10 Terrifying Books For Halloween

Here’s a really good collection of unconventional books to read for Halloween. So pick one up, (or all of them), and prepare to be frightened. Best time to read them? Halloween night of course.

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Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark

You might remember these books from your childhood. I remember reading the first of these in elementary school and being scared out of what wits I’d managed to scrape together at age eight. The other two books in the series are less scary, but Gammell’s drawings  were always deliciously disturbing, and I loved them. Is this series just as effective when reading it as an adult? Yes!

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The Institute – Stephen King

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This is a horror novel for people who don’t like horror novels. I just finished this about a couple of weeks ago. While it started off kind of slow, and King really needs to stop writing any Black people into any of his books, until he can write us to sound like regular fucking people, I ultimately found it very satisfying. This is a story for people who think the Harry Potter universe wasn’t dark enough. In fact, this book slaps that universe in the face, kicks it a few times, and then electrocutes its gonads.  In other words, its got a lot of unpalatable stuff in it, including the (bloodless) torture of children. I listened to the audio-book version of this and some parts were hard to get through, and had I been reading it instead of listening to it, I probably would have put the book down and not finished it. What I can say, in King’s favor, is that the torture isn’t  gratuitous, and does serve the plot.

I don’t usually like the endings of King’s books, although I’m okay with the journey to get there, (I prefer his shorter stuff), but this had a nicely bittersweet ending, that made everything that came before it worth crawling through, and I appreciated it. The kids really did come across sounding and acting  like kids, too. Despite his complete inability to make Black people sound like, ya know, people, he really is pretty good at writing White people who are not men. The lead character is compassionate, smart as fuck, and brave, so that helped, too.

Warning for torture of children.

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Mystery Walk – Robert McCammon

This book is from waaay back in the 80s, and is a great Halloween read, as its one of the few pantshittingly scary books I remember fondly. McCammon writes dark Historical mysteries now, so a lot of people aren’t as aware of his Horror past, as perhaps they should be. He didn’t ever quite rise to the level of King, but his grand novel, Swan Song, is right at the top of apocalyptic fiction along with The Stand, as it should be.

Mystery Walk is about a young man’s journey to adulthood, after he finds out that he has inherited the ability to not only see and speak to ghosts, but he can lay them to rest by consuming their pain. There’s also another character with the same ability that is a dark reflection of him. The book builds up to their eventual confrontation, with one using his abilities for evil and gain, and being manipulated by a demon, while the other, having resisted the demon’s temptations, tries to save him.

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God’s Demon – Wayne D. Barlowe

This is another one of those journeys through Hell books. I have a whole collection of these. I love strong imagery in a book, and Wayne Barlowe, being an artist (who has done at least two illustrated books on this subject) is a master craftsmen. But its not just the images that grab you here, its the characters too, from the  repentant Lilith, to the foot soldiers of the demons major, Hell isn’t just made up of damned souls, and the unredeemable, as Sargatanas, one of Hell’s most powerful Fallen, fights a war to prove that he actually belongs back at God’s side, again.

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FantasticLand

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Okay, I got this book from NetGalley because the plot sounded like it might be funny. I thought it was going to be a satire about Disneyland or something.

This book was not funny.

This book was harrowing, but in a good way. I felt like I had been on a serious journey after I read this. Its not like the other books on this list, in that all the monsters here, are entirely human.

You might get the same idea that its a comedy or satire, as the basic plot is a  bunch of  young people get trapped in an amusement park called FantasticLand, during a hurricane, and over the next couple of weeks, all civility breaks down, as they start to hoard food, break into different tribes, and factions, and begin  warring against each other. In the meantime, they are still dealing with the aftermath of the hurricane, and the resultant flooding.

This is told in reports and interviews after the event. with the people who were involved, various rescue workers, and the media. So its an excellent use of the World War Z format, and unlike the Lord of the Flies book, there are plenty of women, there’s a lot more death, and some very clear reasons behind why everyone starts behaving the way they do, that’s beyond people just being stupid or bad. The book has a lot more depth than I expected, and is a more realistic depiction of how something like it could occur. What’s interesting is that even though the reason why the events happened were pretty clear, the public is still massively puzzled about why it happened.

