Category Archives: Sam Hall

Episode 1025: Rebecca to the Rescue

“Fight me? When I’ve already won?”

It seemed to me, as I sat there in bed, staring at the wall, at the sunlight coming in at the window, at Maxim’s empty bed, that there was nothing quite so shaming, so degrading as a marriage that had failed. Failed after three months, as mine had done.

For I had no illusions left now, I no longer made any effort to pretend. Last night had shown me too well. My marriage was a failure. All the things that people would say about it if they knew, were true. We did not get on. We were not companions. We were not suited to one another.

I was too young for Maxim, too inexperienced, and, more important still, I was not of his world. The fact that I loved him in a sick, hurt, desperate way, like a child or a dog, did not matter. It was not the sort of love he needed. He wanted something else that I could not give him, something he had had before.

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Episode 1024: The End of Love

“Do you think that what’s happened in this house has deranged my mind so much that I’ll accept your outrageous lies?”

You are asleep, said the voice in the portentous dream. But you hear me. Follow my voice. Follow… Follow… Follow… Follow… Follow…

To be honest, Maggie was already following just fine after “Follow” #3, but voices in portentous dreams usually have a script they need to stick to; a lot of this is automated.

Come in, Maggie, said the voice, as Maggie approached a door. Come into this room, and learn the secret. So Maggie came in.

The table holds the secret, the voice continued. Underneath, beside the ornament. Push the button. Maggie reached the table and found the button, which opened a small oblong compartment.

There before you lies the secret, said the voice in the portentous dream. If your secret is complete, you may wake up now. If you would like another secret, you may select from the following options. Please listen carefully, as our menu has recently changed.

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Episode 1020: To Serve Man

“We were just standing here talking, and suddenly he fell over!”

Why does the moth love the flame?

You turn on the porch light and there they are, banging their little moth noggins against the lightbulb, desperate to break through and be consumed in flames. There doesn’t seem to be a good evolutionary explanation for this, but there they are, doing it, all night long. Why?

Well, one explanation is that a moth’s navigation system depends on transverse orientation, keeping a fixed angle on a distant source of light — typically the moon, apparently. So the moth is trying to keep the moon in a fixed place, and then along comes your porch light, and the moth gets all confused, ending up in a spin around the bulb. Or maybe not. It’s possible that people just made up the concept of “transverse orientation” in order to explain the moths, and it doesn’t really make a whole lot of sense. Why couldn’t moths just fly in whatever direction they wanted to fly, like everybody else?

There’s another possible explanation, which is that female moths’ pheromones are slightly luminescent, and emit some of the same frequencies as candlelight, so the moths trying to immolate themselves think they’ve found a spectacularly turned-on lady moth. Except moths are even more attracted to UV light than candlelight, and UV light doesn’t have the same wavelengths as the pheromones, so that’s not it either.

People also use the word “phototaxis” to explain this phenomenon, which once again doesn’t really apply to anything except moths, and another possibility is that flowers reflect UV light, so maybe the moths think that the lightbulbs are a food source. There’s a point at which this is more about you than the moths.

Continue reading Episode 1020: To Serve Man

Episode 1016: Fire Is Not a Friend

“Fingers of flame, make healthy again what I have diseased!”

Well, here we are, another week in Parallel Time, and the logic deficit is just as bad as ever. We’re four days into an utterly baffling plot arrangement involving a parallel triangle between Quentin, Angelique and Maggie, who are all married to each other and desperately unhappy about it.

Quentin’s first wife, Angelique — who’s dead, but pretending that she isn’t — wants him to fall in love with her again. But he’s already in love, sort of, with his second wife Maggie, who fled the house weeks ago so she could go upstate and make a movie. That left Angelique alone with Quentin to work her wicked wiles, but they don’t really have a hell of a lot of chemistry these days, and she’s getting desperate.

So Angelique keeps doing these supernatural middle-school science experiments, and then getting all angsty when they don’t produce the desired results, which are unspecified. First, she slipped Quentin a magic potion that was supposed to drive him crazy, and it worked. Unfortunately, he went entirely crazy, rather than the 60% crazy that Angelique was apparently budgeting for, and he slipped up to the attic to hang himself. She managed to talk him down, of course, because obviously she doesn’t want her weird magic spells to hurt the man that she loves.

Except here she is twenty-two minutes later, and she’s attacking him again, this time by sticking a silver pin into a voodoo doll and triggering a massive coronary. Then she heads downstairs, and finds exactly what she ought to expect — Quentin lying on the floor, and everybody else standing around, telling each other not to have hysterics.

“Quentin!” she cries, and rushes to his side, horrorstruck by the idea that he might die from the heart attack that she deliberately induced one minute ago. And then she spends the rest of the episode worrying about him, and wondering if maybe she could have handled this differently.

So I don’t even know what to say. The all-powerful living dead soap vixen at the heart of this storyline is hell bent on doing exactly the opposite of what she actually wants, and then she’s unhappy. What’s going on? How is it possible to be this bad at your job?

Continue reading Episode 1016: Fire Is Not a Friend

Episode 1015: You Were Murdered

“We must find out whose hand that was!”

Attic, Angelique’s room, attic, Angelique’s room, attic, drawing room, Angelique’s room, Angelique’s room, attic, attic, drawing room. If you like watching people walk back and forth between one room and another, then Dark Shadows has an episode made just for you.

