view. We’ve spent months watching this guy abuse everyone he comes into contact with. He really is a full-fledged monster in his own right.

So it would be unsatisfying just to have Trask turn up dead one day. Barnabas has to spend some time playing with his food, like he did with Abigail last week. That’s the point of the new kaiju rules — you have to give the monster a final chance to show how much he deserves the punishment, and you have to take the time to make him confront what he’s done before you finally pull the plug.

438 dark shadows chromakey trask skull

Happily, that means there’s time for some new crackpot vampire abilities, courtesy of whatever “powers of darkness” Barnabas suddenly has access to. This includes some great Spectacle shots, including a lovely Chromakey skull appearing in the mirror just at the same height as Trask’s face.

438 dark shadows mirror trask

Following that, there’s a gush of blood streaming down the mirror…

438 dark shadows chromakey hand trask

And then the final surprise — a Chromakey hand reaching out to menace Trask with its… scary… fingers. I guess?

438 dark shadows chromakey hand barnabas

Cause honestly, the hand just kind of floats in midair and wiggles at him, while we hear chains rattling and Barnabas cackling away.

438 dark shadows hand trask

But, oh, it’s a lovely surprise, isn’t it? I’m pretty sure they weren’t ending episodes of The Secret Storm like this. If you stop to ask how Barnabas figured out that he had this particular bonkers power kit, it seems utterly silly, but the key to Spectacle is that we’ll accept absolutely anything, as long as it’s new and surprising. As always on television, impact is more important than sense.

At this point, we could have Barnabas appear in the room with a wand and a top hat, shouting Alakazam! and then making Trask explode into a thousand wriggling cockroaches, and we’d still be parked in front of the TV the next afternoon to see another installment.

Looking at the first minute of today’s episode, you’d never guess that this is how the last minute would play out. That’s what Dark Shadows is for, and today they delivered. Bless their devilish little hearts. It must be magic.

Tomorrow: Something About That Hate.

Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:

Reverend Trask has a bandage on the middle finger of his right hand. The clearest place to see it is early in his conversation with Naomi in the Collinwood foyer, when he’s holding his hat.

Naomi follows up her slap by telling Trask, “Don’t you ever talk to me a way — that way again. Do you understand?” A moment later, she trips again: “It’s one thing to strike Miss Winters, who can’t find back — fight back.”

After Trask walks upstairs, Ben puts his hand on the staircase post, and watches Trask go. The post wobbles noticeably.

When Trask leaves the Old House, the camera pulls back too far, exposing the spot where the staircase bannister stops.

Barnabas tells Ben, “He wouldn’t have lived to tell about it. But your point is academic, Ben — the fact is, he isn’t going to live to tell about it.”

After the blood streams down Trask’s mirror, it was supposed to shatter, thanks to a blow from behind. But the mirror doesn’t break, so you just hear a loud thump.

The last time we heard about Barnabas’ onyx ring, he was upset to hear that Josette had lost it. He’s wearing it again today, but there’s no mention of when and where he found it.

Tomorrow: Something About That Hate.

438 dark shadows scared trask

Dark Shadows episode guide

— Danny Horn

31 thoughts on “Episode 438: Drag Me to Hell

  1. Episodes like today’s remind me of why I love this show so much. Unlike Peter Bradford’s slapping Vicki in yesterday’s episode, I thoroughly love seeing Naomi slap Trask! The look on her face is priceless. You can’t help but clap! Then the scene with Barnabas menacing Trask and the hand coming out to get at him! It’s nothing but fun! He so deserves anything that happens to him!

  2. I never appreciated how GREAT Jerry Lacy was until my 3rd time watching DS. The chromakey hand is cheesy genuis at it’s best.

  3. Told you it got slappy.

    Also, did I miss it, or Danny did you not comment on Vicki’s stupidity at the trial when she admits to being from the future and Trask has her reveal she was participating in a seance when she was whisked away? I know by now we’re tired of Vicki doing stupid things but my god did that make me scream out IDIOT when she said it.

    1. That always frustrates me too. Who was to know if she lied? They asked her what she was doing when she was whisked away to the past and she tells the truth! As if they could check up on it! Why didn’t she just say they were sitting there chatting? Oh no the idiot says we were having a séance. Honestly!

      1. Pedro, Macushlalondra: These were exactly the same observations about Vicki’s shooting herself in the foot again that I had made on the previous blog entry, number 437. I guess great minds all think alike! (LOL)

      2. I know, I keep wondering why Peter doesn’t just walk over and strangle her right there in front of everyone. He’s into manhandling her, and frankly, she kinda deserves it at this point. There’s no helping her!