I can;t praise this book enough, even though it was really hard to get through.

Warning for off-screen rape, and lots of ultra-violence.

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Nocturnes –  John Connolly

This is an excellent collection for Halloween, and one of my favorite anthologies. All of the stories here are straight up horror, ,and very well done. From Mr. Pettinger’s Demon, to the Inkpot Monkey,  with many of the stories consisting of people dealing with different types of demons, both real and imaginary. There are also a couple of really good monster stories, The Wakeford Abyss, and The Man From the Second Fifteen. It also includes a less horrific, but still pretty dark Charlie Parker story, The Reflecting Eye.

“Children go missing, lovers are lost, creatures emerge from below the ground and demons lurk in the shadows as Connolly, clearly having the time of his life, does his best to scare the wits out of his readers.”

 —Gold Coast Bulletin (Australia)

 

I also want to rec the sequel, Nocturnes II, Night Music, with its long form short stories, The Caxton Library, which is not horror, but still lots of fun, and The Fractured Atlas, which is deeply disturbing in a Lovecraftian sort of way. There’s also a fun Sherlockian story, where he meets the man who authored him. The sequel has fewer stories, but The Fractured Atlas more than makes up for the lack of scare in the other stories. Other stories of note are The Lamia, which is not about a vampire at all, and The Children of Dr. Lyall, where two men break into a house, and get trapped in alternate dimensions.

 

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We Are Where The Nightmares Go – C. Robert Cargill

The first story in this collection is one of the most unique zombie stories I’ve ever read. Cargill has this thing, where he can take a well worn trope, like zombies or ghosts, or even Indigenous mythology, and pull out some truly interesting stories, that are not like any other types of those stories. In The Town That Wasn’t Anymore, an entire town is so haunted, that most of its citizens are  afraid to go out at night. There’s a Sin Eater and a Soul Thief’s Son, and the title story is an Anti- Alice in Wonderland tale, as a  little girl goes through a doorway under her bed, and finds herself in a very dark world.

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The Haunted forest Tour – Jeff Strand

If a horror novel can be classified as Pulp, than this is it. I thought it was great, horrific, trashy fun, as a magical forest takes over several acres in America, when it pops out of thin air. The forest just happens to be haunted by every sort of monster that has ever inhabited a horror novel. The whole thing has a very Cabin in the Woods feel to it, right down to its  premise.

This is a story that’s best listened to rather than read. I did both, and the narrator for the audio-book does an excellent job of capturing the incredulity of the characters, and  the horribleness of the monsters.

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The Wide Carnivorous Sky – John Langan

Most of the stories in this collection would best be described as haunting. The first two stories are zombie stories but there is less of a focus on gore, and like any good zombie story, more of a focus on how the end of the world affects the survivors. The title story is, very probably, one of the scariest vampire stories I’ve ever read, not because the vampire is so frightening, although yes it is scary as fuck, but because of the mood. There is a feeling of dread in it that heavily reminds me of The Thing ,as a bunch of afghan vets deal, not just with the aftermath of the war, but the PTSD from encountering the vampire.

The Wide Carnivorous Sky is an excellent story to read on Halloween night.

You will be scaredt!

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The Scarlet Gospels – Clive Barker

If you’re a fan of Hellraiser, this chronicles what happened after the events of the second film, Pinhead’s journey across Cenobite Hell, and  his attempts to gain more power.  This is also good book for  fans of Harry D’amour from Barker’s The Last Illusion, as he travels to Hell to rescue a friend who gets caught up in Pinhead’s machinations, and their eventual confrontation.

This was a deeply satisfying book, but then Barker has always been able to capture me through the vivid imagery he presents, and the depth of his characters. I don’t remember many of the plot details but that is one of the dangers of reading a Barker book.

Warning for torture and rape scenes.

