“It’s not difficult to die! Did you know that?”
#1: Why is it still happening? Brutus Collins, invoking the curse in 1680 after murdering two family members and his best friend, said: “It shall not end, until that time that someone spends a night in this spot, and survives with his sanity!” Well, Morgan spent a night on that spot three weeks ago, and he’s alive and sane, judging by the local standards for sanity. He’s currently parked on the sofa, drinking his morning tea. That means the curse is over, it’s been over for weeks, it wasn’t that big of a deal in the first place, and nobody has to listen to Brutus Collins anymore.
#2. Why hasn’t the family investigated the spooky room before? Julia asks Morgan what it was like when he spent the night in the cursed bedroom, and instead of answering the question that you’d think they would have thoroughly discussed at the post-possession debrief, he decides to take her on a field trip. She’s taken aback, but he says, “It’s at night that it’s dangerous. We’d be perfectly safe in the daylight.” If that’s true, then they should have been breaking down the barely-hidden secret door and spelunking down the secret stairs for over a century. What have they been doing all this time?
#3. Why are James and Amanda’s bodies still down in Brutus’ secret records room, dusty but otherwise preserved? Brutus killed them in the 1680 flashback we saw last week, and then injected them with something and said their spirits would be trapped here forever, but — not to put too fine a point on it — why exactly did he do that?
#4. Morgan says that he touched the body of James, and in that moment of contact, James possessed him. He cautions Julia not to touch the bodies, or she might be possessed as well. How does that work? Melanie is occasionally possessed by the spirit of Amanda, but Melanie doesn’t touch the corpse; it just happens. When Amanda’s done possessing Melanie, does her spirit head back downstairs to the secret records room?
#5. While I’m on the subject, they say that Melanie is possessed by Amanda when she goes into her strange fits and tries to kill people with a knife, but the Amanda that we saw in the flashback was perfectly nice. She didn’t support what Brutus was doing, not least because he killed her and her boyfriend, and trapped their spirits in their undecaying corpses. Why is she interested in killing people for him?
#6. Julia wants to give the bodies a Christian burial — despite the fact that Morgan just said they can’t touch them — and Morgan says, “No, we can’t take them anywhere. That’s not in Brutus’ plans for them.” That should be a good thing; we’re supposed to be opposed to Brutus’ plans. Sometimes I think that Morgan is actually on Brutus’ side.
#7. By the way, where did all the secret records go? Last time we were down in the secret records room, there were secret records piled up all over the place. Did Brutus build a backup enormous hidden cavern for his secret records that nobody who lives at Collinwood has ever noticed?
#8. While Morgan and Julia are discussing the bodies, Brutus turns the lights out and slams the door shut, locking them in. Why does he do that? This seems to be outside the confines of the curse. Also, Morgan said that there was no danger in the daytime. You see what I mean, about Morgan?
#9. Why does Gabriel have to report to the principal’s office? He’s casually sauntering down the main staircase after robbing Catherine at knifepoint, in no particular hurry to leave the scene of the crime. Then he’s caught short by a call over the loudspeaker from Brutus, saying, “Gabriel, it is not yet time to go. Gabriel, come to me! Do you hear me? Come to me! Come to me! You will find out! Come to me! Come to me! Come to me!”
So Gabriel turns right around and walks back upstairs, straight into the police dragnet that should be set up on the second story landing, if these people had any kind of problem-solving skills. But the real question is, why did Brutus wait for Gabriel to walk all the way downstairs before telling him to come back up?
#10. Melanie finds Morgan and Julia in the secret records room and lets them out, hurrah. Morgan says that they’ll have to do something about the bodies down in that room, and Melanie says, “But Morgan, if we do something, it might make him even angrier, even more dangerous. And what would happen to us then? Morgan, what would happen then?” I have a better question: what is happening to you now?
#11. Also, what is happening to the cameras? I swear, it’s practically impossible for me to take a decent screenshot these days. There is more than one camera in operation at ABC Studio 16 which is currently incapable of getting a clear picture of the actors. This should be obvious to the camera operators, the director and everyone in the control room. Why do the lighting directors even show up for work? Have they really all given up, to this extent?
#12. Reporting to the spooky room, Gabriel finds a knife sitting on a surface of some kind. (Seriously, the cameras.) It appears to be the same knife that Gabriel has used in the past to assault his family members; in fact, Gabriel used it for exactly that purpose literally four minutes ago when he traded it to Catherine for something shiny. Why is this being played as a pivotal moment in his criminal career?
