Most Beautiful Horror Movies

October is long over, but I’m never going to get tired of discussing Horror movies, so you’ll  just have to bear with me.

As a visual artist, movies are very important to me.  It’s part of the reason I love most of the movies I love regardless of their other qualities. I especially love movies that dazzle my  eyes. I chose Horror movies for this post. Horror, and Scifi are the two  genres that are most free to imagine, while breaking the rules of costuming, and makeup, and people really don’t give them enough credit for their beauty.

 

Bride of Frankenstein – The Bride (1935)

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The Monster’s Bride’s makeup and hair are iconic. Anytime its referenced in another movie, and everyone who sees the costume, who knows movies at all, knows where this look is from, the name of it, and the actress who wore it, Elsa Lanchester. The Bride is one of the first female monsters to ever appear on film, with the exception of the 1932 Vampyr, (which featured the first onscreen female vampire, Carmilla).

Bride of Frankenstein was directed by James Whale, and this movie is heavily referenced in the 1998 movie, Gods and Monsters, where we see Whale, (played by  Ian McKellen), get reunited with his monsters, Karloff and Lanchester.

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Us – The Tethered (2019)

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The costumes in this movie are not especially beautiful, but they do have a lot of wealth of meaning, as related to the plot. Here, the costumer, Kym Barrett, and the director, Jordan Peele,  discuss the meaning of the costumes from Us.

https://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2019/03/us-meaning-costumes-kym-barrett-interview-red-jumpsuit/585793/

https://fashionista.com/2019/03/jordan-peele-us-movie-costumes

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It- Pennywise (2019)

Pennywise’s costume is just a tiny bit uncommon because it  is loosely based on Pedrolino, a sort of generic, French clown from the  Italian commedia dell’arte. At any rate, clowns being scary has a very loooong history. The 2019 version of Pennywise (Skarsgaard), in his white costume and distinct, Pagliacci style,  makeup, is very different in looks, from the television mini-series version, played by Tim Curry, who looked much more traditionally American. The costume designer, Luis Sequeira, is also known for his work on The Shape of Water, (which got him nominated for an Oscar in 2017.)

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/films/warner-home-video/why-is-pennywise-so-scary/

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https://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/the-history-and-psychology-of-clowns-being-scary-20394516/

You aren’t alone in your fear of makeup-clad entertainers; people have been frightened by clowns for centuries

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Legend- Darkness (1985

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This movie is known for Tim Curry’s portrayal of a Satanic figure, Darkness, who tempts an innocent young virgin to be her worst self. Mia Sara and Tom Cruise star as a pair of star crossed lovers, who run afoul of Curry’s Demon King after Sara’s encounter with a unicorn gets it killed. He uses her guilt at having lured the unicorn to its death to try to turn her into a demon as well. This is  the most underrated straight  Fantasy movie of the 80s, and probably because of the presence of Tom Cruise, that people dismiss it.

This was Ridley Scott’s next big film after Bladerunner, and it has all of his usual markers, in that it is gorgeous, lush, surprisingly sexy, and has a point to make, about good vs. evil, and fate vs. choice. The standout visuals, and the best lines, all belong to Tim Curry. The makeup was designed by Rob Bottin, fresh off his stints on The Howling, and The Thing. The  soundtrack was composed by Tangerine Dream and the costume designer was Charles Knode, who was also responsible for the costumes for Bladerunner.

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Queen of the Damned – Akasha (2002)

i already talked about Akasha, the Egyptian adjacent Queen of the vampires, from Anne Rice’s Queen of the Damned.

https://wordpress.com/post/tvgeekingout.wordpress.com/80911

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Beetlejuice- Lydia Deetz (1988)

Lydia Deetz, is one of Tim Burton’s most iconic characters, and is also the most well dressed emo, Goth-girl in cinema. Wynona Ryder is  probably the only teenager in America that could pull off wearing a black veil, when not in actual mourning. She remains true to her style, and her nature, even after her parents decide to forgo civilization, and movie to the boonies. It only makes sense that their new house would be haunted by the ghosts of the gentle couple that lived there before them, (along with that rascally scoundrel, and  ne’er do-well, Beetlejuice.)

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The Cell (2000)

The Cell is one of the most beautiful horror movies ever made. A psychologist played by Jenifer Lopez, goes into the dreaming mind of a serial killer, to find the whereabouts of his latest victim, before her time runs out.  Tarsem, the director, who got his start in music videos, was heavily influenced by the some of the more  avante-garde artists who came before him. The costumes for this movie were also designed by Eiko Ishioka, the costumer for 1992’s Bram Stoker’s Dracula.