        Also, I know one commenter, who shall remain nameless, keeps pointing out that Vicki must die so that she does not reveal to the present that Barnabas is a vampire. We get it… the writing is just really poor and we are all having fun making fun of it… no wonder AM left the show… they just stopped writing for her…

  4. YEAR: 1794; PLACE; The guest house on the Dupre sugar plantation, Martinique. Barnabas Collins sat at his desk agonizing over the events of the previous evening..’IF ONLY Josette hadn’t retired early with a headache, ‘IF ONLY he hadn’t gone for a walk and seen Josette’s maid Angelique standing in the moonlight with her hair shining like the sun and her eyes glittering like the stars…’ At least he was leaving for his business trip to Barbados the next day and would have time to think things over during the boat ride. Barnabas was suddenly startled by a knock on the door. He opened it and no one was there. However there was a piece of parchment on the floor. He picked it up and began reading it. ‘Dearest Barnabas – last night you opened up a new universe for me and I would like to return the favor. When you reach Barbados acquaint yourself with a gentleman named Nicolas Blair, who will teach you things you never deemed possible in this world..’ The letter was signed ‘Angelique’

  5. What sells the trask slap for me is how Joan forgets her line right afterwards and goes ‘Dont you ever talk to me way-that way-that-that way again’

  6. Speaking of slaps, I’m almost sure I didn’t remember this incorrectly – isn’t there a scene where Vicky herself hits Trask, when he shouts his accusations right to her face? If so, it would go against the whole “helpless” image of her, at least briefly.

  7. Vicki does indeed slap Trask in an earlier episode. I’m too lazy to look it up; it’s near the beginning of the 1795 story, maybe even Vicki’s first scene with Trask.

    1. She does, and his hair moves like a real impact.

      Not on the face, though.

      When he hits her, blocking is perfect…..probably the best of show. The sound isn’t great, but it never is.

  8. This has been the best episode recently. Th special effects are next level bonkers. But I really have to give the most credit to Jerry Lacey.
    This episode reminds me of the one from 1967 where Barnabas torments Julia Hoffman for the entire episode. She runs from room to room, screaming, leaning on furniture, screaming “Dave, is that you?” into the phone (those phone calls between ghost Dave and Julia were interminable, like calling my grandmother). Only Grayson Hall could carry almost 23 minutes of TV just running from set to set screaming and answering the phone.

    But Jerry Lacey holds his own too. That man does his damndest to act with a disembodied Chromakey hand. Fuck Brando; that’s method.

    1. No kidding, Neil! Lacy really does sell that haunting scene, doesn’t he? I even believed him seeing the hand. And he yelps when the bundle falls on the floor. So perfect, like the sniveling coward he really is! I’m totally new to DS, but I’m hoping when we get back to the present (1968) that Tony Peterson is still around because he is great at playing Tony. I wasn’t quite done with him there….

  9. The actor playing Trask is really good! I loved his Bogart lawyer impression in the present day scenes, but this is fantastic acting! “Get away from me! Ahhhhhhhh!” says Trask as he quivers on the floor. “Very soon you are going to die!” says the voice.

  10. The evolution of Naomi Collins is beautiful to watch. I love how she insists on calling him Mr Trask during their conversation, given the number of times he’s corrected people on that. And the slap is perfection – forceful enough to crack his hairspray, with enough recoil to knock Joan’s next line right out of her head. Blissful.

  11. Oh, and of course Barnabas assumes Angelique’s interest in Vicki’s trial is really all about him… dude has a serious ego problem.

  12. I’ll join the chorus of praise for Jerry Lacy. I was seriously underwhelmed by his turn as Tony Bogart Jr. but his Trask is great. This episode is such a refreshing change after the tedium of Vicki’s trial.

    It seemed like the fireplace in Trask’s room was throwing off some serious smoke. I don’t recall ever seeing that on any of the sets before. I wonder how those things were vented?

    A gentleman’s C for the floating hand effect and that’s being generous. The whole thing only worked because of the way Lacy sold it.

    1. I too was perplexed by the fireplace smoking. No draft up a chimney. They must have built some kind of a chimney for it, the other fireplaces draft perfectly fine on all the other sets. Must have gotten clogged? Or perhaps someone forgot to open the flue?

  13. I also think Naomi’s bitch-slapping of Trask was a great scene–despite Joan Bennett’s tripping over her follow-up lines and thus somewhat marring its impact.

    I’m surprised, though, that nobody mentioned Barnabas’ showing an unexpected sense of humor when, early on the scene, he tells a worried-looking Ben, “Well, Ben, I was beginning to think you had been abducted.”

    As Ralph Kramden might say, “Oh, you’re a riot, Barnabas, a regular riot!”

  14. When Trask is gesturing in front of the skeleton in the mirror, Jerry Lacy moves his hand too high and the tips of his thumb and forefinger “disappear” behind the black background of the skeleton overlay.

  15. “The last time we heard about Barnabas’ onyx ring, he was upset to hear that Josette had lost it. He’s wearing it again today, but there’s no mention of when and where he found it.”

    Didn’t Barnabas earlier tell Josette that he found the ring in the Old House?

  16. “I’m pretty sure they weren’t ending episodes of The Secret Storm like this.”

    My mother used to comment how the opening of The Secret Storm was similar to Dark Shadows with the waves crashing. So even though The Secret Storm episode didn’t end like Dark Shadows it did start like it.

  17. StammerCon 1968; there must have been zero time for rehearsal, the way everyone was fumbling over their lines. But props to JF during the spectral harassment closer–he doesn’t fumble the laughing, and it just goes on and on. That took some stamina. Trask getting a taste of some comeuppance was absolutely delicioso; a pointed reminder that if you go around denouncing and casting out the powers of darkness, you just might get their attention.

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