“I demand that counsel define the term ‘occult practices’.”
We’re going back to court for another witchcraft trial on Dark Shadows today, and once again, people have missed the entire point of the Salem story. The witch trials that took place in Massachusetts in the late 17th century happened in the actual real world, where I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but there’s no such thing as witches. Salem 1692 is a story about a justice system perverted by superstition and mob panic, where innocent people were jailed and executed based on the claims of a pack of hysterical middle schoolers.
But in modern Salem, they’ve discovered that it’s a lot more lucrative to pretend there were real witches in the late 17th, and build a tourist trade by promoting Halloween parades and haunted house tours. Yes, they have a Witch History Museum that tells the real story, but on the whole, it’s more fun to build events around spooky fictional witches instead of focusing on the thing that’s really scary, which is putting Christians in charge of a legal system.
So there are a whole bunch of TV shows and movies that depict real witches on the scene of the Salem witch trials — Charmed, Bewitched, Hocus Pocus, Sabrina the Teenage Witch, I Married a Witch, The Vampire Diaries, that WGN Salem series with sexy versions of John Alden and Mary Sibley. This is basically like making a TV show about the Holocaust in which the Jews kind of deserved it.
Continue reading Episode 1165: In the Haze of History
“I only know that someone has been filling your mind with evil distortions.”
Well, to begin with, he wears a ring with a spooky symbol on it. It’s got a circle with an X through it, and it’s hot off the finger of a witch doctor from the dark jungles of Brazil. So either Quentin is a fan of The X-Men or he’s a Satan-worshipping serial killer, and I haven’t seen a lot of comic books lying around, have you?
Continue reading Episode 1157: The Last Sheriff
“What gods are against us, what gods?”
So! This is where your evil has lured you!
Continue reading Episode 1156: The Framing
“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.
Continue reading Episode 1070: Gangsta’s Paradise
“A man doesn’t just suddenly choke to death for no reason at all!”
“I’d like to get it over with, all right,” says Quentin Collins to the detective, “with Bruno, and with my bare hands!” This is during an interrogation about the death of Quentin’s first wife, who he strangled with his bare hands. She didn’t die from being strangled — the murderer was actually a rogue hatpin, acting alone — but also Quentin was simultaneously strangling her at the time, which it’s been months since they’ve established that but I still can’t get over it.
So it’s probably not a great idea for him to start shouting about his bare hands in front of the gendarmes. Everybody has bare hands, anyway; it’s nothing to brag about. Sadly, this Trump-tweet level of self-incrimination is a common problem in soap opera towns, which are populated almost entirely by petulant narcissists with no impulse control.
Continue reading Episode 1041: Westworld
“Do you really think that I indulge in witchcraft?”
“Good evening,” says Inspector Hamilton, “I’m Inspector Hamilton.” And then it goes downhill from there.
Continue reading Episode 1040: Stupid Mystery Theater
“I’ll have to live all over what happened last year.”
“Cyrus Longworth is John Yaeger, and John Yaeger is Cyrus Longworth!”
The rest is silence.
Continue reading Episode 1007: Saving Dark Shadows
“Be cautious with it! We don’t want a string of strange deaths in our group.”
But it’s the age old story, isn’t it? Man comes into contact with something other — something beyond our grasp, beyond understanding, beyond words — and it changes us, occasionally for the better. And we take that encounter, and we turn it into story.
I mean, not this story, obviously. This story is insane. You know how Joseph Campbell and the Mythkateers say that all mythic narratives are just variations on a single great story? Yeah. This is one of the exceptions.
But even the strangest sound has an echo, and here, in the midst of the ragged and unruly Leviathan tale clattering across our screens in double-time, we can reach out and grab hold of another story that’s following a similarly erratic track.
There is another story where Barnabas very gradually fights an otherworldly menace, where Quentin appears and disappears with little consequence, where Maggie experiences carefully controlled doses of mild peril, and where an upsetting reptile pulls the strings, and makes the puppets dance.
This is a story that our people tell. We call it Barnabas, Quentin and the Mummy’s Curse.
Continue reading Episode 946: Universal Monsters
“Do you know why I brought you back from the grave?”
Who needs coffins? Coffins are for wimps and losers, say the grief-stricken loved ones of Sheriff J. Davenport.
Continue reading Episode 939: My Father’s Killer
“I don’t know what to say either, except that he died horribly.”
A man is dead.
Like, super dead. You know how some people are dead? Well, this guy is even more dead than that. Way more.
Kneeling, the Sheriff pulls a discreet sheet over the deceased, shaking his head.
“Have you told his family?” he asks the people who were in the room when the man died but claim that they have no idea what killed him.
“No, I didn’t quite know what to say. I thought after you saw him…”
“Well, I’ve seen him,” nods the sheriff. “And I’ve seen that room that he was destroyed in. I don’t know what to say either, except that he died horribly.”
He paces around the crime scene. “I’ve never seen a room destroyed the way that one was, or a corpse that looks like that!” He sighs. “I haven’t the faintest idea who, or what, murdered him.”
Yeah, no kidding; you’re a Collinsport sheriff. You live in the most murdery town in America, and you’ve never solved a single crime.
Continue reading Episode 934: The Pet Detective