Category Archives: Sam Hall

Episode 1088: The Summer of Our Discontent

“Don’t you feel the evil in this room?”

If it seems like the Collinwood halls are filled with more ghosts and fewer people than usual, that’s because three of the stars — Jonathan Frid, Kathryn Leigh Scott and Nancy Barrett — are out this week on separate press tours for House of Dark Shadows, the feature film which keeps on finding ways to make the show worse.

In the film, Jonathan Frid plays a vampire, Kathryn Leigh Scott plays a girl, and Nancy Barrett plays a girl vampire, so she wins. You see a lot of Carolyn-the-vampire images in the promotional materials, because that’s the traditional early-70s horror movie draw — a pretty girl in a flimsy nightgown, with blood all over her face. This was the period after they invented red paint and before they invented slasher movies, so sometimes the girls had to go and get bloody some other way.

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Episode 1087: Stranger Things

“What makes you think that you can describe a man from my dream?”

What do you think they were doing, all that time?

Gerard Stiles is an evil pirate-sorceror-ghost, an advanced energy-being with the power to control people’s minds, by either hypnotizing them or, if necessary, dropping heavy objects on them. He’s got a governess gun-moll sidekick who can magically seduce romantic leads, and two teenage enforcers who can convince kids to turn on their own families. He can utterly destroy Collinwood, and kill everyone who lives there, one at a time or in handfuls.

So what do you think he was thinking a year and a half ago, when some young upstart named Quentin Collins kyped his whole strategy? I mean, there’s Gerard, just biding his time until a blonde girl showed up, and all of a sudden, Quentin and Beth jump the line, and start doing exactly what Gerard has been planning to do since fifty-seven years before Quentin even died. And they failed, obviously, because they were noobs who didn’t even have a single zombie.

Now that Gerard’s pushed the button and put his own plan into operation, he can finally show everyone how to follow through on a Turn of the Screw-themed extreme home makeover. But when Gerard goes to his girlfriend’s room, he finds her kissing on — guess who? — Quentin Collins.

No way, Gerard emits. Are you kidding me? Fuck that guy.

Continue reading Episode 1087: Stranger Things

Episode 1082: You Don’t Have to Put on the Red Light

“Why do I always have to be the one to talk sense?”

I know that this will be impossible for you to believe, but everything I tell you is true.

Months ago, on a plane of existence that you’ve never seen, you and I fell madly, hopelessly in love. All it took was one look at you, unconscious on the table of the mad scientist who was using you to animate his murdered daughter’s corpse, and I knew that I couldn’t go through with my plan to stab you while you slept.

You were like a perfect china doll, pure and lovely and utterly helpless. You couldn’t be another casualty in the endless occult space war that I wage against my ex-wife in multiple dimensions. I spared you from the brutal execution I’d planned for you, and that is why you love me.

When I carried you from the house, you were silent and remote. I brought you to a secret room in a deserted mausoleum, and watched as you moved about the room, reacting to objects that you recognized. Then I took you to my home, to my own basement, where I hooked you up to several machines and worked tirelessly on your behalf. Even though you had been cruelly used, I didn’t bring you to the hospital or the police, because they could never understand the special connection between us.

There was another man in your life, my dearest, who tried to ensnare you with his hypnotic control. Happily, my hypnotic control over you was stronger than his, allowing you the freedom to choose the man who deserved your love. He saw you as a plaything, an object that he could own, but I knew the truth — that you were mine, forever, from the moment I saw you. Shortly after this, he was murdered, and I buried his body in the woods, so that the police investigation would no longer be an impediment to our love.

How can I descibe the agony I felt as you burned, in that ghastly fire? You screamed my name, begging me to rescue you from the flames. That was the last time that I saw you, my love, and you cannot imagine the suffering I have experienced.

My name is Barnabas Collins. I am the most dangerous person that you have ever met. This is our love story.

Continue reading Episode 1082: You Don’t Have to Put on the Red Light

Episode 1081: Born to Rock

“I never thought I’d have to introduce you to yourself.”

So, here’s where I struggle. I’m looking down the barrel of a whole week of Dark Shadows featuring my current least-favorite characters — young David Collins and his accomplice, Hallie Stokes — and they’re going to keep on doing the same things that I didn’t enjoy watching them do last week.