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The Passage: Season One Finale

 

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So The Passage finally finished up it’s ten episode run with a two hour finale, and there is a lot to talk about. I was going to start with a recap of the season, but I’m going to do something a little different by discussing the key characters in the show. I know a lot of you may have more access to the books, than the show, which airs on American network TV, and may or may not be available on an app somewhere.

We’re going to start with the second episode of the finale because the first hour felt like more filler. The vampires do finally escape, but we knew that would happen, and its somewhat anticlimactic. All season long we’ve been seemingly sitting still, with everyone running back and forth inside the facility, without anyone actually leaving.  It’s all moot anyway because by the time of the final 15 minutes of the last episode, all of that is rendered pointless, and in the second season, we’ll get to the meat of the book, as all of this first season is basically set up for what we’ll be dealing with from the middle section of the book onwards.

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All season we have focused very heavily on the relationship between Amy Bellafonte and Agent  Brad Wolgast because that is the key relationship to who Amy is, and what she becomes. It is her relationship with Brad that sets her future in motion, determines how she reacts to that future, and even that she has a future.This is why we spent so much time with the two of them in the first three episodes. Our investment in their relationship is important to understanding Amy’s motivations. We have watched as Brad adopts her as his own daughter, after the loss of his biological child, and we have watched as the two of them bonded, loved ,and supported each other.

In the first episodes, we watch the two bond as they attempt to escape the government agents who want to use Amy for medical experimentation. They eventually get caught, and Amy is  infected with the vampire virus, and unwillingly forms a relationship with the lead vampire, Fanning, who attempts, repeatedly, to undermine her relationship with Brad, so that he can replace him. Amy resists all his attempts because she received a slightly different, (less virulent), strain of vampirism, and because Brad has supported her unconditionally, no matter how much she changed. She is able to withstand Fanning’s control in a way the other 11 vampires cannot. She is also able to walk about during the day, unlike Fanning and his kind. In other words, like Blade from the Marvel comics movie, she has all the strengths of the vampires, and none of their weaknesses.

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Of all the vampires, though, it is Babcock who is the most sympathetic, and the most charming. Fanning has a very compelling manner, in that he is able to talk people into doing things they are initially resistant to, but Babcock has the ability to be very likable, and open with everyone. This works especially well, since most of the time we see these characters from inside the mental landscapes they’ve created to communicate with the  human beings in their orbit, and with each other. Their actual physical bodies dont speak or even acknowledge human beings except as food.

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Amy and Brad spend most of the finale escaping from the facility, and  living in an abandoned cabin in the woods, while the US is quickly overtaken by the vampires, who also, finally, escape the facility, after having planned to do so since their creation. We seemed to spend an inordinate amount of this season waiting for the vampires to break free, and even I was going tired of just watching all the players run around in the facility for three to four episodes, but really, what we were doing was setting up Brad and Amy’s relationship, and the reason for the enmity between Fanning and Amy. Fanning refused to escape from the facility without Amy because he was waiting for her to turn into a full vampire, and give him her allegiance, which she refused to do. We get several moments of foreshadowing that Fanning is not infallible, when a woman he wanted for himself, rejects him to die in the arms of her husband, and when Amy rejects Babcock’s overtures of friendship. Fanning isn’t always in control, and Amy  has a strong will of her own.

Make no mistake, Amy is a full vampire, but unlike the other vampires, she refused to give into the dual choices that were given to her by Fanning. Whenever any of the other vampires turned, they had been given the option of dying, or becoming full vampires under Fanning’s control. Amy created a third option. She chose to live and become a vampire on her own terms, and it is Brad’s love and support that aided her in that choice.

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Amy vowed repeatedly to Brad, Fanning, and herself that she would not kill, or make other vampires, but Fanning uses her connection to Brad as her weakness, and in the tragic finale, he successfully forces her hand by infecting Brad. She only kills to protect Brad from being shot by  his two friends who happen to be present. Having killed to protect Brad, she  infects him with a different version of the vampirism virus, so that he will be more like her, and not the mindless minions created by the other vampires under Fanning, since he’s going to turn regardless. She leaves, after saying goodbye to him, to try to make it on her own, having been taught various survival skills, like archery, and hunting, by Brad during their interlude in the cabin.