Artistic Influences

Some of the scenes in The Cell are inspired by works of art. A scene in which a horse is split into sections by falling glass panels was inspired by the works of British artist Damien Hirst. The film also includes scenes based on the work of other late 20th century artists, including Odd NerdrumH. R. Giger and the Brothers Quay.[3] Tarsem—who began his career directing music videos such as En Vogue‘s “Hold On” and R.E.M.‘s “Losing My Religion“—drew upon such imagery for Stargher’s dream sequences. In particular, he was influenced by videos directed by Mark Romanek, such as “Closer” and “The Perfect Drug” by Nine Inch Nails, “Bedtime Story” by Madonna,[4] and the many videos that Floria Sigismondi directed for Marilyn Manson. During a scene, Jennifer Lopez falls asleep watching a film; the film is Fantastic Planet.

In the scene where Catherine talks with Carl while he is “cleaning” his first victim, the scenery resembles the music video “Losing My Religion” by R.E.M.. The scene where Peter Novak first enters the mind of Carl Stargher, and is confronted by three women with open mouths to the sky is based on the painting Dawn by Norwegian painter Odd Nerdrum. The scene when Catherine Deane is chasing Carl through a stone hallway, right before she enters the room with the horse, is based on a painting by H. R. Giger called “Schacht”.

                      —– https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Cell#Artistic_influences

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Hellraiser- Pinhead (1988)

Pinhead, as played by the origianl, Doug Bradley,  (although no name was given for the character in either the book or movie), is an iconic horror figure. Even people who have never seen Hellraiser know him. Inspired by Dante, Faust, and  BDSM gear, the silhouette, the headgear, the “its just business” attitude, has itself inspired a line of streetwear.

 

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Bran Stoker’s Dracula (1992)

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Although Francis Ford Coppola was confident enough in his interpretation of this classic story to put Bram Stoker’s name on it, there are some significant differences from the original source material, and one of  them is  Dracula is shown as a much more romantic figure. The movie is essentially a love story, whereas in the book, Dracula is much more a figure of horror, and the emphasis is more on his symbolism as a  disease, since at that time, England was very much concerned with the influx of European immigrants. At the time, Eastern Europeans were not considered White, and were said to be of impure blood, and polluting England’s shores.

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Dracula is shown here to be a studly studmuffin in the form of Gary Oldman, who is not normally considered very hawt, but manages to pull it off very well. This movie has some of the most beautiful costuming I’ve ever seen in a horror movie, and it put the designer, Eiko Ishioka, on the map, as the go-to person for freaky/sexy, historical dress.

https://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/films/news/eiko-ishioka-japanese-costume-designer-google-doodle-bram-stokers-dracula-gary-oldman-winona-ryder-a7836536.html

 

 

Honorable Mentions:

Brotherhood of the Wolf (2001)

This movie is a beautiful mashup of historical inaccuracy,  Kung Fu, and steampunk  Monsters!

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The Birds

Tipi Hedren is the epitome of a hip, urban, fashionista of the 60s.

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The Hunger

Catherine Deneuve and David Bowie as modern day, urban, vampires.

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The Company of Wolves

This classic fairy tale got the 1980s makeover treatment with high fashion and werewolves, courtesy of Neil Jordan, the director of 1992’s Interview with the Vampire.

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Penny Dreadful : Predators Far and Near

SPOILER ALERT

The title of this episode is especially apt, this week. Yes indeed, there are predators very, very close to Vanessa, and some far away in America, which we catch an unfortunate glimpse of this week. Including a surprisingly unsurprising revelation about Dr. Sweet, Vanessa’s zoologist/taxidermist crush, about which I’m sure you can probably guess, just as I did. After all, Dr. sweet is the only new introduction to the season who has absolutely no backstory. The guy came out of nowhere and conveniently landed near Vanessa? C’mon!

Anyway we get another taste of the story from Sir Malcolm and Kaetenay’s point of view, including some interesting tidbits about Kaeteny’s history with Ethan. We don’t see what John is up to , but we find out what Dorian and Lily are doing. It’s not good, but still not scary. I’m still waiting to be impressed by the two of them. And we find out where Ethan is and what he’s doing.

But first we get to find out what England’s  most unimpressive couple gets up to in their spare time, and that’s attacking bougie gentlemen in bdsm clubs. Okay, it’s not bdsm, because that would imply that the people participating are consenting adults. It’s a sadistic club for grown men to beat up little girls.