#13. Why does Gabriel need personalized instruction in the art of picking up a knife, and sprinting in the direction of his nearest and dearest? He’s been menacing people since episode 1227, all on his own.
#14. Why is Brutus standing in a hole? They did such a good job with the Chromakey bodies in the secret records room, but every time they try to overlay Louis Edmonds onto the screen, they can’t get him in the right position. They figured out how to do this three years ago, and after some rough initial experimentation, they settled into an effective technique that they’ve used dozens of times. In March 1971, Dark Shadows probably does more Chromakey shots than any other scripted television show; they’re the industry leaders in this area. So why can’t they get Brutus in the right spot, several episodes in a row?
#15. Explain this: “Make no mistake, Gabriel! You are my servant, and will do my bidding! It pleases me to see them all die! And you will kill them, one by one, with that knife! And anyone who thwarts me will die!” Presumably, this overrides the curse: instead of having a lottery and choosing one person from each generation, Brutus has now decided to directly slaughter every member of the family right now. So if this fails, as it will, is the family curse still in effect? If so, why?
#16. Catherine tells Morgan that Gabriel came after her with a knife, and Morgan says that he’ll get Quentin and search for the assailant. “No, let him go!” she says. “If he can find some kind of peace away from Collinwood, then let him find it!” What? He hasn’t even left the house yet. Does Catherine have trouble with object permanence?
#17. Catherine says that they should leave Collinwood forever, because this house is full of lunatics and they’ll probably be murdered. Morgan replies, “We are all cursed, and where we go, we take it with us. So, you see, it does no one any good to run away: not you, not me, not Gabriel!” Is there any actual evidence that the curse would follow them, if they left the house? It doesn’t even affect the people next door. Brutus’ fiendish plan to massacre the family involves a knife; his civilization hasn’t even developed ranged weapons yet. Has anyone actually tried to run away, or burn the house down?
#18. How does this new “kill everyone with a knife” policy advance Brutus’ long-term goals? When he set up the curse in 1680, he said that it was designed to identify the person who was worthy of the name Collins. Is that still part of the overall strategy?
#19. How does a single ghost have the power to create this complicated live-action role-playing game? The most destructive ghost that we’ve seen up to now was Gerard, who destroyed the house using a team of pirate zombies and then ruled the ruins for several decades, but even he didn’t do something as breathtakingly weird as giving people the plague, and then curing them on command, just to prove a point.
#20. So far, as a result of this stupid curse, three Collins family members have died in the spooky room, not counting little Tim Braithewaite, and three others went insane and then died afterwards. That makes at least six ancestors who are just as pissed off with Brutus as Brutus is with everyone else. Why can’t they gang up on him?
#21. And when you think about it, do angry ghosts even make sense, as a concept in literature? Who wants to haunt and punish their own descendants?
#22. I mean, if someone from the distant past was angry, then the people that they were angry at are long gone. Being furious at your own great-great-grandchildren says more about you and your long-term parenting skills than anything else.
#23. So let’s say you’ve got nine weeks to tell a ghost story about a family being haunted by a murderous curse, and the whole thing hinges on the ancestral backstory having some dramatic punch behind it. Why would you go ahead with it, if the backstory that you have doesn’t make any logical, metaphorical or emotional sense? Or at least fix the cameras.
Tomorrow: Chekhov’s Sword.
Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:
Catherine cries, “Killing you — killing me won’t get you away from here!”
When the scene shifts from the establishing shot of Collinwood at night to Gabriel walking down the foyer stairs, there’s a flash of green.
After Gabriel leaves the spooky room holding the knife, Brutus is supposed to do his evil echo-laugh, but he doesn’t. Brutus starts laughing too late, and the reverb is switched off halfway through as the next scene starts.
Gabriel asks Melanie, “Didn’t you know there were many secrets and panels, all over this house?”
Here’s the opposite of a blooper, something that they did quite effectively that I want to point out. In Act 1, Morgan and Julia are looking at the bodies of James and Amanda, who are Chromakeyed into the scene. The Chromakey footage was pretaped, because Keith Prentice is playing both Morgan and James in the scene. When the lights suddenly go out for Morgan and Julia, the lights on the bodies dim too, just at the right time. It’s a nice moment, well planned and executed. It’s deeply strange that they can get this right, and they still can’t put Brutus in the right place.
Tomorrow: Chekhov’s Sword.
— Danny Horn