During their time at the cabin, the cities are slowly being overrun by vampires that are all offshoots of the initial vampires created by the experiment. The initial vampires (which include Amy) are known as The Twelve. In the books, they are not all sympatico, or even all in league with each other. Some of them are allies, a couple are rivals, and a couple are loners, like Anthony. In the TV series, the end of the world is brought about when the other countries, witnessing what is happening in the US, decide to nuke all the cities where they have taken up residence.

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The reason the first season is narrated by Amy is because we’ve been watching a flashback from some 100 years in the future. Humanity is almost extinct, and the land is populated by mostly starving vampires, that can’t die. We see Amy, still a child 97 years later, her hair in long braids, bow and arrow in hand, shooting down the lesser vampires, as she searches the US for Brad, whom she feels is still alive. In the final scene she is seen approaching The Colony. In the second season we’ll hopefully be meeting those characters, who are all the human beings left after the nuclear (and vampire) apocalypse. The other books, The Twelve and City of Mirrors are also being jumbled in as well, since some of the first season comes from the second book.

I have to admit, I was mostly distracted by the question of who braided Amy’s hair, because she is wearing these long box braids. This is a something that probably wouldn’t have occurred to me to ask if I hadn’t earlier seen Brad braiding Amy’s hair in that Black momma ritual that had resonance for a lot of Black women watching the show. Nearly all of us have some memory of sitting at our mother’s feet, getting our hair braided, while discussing the day’s important issues. In Amy’s case, she confesses to Brad that she can see the future. She foresees Brad’s death, and the death of most of humanity.

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Another admission I have to make is that I did not find the middle section of the book, The Passage,  especially interesting, as most of it takes place inside The Colony, and involves a lot of personal politicking among characters I didn’t care about. The characters were not interesting, and nothing of real import occured in that section. I had to push really hard through that section of the book, because I kept being told it was worth it to get to the end, and that’s true, the last 100 or so pages were much better.

So, I’m hoping we get a second season, and it does look promising to get one. Unlike some people, who refused to engage with the show because it airs on network television, and were afraid of having it be canceled once they fell in love with it, I considered this show to be well worth getting burned. This show is everything that The Strain, a show I had high hopes for,  should have been.

Horror Noire: Black History, Horror (A Review) — Stitch’s Media Mix

Black history is Black horror. – Tananarive Due One of Tananrive Due’s comments early on in the Shudder’s Horror Noire documentary will live on in my mind forever because of how it gets right to the meat of the relationship between Blackness and the horror genre. I love learning things and I spend a […]

via Horror Noire: Black History, Horror (A Review) — Stitch’s Media Mix

If you are at all interested in the history of Horror, and Eli Roth’s History of Horror documentary just didn’t work for you, (and it didn’t for me because it erased almost the entire history of Black people’s relationship to the genre), then you have to watch this doc called Horror Noire. It has interviews and clips from every important Black Horror film star and director from the past 60 -70 years, what those movies meant to Black people, and how we participated in the making if this genre. You have to watch it just for the interview with Jordan Peele, whose new movie, US, is set to debut in March,looks scary as shit, and which I am very, very, excited about.

Its especially enlightening for the review of a classic vampire movie titled Ganja and Hess, which seems to have been remade by Spike Lee, which he titled Taste Da Blood Of Jesus. Ganja and Hess is also available on the Firestick app called Tubi. There are also interviews of the stars of Dawn of the Dead, Blacula, and Candyman. Basically everytrinhg that should have been covered in Eli Roth’s series, but wasn’t.