I had always considered British men of that time period to be somewhat vile creatures but this strikes a new low, (and really this sort of violence against children need only be suggested to be effective, but apparently cable TV is more interested in being edgy than subtle). Anyway, Lily and Dorian  walk in and dismantle the clientele with guns and  straight razors, and for the first time I’m impressed with their level of carnage, but I do wonder where Lily picked up her martial skills. Did Dorian teach her this in between waltzes?

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Later, Lily and Dorian’s waltzing is interrupted by the young girl they saved the night before, and Lily recruits her to fight in whatever imaginary battle against the patriarchy that is playing out in her head. They sort of remind me of moody, vengeful, energetic, versions of Morticia and Gomez Addams. I’m still not impressed by Lily’s plans for the future. Does she plan to individually straight razor every man in England? She better get to work then, because there are a lot of them. If you’re sensing I have some contempt for this couple…you’re right! They’re like all those vengeful teenagers in movies, who plan to get all the ones who laughed at them, but without any actual, you know…plans. Maybe they’ll do something impressive later in the season.

I’ll wait.

Henry Jeckyll takes Victor to lunch and shows him his workplace, Bedlam Asylum, the most notorious insane asylum in England, during this period. When he gives his spiel to Victor about how awful his workplace is, he’s not wrong. It was pretty much the place where poor people with mental disabilities went, to get regularly hosed down like lawn furniture, or die. (Rich people got sent to wellness spas, which were only slightly less awful with better food. Hosing optional).

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Listen to Henry’s speeches about the duality of man for insight into his character, and the motivation behind Hyde’s creation. Henry takes Victor to the bowels of the asylum and experiments on one of the screaming, raving patients there. After forcing his elixir into  him, the man becomes calm,  genteel and refined, asking for water.  Henry promises Victor he will do the same for Lily.

Later, we see Victor looking pretty bad, as Henry is trying, I think, to ween him off his morphine addiction. Victor goes to sit outside Dorian’s  house and watch Lily through the windows. I was never a huge fan of Victor, since he killed Brona, but this is pathetic and stalkery, making me like him even less. Lily comes out to see him, telling him to go away. I think Victor doesn’t seem to understand that there is no personality  to change Lily back to. I think this is Lily’s authentic self, an angry, bitter sex worker. What he wants is to bring Lily to heel and make her submissive to him, which is so very Warren of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Victor. Really! I don’t know what’s stopping Victor from killing some other woman and making her his bride. It’s one of his skills. If you’re noticing a certain level of contempt for Victor… You’re right!

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Vanessa is still seeing her therapist and has been persuaded by her to tell her story, while Renfield  acts creepy and nervous, in the background. Dr. Seward insists she can handle whatever story Vanessa throws at her, and appears to be as stoic as always during, but the moment Vanessa leaves, she breaks down in tears. Actually I was kind of heartened to see that. It makes her more human and not the ball breaker she wants people to think she is.  I’m not sure what the tears are for. Is it because it was a heightened emotional experience for her? Is she sad that Vanessa is so broken? Does she even believe her? I’m inclined to think she just doesn’t believe Vanessa and is appalled by her level of insanity. Later, we see Renfield listening to the tapes that Dr. Seward made of her discussion with Vanessa.

Next up,  Sir Malcolm is on a ship, with Kaetenay, being seasick. Kaetenay is a morbidly funny fellow, whose not so impressed by Sir Malcom that he won’t make small jabs at him. I was surprised to find out Malcolm got seasick, as I thought of him as some great world traveler. He says it’s the reason he never traveled to South America. It says a lot about his relationship with Ethan that he will brave all this to save him. When Kaetenay asks if he’s ever hated someone so much that he wanted them to live and suffer, but that later, it became a form of love, Malcolm says yes he has, and you figure out that he’s talking about Vanessa.

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Kaetenay performs a spell that allows him to talk to Ethan in his dreams.  It turns out that he and Ethan have a much more complicated relationship than father and son, as Ethan seems to hate him and threatens to kill him when he sees him. But at the same time Ethan also confides his feelings to him too. It’s deliciously complicated. I wasn’t expecting this because Kaetenay spoke so lovingly of Ethan. I don’t know why,  but I also had the impression that Kaetenay may be  a witch, or werewolf, too. He seems to be trying to form a bond with Malcolm through their shared relationship with Ethan, as he keeps referring to Ethan as “our son”, which sounds really weird, considering they just met.