But guess what? Sinister twin Angelique Collins is just as anxious as the rest of us to move this storyline along, so she’s cast a spell on her ex-husband, Quentin, to make him fall in love with his new runaway bride, Maggie. Now, as far as I know, Quentin already loved Maggie — at least, he married her, which is a pretty solid piece of evidence — but Angelique has decided that he doesn’t love Maggie enough, so she’s giving him an unasked-for upgrade.

She’s got a plan, you see, a wicked plan, and it’s hard to talk her out of it. If Angelique can make Quentin fall even harder for Maggie, then he’ll call her and ask her to come home, and when she does, Angelique will get Quentin to fall out of love with Maggie, and back in love with Angelique, who’s actually dead and impersonating her twin sister Alexis, but somehow he won’t mind, and I’m afraid that’s about as watertight as plans get around here.

But this brilliant scheme has backfired, quelle surprise, and Angelique’s potion has pretty much driven Quentin straight out of his mind. He’s just had a hallucination that suggested that he’d killed Maggie remotely by attacking her portrait with a letter opener, and now he’s headed for the attic, just like everybody else today.

Sensing that things may have gone mildly awry, Angelique settles down with a tarot deck to summon up some news. She deals out a simple arrangement of cards, and then flips over the middle card which is really the only one that matters, and — it’s the Hanged Man!

Shocked, Angelique leaps from the table and dashes for the door, convinced that the card is conveying up-to-the-minute bulletins. What’s that, Tarot? she cries. Quentin’s about to hang himself in the attic? Gosh, if I can only get there in time! Lead the way, girl!

Continue reading Episode 1015: You Were Murdered

Episode 1011: The Cast Came Back

“There’s someone in that coffin, isn’t there?”

It always starts with a box.

Now, there’s a lot I don’t know about storing radioactive material, but I’m pretty sure you’re not supposed to open the lid every once in a while to see how everything’s going. It’s more of a binary situation — you’re either sealing this nightmare in a keep-out container for the foreseeable, or you’re trying to get us all killed. There isn’t much of a middle ground on that one.

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House of Dark Shadows: Let’s Not Play Insane Games

“I haven’t seen the light of day in almost two hundred years.”

Right this minute, teenage bad boy John Yaeger is in the basement of the Old House, pulling apart the locks and chains that keep Barnabas Collins shut up tight in his coffin. Six weeks ago, the Dark Shadows cast took off for Tarrytown to shoot a feature film, leaving the newcomers and second-stringers to keep the show warm while they’re gone. Now they’re cracking open the mystery box, and once more unleashing Barnabas upon the populace. Dark Shadows is back at work.

To celebrate, I’ve invited actual famous grown-up film critic David Edelstein to come watch the 1970 film House of Dark Shadows. David’s the film critic for New York magazine, NPR’s Fresh Air and CBS Sunday Morning, and he’s also a lifelong Dark Shadows fan and a friend of the blog.

Five years ago, David wrote a very funny review of the Tim Burton movie, which he figured was his only chance to write about Dark Shadows. But it turns out he’s got more in the tank, so we’re going to watch the 1970 film House of Dark Shadows together, and discuss the whole thing from start to finish. David saw HoDS when it first came out, and he’s always loved it, so yeah, I know, just another example of bias in the mainstream media.

Today’s journey involves Hammer movies, overstuffed sets, inadvertent love triangles, how you can tell it’s daytime, cameos, cannons, the color of blood, and the age-old war between actors and scenery, and it ends with the extermination of everything that you love.

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Episode 1004: The Way Home

“There’s a spirit at Collinwood that will not let you do what you plan!”

Haunted homeowner Quentin Collins strides down the hall in the east wing of his enormous mansion, headed for the suite occupied by his sister-in-law. Flinging open the doors, he finds himself face to face with an episode of Dark Shadows.

Quentin knows this room well; he’s in and out of it all the time these days. It’s mostly orange and pink, with a portrait and a piano and several dreadful secrets. But the doors have flung him into an unfamiliar space — the same room, but dark and empty and underutilized.

His son Daniel and niece Amy are standing in the middle of the room, having an argument. They don’t hear him when he calls, and he’s held back by some invisible barrier that he can’t penetrate. All he can do is stare in amazement at this new, grittier reboot.

This isn’t the television show that Quentin knows, but you can tell that it’s daytime programming, because the boy says, “Maybe if we stand here, something will happen!” and the girl says, “But I don’t want anything to happen!” That’s the new ad campaign for Parallel ABC Daytime.

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Episode 1003: The Way We Live Now

“You can believe that rooms can change, but you can ignore a simple fact.”

This is what it feels like to be dead, by which I mean it doesn’t feel like anything except that you’re this fucking cold all the time. This is what keeps vampires and zombies going. They’re not hungry, obviously, they say they’re hungry but what they really mean is that it’s cold why is it so cold, I am lost and so far away, I need to eat something or I’ll stop moving, and when you stand still it gets so much colder, it’s like you’re already as cold as it could possibly be except it gets even colder than that if you stop moving, so you keep going keep eating keep spreading out you can’t hear speech anymore you can’t feel anything, but if you can’t feel anything then why the fuck is it so fucking cold

So you’ve got that rattling in your brain all the time, until you can’t think anymore, and the only thing that exists is whatever kind of warmth you can possibly get at, and people stop being people in your head. I’m not saying that like it’s an excuse, because it’s not, it’s just that being dead is really hard and people need to understand that.

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