Essential viewing:

King Kong

Creature From the Black Lagoon

Get Out

Night of the Living Dead

Candyman

The People Under the Stairs

Blacula

Ganja and Hess

Blade

The Girl with All the Gifts – A must see

13 Favorite Vampire Novels

Salem’s Lot – Stephen King

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I first read this book when I was about nine. It would forever influence how I read about vampires. I know there were vampire novels before this, and I even read a handful of them, but  none of them made the impression on me that this book did because it was the first time I’d read about what would happen if vampires entered the modern world of American technology and culture. These were not the Hammer/ Dracula vampires that I’d been watching on TV, and that struck a chord with me. You’ll notice a trend in the type of vampires I prefer, either the mindless hungry monster, or the thoughtful, erudite, wise old man.

Ben Mears is a writer that grew up in Salem’s Lot and has a traumatic history with the Marsten House, which looms over the surrounding town, and has itself, a sordid and tragic backstory. Arriving simultaneously is vampire Kurt Barlow, and his human servant. Its up to Ben to convince his friends and family that vampires are taking over the town before the town is destroyed.

I’m going to have to do a review of the TV mini series, as it contains some interesting messaging about xenophobia and  one of King’s favorite topics, which was heavily tackled in It, the secrets of small-town life. The book also touches on the limits of belief and faith in the fight against evil. I’m going to have to do a lot more reading on those topics before I can tackle that though.

 

The Light at the End – John Skipp and Craig Spector

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This book just knocked me out! I will always stan for this book, which is a great descendant of Salem’s Lot. It contains both the mindless hungry monsters I adore, and the thoughtful , but evil, old man vampire, who sets the entire plot in motion while he’s on holiday in America. The characters are wonderful, the vampire action is great. This is what happens when a human being, Rudy, who is already a major asshole, gets bitten by a vampire, and turned loose in New York City. This book was part of the Splatterpunk era of the 80s, and the  writers do not stint on the gore.

The major drawback to this book is the rampant homophobia, which I found very jarring, when I listened to the audiobook recently. It does have a heroic gay character in it (who doesn’t get killed), but the road up to that moment is pretty rocky, and I think the writers thought they were being  progressive at the time. If that’s something that’s a deal breaker for you, then by all means you should skip it. (Its just that I had forgotten about it, since I read this as a teenager.)

 

Vampire Tapestry – Suzy McKee Charnas

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This is one of those types of vampire that I found incredibly intriguing as a teenager. The vampire from this book is a ruthless, heartless, intellectual, who is without sentiment about his condition. No lush prose here. The vampire in this book is direct, pragmatic and without excuses for what he is. As far as he is concerned, he is a predator, born and evolved to feed on human beings, and everything he does  is nothing more than a masquerade  to that purpose. He doesn’t have long romantic stories of his previous lives, as he doesn’t remember any of them, because, as he says, he doesn’t need to, to fulfill his only purpose, which is feigning humanity to get human blood. This is the more scientific, biological strain of vampire, but one who is intelligent and self reflective, when called to be so. He also has no idea of his age, since he sleeps for several decades at a time, after a few years of wakefulness and feeding.

The story plays out in three acts. In the first, he is captured, and kept in a cell by a ruthless man wishing to make money from him. He escapes by emotionally manipulating the man’s teenage nephew. The most intriguing part of the book is the second act where, as a college teacher, he has a psychiatric session with a woman who figures out what he is, and he attempts to divest her of her romantic notions of vampirism.  In the third act, he believes its time for him to go back to The Big Sleep, after witnessing a stage play that arouses sentimentality in him,  something he considers a liability to his survival.

The book isn’t especially  scary, but it was a great introduction to the idea of an intellectual/scientific vampire.

 

The Vampire Lestat – Anne Rice

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I read this when I was maybe 18, and  I loved it. I’d never read anything like it. I followed Rice’s vampire series for several years, but since the over saturation of the market with vampires that are all ripoffs of Anne Rice, I’ve pretty much stopped reading them. That doesn’t make her original trilogy any less effective though. I can still pick up these books and become completely immersed n the lush world of 1800s Louisiana, now aided and abetted by images of Brad Pitt, and Tom Cruise, as Louis and Lestat. This book is one of the first times I encountered a child vampire, and while I was never into Claudia, as a character, all that much, she is very effectively written. To my memory no one had written about child vampires much before Rice.

