“Well, it’s obvious you’ve forgotten that you attacked me in this graveyard, the night before last.”
And then, one day, you find yourself walking with a mysterious older man to a secret place where he says he can keep you all night and nobody will ever know, and you ask yourself, how did my life end up this way?
Chris Jennings thought this was going to be just another cycle of the full moon, where he’d turn into a savage killing machine a few times and try to beat his high score in casualties. (So far this month: one dead, one injured, assorted abrasions.)
And then eccentric millionaire Barnabas Collins came along, and changed everything. Barnabas has figured out that Chris is a werewolf, using the uncanny sorcery of looking at what’s going on and thinking about it for more than ten seconds, and for some unfathomable reason, he actually wants to help.
There’s going to be another full moon tonight, and Barnabas has brought Chris to his secret clubhouse — the back room of the old Collins mausoleum, hidden behind a wall of solid granite, where Chris can turn into as many werewolves as he likes.
It’s a little humbling for Chris — he’s never been able to figure out a plan to keep the wolf-killing under control, and then Barnabas comes along and figures it out in one day.
Now, I’m going to ask you to keep your eye on the body language for a minute, because things get a little subtexty.
Chris: Mr. Collins… why are we here?
Barnabas: To keep you from committing further violence tonight.
Chris: That’s not what I mean. I mean, why are you helping me?
Barnabas: Because I want to help you.
Chris: There must be more to it than that. After all, you’re taking a great risk to help me. There must be some… underlying reason why you’re willing to do it.
And I swear to God, Chris does that thing where you look at someone’s lips and then you look at their eyes, and that means you’re about to kiss.
I mean, you and I both know that Barnabas is helping Chris because Barnabas is a recovering vampire, and he knows what it’s like when you’ve killed a bunch of people and you don’t have a mausoleum clubhouse to retreat to, just until you get your head together.
So it’s only natural for Chris to get his signals crossed. He figures Barnabas has brought him to the secret makeout cave, and he’s okay with it.
What’s actually happening is that Barnabas is inviting Chris to join Murder Club, his social network for monsters who kill people because sometimes you just can’t help it. So far, the only other member of the club is Julia, who got in on a technicality. If Chris plays his cards right, he could be vice-president of the club, or treasurer at least.
But first, Chris has to go through the initiation, which involves explaining his origin story to the audience. If he wants to be the put-upon bloodthirsty heartthrob, he needs to make with the Oprah confessional.
Barnabas: When did the first transformation occur?
Chris: About seven years ago.
Barnabas: Tell me about it.
Chris tries a little dodge — there’s no time, you’re not safe, sun’s almost down and you’re starting to look like an entree — but Barnabas has a silver cane and eighteen million US households who want to hear all about it.
And then they just go for it. Last week was a blur of crazed werewolf action, and it’s time to switch gears. So the writer — on paper it’s Gordon Russell, in reality it’s Violet Welles — says, Okay. Today we’re doing this.
Chris: It was just a few days past my twenty-first birthday. I’d just graduated from college; I was going to be an architect. Oh, I was gonna be an architect to be reckoned with! Bold, imaginative — revolutionary. I thought nothing could stand in my way.
You know, that reminds me — when was the last time you reckoned with an architect? It feels like forever. A moment of silence, please, for the lost art of architect-reckoning.
Chris: And something did — something that I thought happened only in fiction. One night, just shortly after sunset, I began to feel a great pain, all over my body. And as it began to increase — oh, man, I was terrified, out of my mind. All of a sudden, it stopped. But then I got the most — shocking thing that ever happened to me in my life.
Chris: I looked down… and my hands — my hands had begun to grow hair all over them!
Chris: And I looked in the mirror — and there was hair growing all over my face, too! I couldn’t believe it! I couldn’t understand what was happening!
Chris: And then — I blacked out. Just blacked right out. The next morning, I woke up, and I was myself again, I thought, oh well, it was just a nightmare, you know?
Chris: Until I looked around. I saw the evidence — evidence that I’ve seen, oh, must be a hundred times since then. Muddy tracks on the floor, my clothes all torn, the furniture just knocked all around the room.
Chris: And always — always the news that someone had been attacked… and often killed… by a vicious animal. And I knew —
Chris: I knew the animal was ME!
So that’s a nice monologue. I mean, I wouldn’t use it as my audition piece for Long Day’s Journey Into Night, but for Dark Shadows, it’s great, just the right balance of remorse and self-pity. That ought to be enough to get you into Murder Club, no problem.
Chris does end up with a provisional membership, but he never manages to upgrade to Murder Club Select.
It’s a lot like Professor Stokes last year, who had a fantastic run of episodes when he was fighting Cassandra and contacting Reverend Trask, and it looked like he was on his way to becoming a permanent member of Barnabas’ entourage. But it never quite clicked for Stokes, and it’s not going to click for Chris — not like some other characters who join the Club over the next year.
Really, the four paid-in-full charter members of Murder Club are Barnabas, Julia, Angelique and Quentin. They’re the ones who have no secrets from each other, the enormous earth-shaking kaiju who meet on an equal footing. Chris is doing really well right now, but he could never hang out in the clubhouse with Angelique. They wouldn’t have any idea what to say.
The problem, for both Stokes and Chris, is that Barnabas never confides in them. They hang out, and share some intense experiences, but they never find out that he used to be a vampire.
Stokes could never really join Murder Club anyway, because he never actually murdered anyone, except for when he almost killed Tony, but that one hardly even counts.
But with Chris… it just never really comes up. Barnabas being a vampire is super low in the mix right now — he’s the kindly uncle/butler at the moment, cleaning up other people’s messes because nobody else can.
When you think about it, the funny thing about the core members of Murder Club is that they all start out as enemies. Barnabas, Julia, Angelique and Quentin — they learned each other’s secrets, because they were trying to expose and destroy each other.
And when that didn’t pan out — because you can never really destroy a kaiju, not forever — then after a while, they become the characters who know each other the best. They’ve shared the same experiences, all those bonkers nights that nobody else knows about.
The members of Murder Club are like old army buddies, who went through the war together. They get together, and talk about old times — really old times, like a century or two. After a while, the fact that they fought on different sides hardly even matters.
Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:
During Chris’ abbreviated transformation scene, the camera pans from his face down to his right hand, which has become a werewolf hand. Unfortunately, his normal-looking left hand is also in the shot, which kind of spoils the effect.
The kids have to crouch down and crawl through the wall to get into Quentin’s room, but when they leave, they just run straight out the door.
— Danny Horn