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Episode 1074: Future So Bright

“Charting the future is not a whim with me.”

Gentleman vampire Barnabas Collins is terribly concerned about the future, and for good reason; he’s been there, and it sucks. He spent a couple weeks trapped in the 90s, where he found his house tore up from the floor up, and he’s desperate to counteract the oncoming calamity.

But we all know that he’s going to fail; the future for Barnabas Collins is not going to be on ABC-TV at four o’clock in the afternoon. Collinwood will fall, and the family will move to a series of temporary shelters in paperback novels and comic strips and audio plays. That future is fast approaching — not today, and not tomorrow, but soon, and for the rest of his life.

And he might have figured that out, if he’d bothered to learn anything about the world in 1995. He didn’t even crack a newspaper; the name “Bart Simpson” means nothing to him. He spent the entire time running around the house, looking for ghosts.

Dark Shadows has spent the last year and a half turning inward, gradually losing touch with the world outside the great estate. Even the town of Collinsport hardly matters, these days. Barnabas came back to the present with the name “Rose Cottage” on his lips; nobody’s ever heard of it, but I’d bet money it’s going to turn out to be somewhere on the Collinwood grounds. It’s the only place they care about.

But this isn’t the only example of Barnabas Collins flash-forwarding on a mission of purely parochial interest. In November 1971, he shot a whole hundred years into the future, and you’ll never guess what he was looking for. Nope, don’t even try. Whatever it is you’re thinking, it’s dumber than that.

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Episode 1073: Steer the Stars

“It’s different here. I don’t have to imagine things.”

Elizabeth Collins Stoddard is perturbed, and for good reason. Her houseguests vanished into a dimensional fissure they discovered in a closed-off wing of the house, and when they returned, months later, limping and gasping and covered in space dust, they issued dire portents of calamities to come.

The house of Collins will fall, they say, collapsing into each other’s arms and weeping deliriously, and when you ask them for details, they fall to pieces. We don’t know, they say, keening. Nobody would tell us anything. The future is super cliquey.

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Episode 1070: Gangsta’s Paradise

“You don’t understand the enormities of your problems!”

It’s not really about the future, of course. If it was, they wouldn’t be doing Turn of the Screw II: The Returning. 

Dark Shadows has a future, of sorts, in reboots and reruns and spinoffs, but right now, they’re running out of energy and ideas. They spent the spring making House of Dark Shadows, a feature film that explicitly rejects the idea that Dark Shadows is a continuing story, and kills off every character that you could possibly be interested in, just to make sure that there won’t be a sequel. (They make a sequel anyway.) Now they’re back to making a daily TV show, and they’re finding it increasingly difficult to imagine a future that runs as far as the next six months.

But for two weeks, at least, they’ve managed to put together a tight, emotionally engaging mini-storyline set in 1995, which focuses on exactly the right characters and manages to turn the familiar sets into an alienating nightmare landscape. Today’s episode is essentially the season finale, with Barnabas directly challenging the Big Bad, and daytime soaps don’t even do season finales. My argument, based on this episode, is that they should.

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Episode 1069: Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me

“We can stop the cause of what’s made all this happen if we go back!”

There’s a moment in this episode when it looks like Julia might give Quentin a lethal injection, as the Sheriff of Collinsport just stands there and watches.

It doesn’t happen, but that’s how bleak the current storyline is, that you sit there and think, wait, is Julia casually murdering one of her friends? Last year, we spent six weeks with the main character of the show mind-controlled by lurking horrors from the depths of space who wanted to cleanse the earth of humankind, and it wasn’t anywhere near as scary as this.

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Episode 1062: Don’t Take It Personal (Just One of Dem Days)

“Will tomorrow tell us any more than today?”

Every once in a while, I have to take an unplanned break from writing this blog — usually for a conference, or a seance, or I have other things on my mind — and when I come back, it’s always the same. The blog is a shambles, all caved-in and overgrown with vines and creepers. Everything’s dusty, the commenters are ravenous and desperate, and you don’t even want to know what happens to the Twitter feed.

Suddenly, it’s the distant future — or at least, a lot more distant than I wanted it to be — and if I could figure out what happened, maybe I could go back in time to make it right. I mean, I probably can’t, but you never know.

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