Tag Archives: the problem with the dream curse

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Episode 763: The One Where Magda Finds Out

“An afternoon of cards — a night of murder!”

The curtain rises on what is honestly one of the most irritating scenes that Dark Shadows has ever done.

So you already know the thing with Tim Shaw, we’ve talked about this. He’s played by Don Briscoe, who only three months ago was the undisputed titleholder of Only Hot Guy on the Show. Except he’s not the sexy haunted bad boy werewolf anymore, with a Southern drawl and an easy smile and a tendency to take his shirt off on camera whenever he feels like it. Now he’s a prissy schoolmaster with a tight collar and a weird part in his hair, and he translates Latin for kicks. Oh, and he’s being secretly trained as an assassin.

You’d think that maybe the trained-assassin thing could be kind of sexy and interesting, but no. They’ve decided they want to do The Manchurian Candidate this week, because that’s what you do when you’ve got a spare few minutes on your soap opera spookshow. So Tim is being hypnotized into murdering someone on cue, without being consciously aware of it.

Now, I’ve never been opposed to having the cute boys hypnotized and forced to do shocking and terrible things against their will. That concept is entirely okay with me. But the way that they hypnotize Tim is that they paint the edges of a book with magic hypno-assassin juice, and they ask him to read it. So he sits there and reads, and every time he’s done with a page, he licks his finger and turns to the next page.

This is a deeply unsexy thing to do.

But that’s how they establish that Tim is being hypnotized, so they spend several long scenes with us just watching him sit there and read, licking his finger. They even have a conversation where they specifically point out that he licks his finger to turn the page, just to make sure we’re spending a lot of time focusing on this entirely aggravating and unsanitary habit.

Even the murder weapon is boring and lame. When Tim sees the hypnotic trigger — the Queen of Spades, just like in The Manchurian Candidate — then he goes and pours a drink, dumps some poison in it, and hands it to whoever’s in the room with him at the time. And they spend several scenes running drills — showing him the trigger, and making him go put poison in a drink. This is not a particularly difficult skill to grasp, but they make us watch it three times over the course of two episodes. And honestly, that poison drink looks more and more appetizing every time we see it. The whole sequence is dull and baffling and unpleasant and disappointing, and it makes me want to hit somebody.

And yet this is one of the most thrilling Dark Shadows episodes ever made. Explain that!

Continue reading Episode 763: The One Where Magda Finds Out

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Episode 530: Requiem for a Dream

“For a moment, when I first saw him, I felt a stirring in me.”

Looking back, I think the thing that really matters is that we did it together, you and I. It was hard, of course; anything that’s really worth doing is hard. But we stuck with it, day after day, and we were strong, and now we’re reaching the end of this journey together.

This is the last week of the Dream Curse, Angelique’s three-month battle with story progression. The witch’s spell created a chain-letter dream which passed from one person to another, until practically every character on the show had the same slow, pointless dream sequence. Then they had to describe the dream, in detail, and tell us all about how petrified they were of this entirely unscary experience.

But finally, after almost three months of this tedious nonsense, we’ve reached the final week, where we’ll see the last two iterations of the dream. And then the Dream Curse will be over, thank goodness, and there will never be another boring storyline on Dark Shadows ever again.

Continue reading Episode 530: Requiem for a Dream

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Episode 507: The Spirit of St. George

“According to my calculations, only one more person must have the dream.”

I knew this was going to be hard. When I started this uncertain and frightening journey through Dark Shadows, I knew that the Dream Curse storyline was waiting for me, and it was going to test my endurance more than anything else on the show. But here I am, six weeks into the story, and I just looked at my episode guide, and I’m only halfway through. We’re currently at the beginning of June 1968, and the Dream Curse ends in mid-July.

I know I keep saying “Here’s the problem with the Dream Curse,” but here’s the problem with the Dream Curse: characters just saunter in and out of the storyline, and it doesn’t seem to matter. The allegedly terrifying chain-letter dream sequence moves from one character to another, and once they’ve passed the baton on to the next person, they drop out of the storyline.

Remember when it was a big deal that Mrs. Johnson needed to go to Boston, so she wouldn’t pass the dream on to Jeff? Or was that David? Or Julia. I’m pretty sure it was either Julia or River Song. No, wait, that’s Doctor Who. I’ve got this written down somewhere.

Continue reading Episode 507: The Spirit of St. George

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Episode 498: Diff’rent Strokes

“Either she controls the portrait, or the portrait controls her.”

Hey, have I mentioned the Dream Curse yet? There’s this Dream Curse. It’s a spell that Angelique cast about a month ago, and for some reason, it’s still part of my life.

Here’s a quick rundown: Angelique is currently living in Collinwood, posing as Roger’s young wife, Cassandra. Barnabas has recently been released from her vampire curse, and she’s not having it, so she’s decided to bring the curse back to him through the most convoluted possible route. She’s initiated a long series of dreams, which pass from one character to another, and eventually the chain is going to reach Barnabas, and then he’ll die, or turn back into a vampire, or whatever.