Ethan seems to have only the most complicated relationships with all the men in his life. He seems to be rebelling against all of them except Dorian. It’s very telling that the most uncomplicated relationship he has had with any man on this show was Sembene, who he later ate; and Dorian, who he slept with,  who is now sleeping with his late-ex-girlfriend.

Just parse that out for minute or two.

Dr. Seward orders Vanessa another homework assignment. The week before it was go out and do something she’s never done before, and this week it’s go do something with no agenda beyond it being fun. So she goes back to see Dr. Sweet, who is giving a lecture on insects, but when he sees Vanessa is present, switches it up to talking about scorpions. There follows one of the sweetest, and cutest meet-cutes you can imagine for this show. It’s as adorable as when she met Dorian, and if you’ve been watching the show, you remember how that ended. 😊

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Vanessa invites Sweet to accompany her of an evening and she takes him to “see the cinematogragh”, as  she has heard ‘it is a wonder of the civilized world’! And he really does seem to enjoy it and his time with her. And Vanessa seems to be enjoying herself too, which made me smile. Watch Vanessa’s face as Sweet watches the movie. She is thoroughly enamored of him, like a crushing schoolgirl, checking to see that he’s happy. When she invites him for coffee afterward, he declines. I think that’s when I suspected who he might be, because who vehemently declines coffee? (For the coffee is the life.)

Good news! Rusk survived the train massacre and is still hunting for Ethan. He plans to track him  back to Talbot territory.  I had the idea that he was planning on getting ripped apart by Ethan before reaching Talbot territory, as that’s more likely to happen than apprehension.                   Hecate overhears this conversation and makes plans of her own.

Ethan’s kidnappers have stopped at a little hacienda, in the middle of nowhere, for a pit stop. The native woman who recognizes him as Kaetenay’s protege is an actress I remember from Dances with Wolves. I think her name is Red Crow or Red Crow Feather. I’d been wondering where she’d gone off to as I’d seen her in only a few projects since that movie. I was happy to see her here and that, warned by Ethan, she managed to escape the later carnage. Ethan refers to her relative,  Kaetenay, as “the old demon”  and calls her Mother, although I think that’s more a kind of title. She seems to know exactly who and what he is and when he tells her to go, she skedaddles.

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Ethan changes and kills everyone in the hacienda but is stopped in his tracks by the appearance of Hecate who has been trying to cozy up to him since she found out what he was. I think, once again, she’s not going to get what she wants out of this relationship, unless she has a spell to control him, or something. I just don’t see Ethan’s dark side being cowled by whispered endearments, and the offer of va-jayjay, which is all Hecate seems to have in her repertoire.

Yeah, Ethan’s breakout was still more impressive than Lily and Dorian at the top of the show. Interesting how the show started with a massacre and ends with…a massacre. And lets stand back and admire Ethan’s werewolf, which is a callback to the original Wolf Man imagery, from 1941, starring Lon Chaney Jr.

Renfield reports to Dracula’s lair to tell tales about Vanessa. He demands blood, Dracula acquiesces, and we pan up to see that it’s actually Vanessa’s new boyfriend, Dr. Sweet.

Penny Dreadful: Fresh Hell/ Verbis Diablo

I know some of you have no idea what this show is or  what this show is about. If that’s the case, please go watch the first season, which introduces the world and characters, of this Gothic London Horror series. Watching this show, should give you plenty of time to get ready for Guillermo Del Toro’s Crimson Peak, this Fall.

This show has all the well-worn monster tropes, given new life, by being set in Victorian London, and made more accessible to modern viewers, by going into the minds of its monsters. We have Dorien Gray, Dr. Frankenstein, and his Monster, werewolves, witches, an English adventurer, gunfights, and prostitutes dying of consumption. In other words: The Full Victoriana.

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The monsters hide in plain sight, among the regular populace and interact with humans, yet, remain completely hidden from common knowledge. What the protagonist of this show, Vanessa Ives, calls “The Demi-monde”, the in-between world, that is neither the real world, nor the world of the truly monstrous.

There’s :

Vanessa Ives – A Seer and Witch. She is the main focus of the show and a choice role for Eva Green, who gets to show off  her ability to act totally batshit. Last season, Satan seemed to really be into her, Dracula was out to get her, and  now the witches are after her, for who knows what reason. Vanessa prays a lot, but as far as I can tell, this doesn’t seem to help her much, and only seems to make her more popular with the monsters.

