“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
“He’s in his coffin. You’re some creature, like him!”
I get it. The X-Men have already made their last stand, and then it’s five years later, and you want another one. You doused the Wicked Witch with water, you blew up the Planet of the Apes, you solved the energy problem in Monstropolis, and you raided the lost ark, but here you are, broke and hitless. So what do you do?
Sure, making a prequel isn’t the most creative option, but once you’ve killed off Darth Vader, Yoda and Jabba the Hutt, then what’s left to look at, porgs? There’s got to be more to life than that.
Continue reading Episode 1110: Attack of the Clones
“I did it from right here — with this coin.”
Tumbling through time, Barnabas and Julia have come to a hard stop at 1995, lured by the siren call of alternative rock and Richard Linklater movies. No one has a mint-with-tag Beanie Baby or anything, but you can tell it’s 1995 because everybody keeps dying hard, with a vengeance.
The Collinwood of the future is in ruins, abandoned and left to rot after a particularly brutal cancellation twenty-five years ago. The main characters who aren’t dead are irretrievably insane, stumbling through a devastated ABC Studio 16, waiting for someone to turn on the cameras again. They don’t cancel soap operas like this anymore; they have a much more humane system, where actors who can’t be placed in foster soaps get their own web series.
Here in 1995, Carolyn Stoddard Hawkes, Dark Shadows’ signature twenty-something sweetheart, is now pushing fifty, and apparently she’s been pushing it with her face. She looks awful. She’s spent the last couple decades becoming that loneliest of creatures, a cat lady who doesn’t have cats.
But from our perspective, this is still the Carolyn Yet to Come, and if Barnabas and Julia can find out what caused all this daytime trauma, then maybe it’s avertable. Like A Christmas Carol, The Terminator and 12 Monkeys, the question of this story is whether the future can be changed if everybody stops acting like a jerk for five seconds.
Continue reading Episode 1068: Just a Girl
“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.
Continue reading Episode 1062: Don’t Take It Personal (Just One of Dem Days)
“How can I fight a presence?”
Angelique was dead, to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that. This must be distinctly understood, or nothing wonderful can come of the story I am going to relate. Actually, there is some doubt about it, so I guess the story is, like, eighty-five percent wonderful.
Continue reading Episode 984: What We Know
“That’s right, I’m a werewolf, and that’s why you’re gonna start painting right now.”
Here we are, in another haunted mansion, and sitting at the front desk is an audio-animatronic Charles Delaware Tate. He speaks, he turns his head, and his chest moves up and down like he’s breathing; I’d estimate this action figure has maybe six points of articulation. But it can’t be the real Chuck D, because he should be seventy-two years older than this.
Quentin and Chris are visiting this weird wax museum because they’re hoping that Tate can paint a picture for them. But Tate laughs at them, just laughs and laughs, until Quentin picks up a vase of flowers and hits him square in the chest with it.
And that’s how Charles Delaware Tate dies laughing, the target of a floral drone strike. He falls face first onto the desk, and then his head pops off and rolls across the floor.
Continue reading Episode 919/920/921: The New Neighbors
“I found a way to transcend time. But you have found a way to suspend time!”
For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given. And the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called… well, there’s some dispute about that, actually.
It’s the night after Christmas 1969, and young David is browsing through the good book. He shoplifted an ancient devotional almanac stuffed with prophecies, long-term weather predictions, household hints and prayers to the Elder Gods, and apparently it’s not okay to read ahead. David has been possessed by the villains of the current storyline, like he ever does anything else.
“This shall be followed by a period of ten days,” he reads. “And as darkness settles on the tenth day, there shall come forth another manifestation. And due homage shall be bestowed by all who believe.”
So he tells his aunt Elizabeth, who’s also a devotee, and they rush over to the antique shop for some late-night homage bestowing.
Continue reading Episode 913/914: Death and Taxidermy
“They’re like an organization — they’re evil, Liz! Terribly evil!”
They blew into town a month ago, and started making noise. A bunch of trouble boys, call themselves the Leviathans. There’s something squirrely about ’em, I know that much.
It’s all tied up with the Stoddard family, up on the hill, especially Carolyn. These guys have plans for Carolyn, big plans, and by the time they’re done, they’re gonna give the human race a sock in the kisser.
Continue reading Episode 906: Little Caesar
“I can make you older. I can make you die. But I cannot assemble a human being and have him live.”
You know, the great thing about having an evil magician as the lead villain of your television show is that conjurers tend to be showmen. Yes, even the evil ones. You don’t devote your life to the study of pulling demon rabbits out of sinister hats without developing a certain panache.
At the moment, the Great Nicholas is punishing his lovely assistant, Angelique, for disobeying his direct instructions. He’s taken her powers away and made her mortal again, and now she’s crumbling to dust while we watch.
Angelique staggers upstairs to find her portrait, which has helped her overcome setbacks in the past. But when she gets to Vicki’s room, she finds that the portrait is cracked and peeling, suffering the same fate.
And then Nicholas steps out of the shadows and turns on a lamp, as if to say, is THIS your card?
Continue reading Episode 548: Bleak Lives Matter
“Instead of a dream, you threaten me with a gun. Are you bored with your tricks and your spells?”
In yesterday’s post, I did a little compare and contrast exercise between Dark Shadows and a March 1968 episode of General Hospital, which was DS’ lead-in at the time. What I found was two shows that share the same network and afternoon timeslot, but feel like they were made in different decades.
By 1968, General Hospital’s storylines were starting to break away from the old-fashioned kitchen sink approach to soap opera, where the stories are supposed to be a slice of life that the audience can personally relate to. The GH episode that we looked at includes a girl who’s accusing her stepmother of killing her father, and a woman who’s struggling to put her life back together after a traumatic car accident that resulted in a miscarriage.
Those situations aren’t really a part of typical daily life, especially when they happen to the same extended family at the same time, but they’re not outrageous.
Meanwhile, a Dark Shadows episode starts at unbelievably insane in the first scene, and then ratchets the tension up from there.
Continue reading Episode 547: Justice in Hell