This is a slow, grinding disappointment. Back in the 1795 storyline, where she came from, Angelique was the driving force of the entire show, moving people around like puppets, and sending the entire Collins family into a spiral of self-destruction. Now, frankly, she’s just coasting. It’s possible that 1968 is her retirement home.

Continue reading Episode 498: Diff’rent Strokes

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Episode 490: What to Expect When You’re Expecting

“If we fail, well… then we must go through with it anyway.”

Yesterday, in my round-up of the Collinsport fashion scene, I neglected to mention the one guy on Dark Shadows who’s been breaking all the wardrobe rules — Adam, the patchwork Frankenstein.

Last week, mad scientist and artisanal monster enthusiast Dr. Eric Lang tried to bring his creation to life, squeezing Barnabas’ life force out of his vampire-cursed body, and using it to jump-start the new guy.

In a town with a mandatory “ties or turtlenecks” rule, Adam has brazenly flouted convention, clearly going full commando under his sheet. This bold sartorial statement has made him an eye-catching addition to the landscape, but it was also kind of a clue that he wasn’t planning to get up off the table until somebody found him something in extra-extra-large.

But in this episode — as Julia and Barnabas prepare to give the experiment one more try — Adam’s sheet is pulled all the way up to his chin, which means that he might have some clothes on under there. I think this might be the day we actually get this dude up onto his feet.

Continue reading Episode 490: What to Expect When You’re Expecting

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Episode 488: Pretty People in Terrible Trouble

“Well, so much for that little brainstorm.”

Today’s episode begins with another Great Moment in Monster Medicine, as Dr. Julia Hoffman injects some magic fluid into the patchwork Frankenstein that they’re planning to bring to life on Friday.

Looking on, Barnabas asks, “Why do you keep giving him these shots?”

Julia sighs, and says, “If he should begin to decompose, then he will be utterly useless to us.”

The logic behind injecting things into the dead is a little tenuous — the body doesn’t have a functioning circulatory system to move the fluid around. At this point, I think what we’re looking at is a rotting corpse with an exceptionally well-preserved shoulder.

Continue reading Episode 488: Pretty People in Terrible Trouble

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Episode 487: Precious Moments

“What gave you the idea that you had homicidal tendencies?”

Oh, great, a Dream Curse episode. Because we haven’t had enough of those lately.

If you’re joining us late, the Dream Curse is a magic spell that Angelique made up a couple weeks ago, and they’re trying to make it a thing. Maggie had a fairly tame nightmare that included Jeff; she told Jeff about it, and then he had the Dream. Jeff’s dream sequence included Dr. Lang; he told Lang the story, and then Lang had the Dream. It’s going to go on like this until it runs through the entire cast, which will take approximately forever.

You know, they say that there are no new ideas in Hollywood, but then somebody has one, and you kind of wish you’d never brought it up in the first place.

Continue reading Episode 487: Precious Moments

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Episode 485: A Huge Naked Dead Guy

“How odd it is that I should feel this urge on this night.”

I hope everybody’s excited, because today’s the day that we’ve all been waiting for. It’s Experiment Day!

Yes, after weeks of build-up, we’ve finally reached this historic episode — the day that Barnabas regenerates.

Continue reading Episode 485: A Huge Naked Dead Guy

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Episode 482: Witches Be Crazy

“I should go to Collinwood, and drag her from the house, and BURN her!”

So, what do you do with a guy who just refuses to understand what kind of story he’s in?

I’m not talking about a Mulder-Scully dynamic, where the tension between belief and skepticism is the whole point of the series. I’m talking about a guy who’s standing smack in the middle of a spook show, and he can’t get his mind around the fact that there’s a witch who’s trying to kill him, even though she’s already openly attacked him using her magic powers. I’m talking about a guy who needs to have the situation explained to him over and over, plus he’s obnoxious and a terrible actor and he shouts all the time.

All right, it’s Lang. I’m talking about Dr. Eric Lang. He’s driving me crazy, and he’s got to be stopped.

Continue reading Episode 482: Witches Be Crazy

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Episode 478: What Dreams May Come

“Through sight and sound, and faceless terror…”

It’s been a little over a year since Dark Shadows opened the mystery box, letting a vampire loose and transforming this relatively aimless show into a bubbling cauldron of visual spectacle and lunatic plot contrivances. One of the most remarkable changes is the pace of the show, which used to just drift from day to day, with long sequences of characters telling each other how worried they are about something.

But not anymore. Yesterday, for example, the episode ended with Barnabas falling asleep in a chair, and dreaming about his ex-wife making a promotional announcement about the upcoming story direction. Continuing this rocket sled to adventure in today’s episode, we’re going to watch Maggie fall asleep, too.

We’re going to see a lot of this over the next couple months. I guess making Dark Shadows is exhausting; everyone’s taking afternoon naps.

Continue reading Episode 478: What Dreams May Come