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Ethan Chandler – Ethan, as portrayed by Josh Hartnett is full of all manner of hidden depths, including the ability to speak Latin, talk to wolves and an occasional taste for men, sometimes literally. An American gunfighter, who is running from some deep dark secret in his recent past and a father, who is so desperate for him to come back home, that he sends bounty hunters with chains after him. When Ethan refuses to cooperate with this manner of travel, it results in a barroom massacre at the end of the season, which is being investigated by

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Inspector Rusk – played by Douglas Hodge. We don’t know what his secrets are yet, but I do expect to see a gunfight showdown between him and Ethan by the end of this season, or I will be disappointment.

Sir Malcolm – is an English adventurer, wholost his daughter to Dracula’s vampires last season, lost his son in Africa, adopted Vanessa as his new daughter, and  is trapped in a loveless marriage with a rich wife.

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Dr. Victor Frankenstein and his Monster – who have a contentious relationship. The monster hates his maker but has threatened him into providing him with a mate. Victor stole the body of Ethan’s consumptive girlfriend, resurrected her and renamed her Lilly. We will find out later this season, exactly how Ethan will be feeling about that, and I can’t wait. It’s going get very, very interesting, especially since Ethan and Victor have been trying to bond through gunfire, earlier in the show. I hope Victor gets thrashed because I can’t stand him. I don’t think anyone does, even though the show has been trying to make him more likable.

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The Monster – calls himself John Claire and is under the mistaken impression that just because he can commission Victor to build a woman, doesn’t mean Victor can control how she will feel towards anyone. There’s the possibility that Lilly may never love John, but I don’t think this has even occurred to him. What will happen to her if she rejects him?

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There’s Dorien Grey – A complete omnisexual, who is responsible for most of the full frontal we get subjected to on the show, and who has slept with half the cast, Including Brona (Ethan’s late girlfriend), Ethan, and Vanessa, who is never allowed to get within touching distance of him, ever again, since the last time she slept with him, she totally lost her shit and thought she was possessed by Satan.

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Last season, the characters dealt with vampires and demonic possession and it’s also fascinating watching them navigate each others weaknesses and trying to bond as family. Sir Malcolm is the father figure, with Sembene as a kind of Uncle. Ethan and Victor are like jealous brothers and, of course, there’s  Vanessa, the little sister, whom everyone must protect and around whom the show revolves. The only times they’ve defeated all the monsters, is when they’ve gotten over their issues, stopped lying to each other and worked together as a unit.

This season, the theme seems to be witches, and  a lovely group of witches we have.They like to run around naked, carve Pentagrams into their skin and have no loyalty to one another, even though they kiss a lot. In the  first episode of this season, we meet a coven of witches, who are hunting for the devil’s favorite, otherwise known as, Vanessa. Also, they’ve taken a marked interest in Ethan, whom they believe to be Vanessa’s champion, since he was the person who was present to fight them off, after they attacked her coach. I get the distinct impression that they would’ve believed that of anyone who’d been in the coach with Vanessa.

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The three witches, who look like the Erinyes  of Greek lore, except with more hair, (except when they’re being bald,) shop for perfumes, attack public coaches, steal babies, bathe in tubs of blood, and use these actions to cast spells on Vanessa and her adoptive father, Sir Malcolm.image

In an attempt to understand exactly what’s been happening to Vanessa, the group of heroes, which also include an African Shaman, named Sembene, who I hope gets some secrets of his own, conclude that they need the Verbis Diablo, a book chronicling the language of demons.The person procuring the manuscript for them is Ferdinand Lyle, who is a spy for the witches and totally crushing on Ethan, who is very charming, while ignoring his flirtations.

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Since I know almost nothing at all about European Occult practices outside of some bad Horror movies, you will have to decide for yourself the accuracy of any of the Occult shenanigans, in this show.

Everyone on the show has some deep dark secret that they’re trying to hide from everyone else. Sir Malcolm, hides his depression and despair and that he’s thinking of cheating on his shrew of a wife, Ethan is pretty much hiding his entire life and there’s the strong hint of some potential romance with Vanessa. Vanessa is hiding everything from her past and the only way anyone seems to find out about it, is when it comes back to bite people.on the ass.

Last Sunday’s episode was notable for introducing a new transgender character, to be devoured by Dorien, Vanessa actually cracking a smile after she meets John Claire, and some infanticide. If these sorts of things greatly upset you, than this is not your type of show.

Next episode: We find out why the witches are so interested in Vanessa. What do you wanna guess, that  it has something to do with a dark secret, from her past?

The show is in it’s second season and airs on the Showtime network.