 

 

Lost Souls – Poppy Z. Brite

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I’m not sure how to describe this book. The vampires are definitely vampires, but unlike any of the vampires mentioned above, although the closest resemblance is to the style of Rice’s vampires. But only the style. The book takes place in the modern day, and chronicles the coming of age of a half vampire named Nobody, who meets a trio of vampires, who have been killing their way across the Midwest, and one  of whom turns out to be his father, something he discovers only after having slept with him, because that is the kind of book we’re dealing with.

Dark, Gothic, and lush is really the only way to describe the writing style, and the vampires, here. The author, Poppy Z. Brite, was something of a Goth icon at the time this book was written, and this book was all the rage in those circles. I did not run in those circles, and quite frankly, I was mostly exasperated by the pretentiousness of that particular crowd, but that has no bearing on the book, which feels like a velvety nightmare. It can be a little hard to get into, at first, because the style is very dense, and the characters are  dark and kind of emotionally remote, but once you do, its a very satisfying read.

 

Fledgling – Octavia Butler

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I wrote about this book earlier. I was not new to Butler’s books when I read it, but some of the events in this book are very jarring, and I feel I have to give a heads up on what happens. The book addresses the topic of race from the viewpoint of a new type of vampire, who can walk around in daylight. She looks like a little girl, about twelve years old, although she is much, much, older, and yes, she is Black. Right off the bat, within the first couple of chapters, she has a sex scene with the grown man (White) who rescued her. I wasn’t expecting that to happen, even though all of Butler’s books are kind of disturbing, and I should probably have expected it.

There are several scenes of her sleeping with adults, and I had a hard time getting past this, but I was younger and more hearty or something, because I managed to soldier through it, to an actually satisfying conclusion. I have not read this book since, and wouldn’t, because I can’t get past those scenes, although I found the rest of the book intriguing, and engaging.

Because the vampire’s bites cause humans to become addicted to them, the vampires acquire a “stable” of people around them, and so does she. Up to this point, the idea of child vampires has mostly not been addressed in vampire fiction, and really I suppose it should. Anne Rice got around the issue by making Claudia asexual, but Butler tackles the topic full on, and takes it as far as she possibly can. If this is something too disturbing for you, then you can skip this one, because this is a very challenging book.

 

Anno Dracula Series  – Kim Newman

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The Anno Dracula books are like a vampire’s greatest hits series, where all the most famous vampires in historical fiction get a shoutout, in the chronicle of the life of  one Genevieve Dieudonne, a teenage vampire who was created in the 16th century, whose observances, and adventures with a secret society known as The Diogenes Club, make up the bulk of the novel. This is all intertwined with a Ripper type serial killer who is preying on vampires in Whitechapel, called Silver Knife.

This one of the most unique series about vampires being written. The rest of the Anno Dracula series is about what would happen if vampires were a part of the everyday history and  life of regular human beings, and how their presence would have affected historical events, politics, and pop culture.

In the first book, Dracula actually succeeds in taking over London and turning the Queen into a vampire. Vampires have all come out of the grave. They have culture and fashions and music of their own. Most humans seek to become vampires, if only to avoid being rounded up as food, and this has an effect on the poor of Whitechapel, and the question of how vampires can survive if they don’t curb their numbers. Victorian London is every bit as Dickensian as ever, but with the addition of vampires and vampirism causing even further misery.

This is a great book, if you can get past the writing style which is a bit wry. The rest of the series isn’t as good as the first book, but if you have an interest in the history of Pop culture you might want to check out Dracula Cha Cha Cha, which takes place in 1950s Hollywood.

 

 

Blood Price Series  – Tanya Huff

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This particular series was branched out into a lovely universe with the lead vampire of this series at the head of it. I like the mythology of the series, which just manages to skirt the edges of being a romance. Henry Fitzroy is  a great character, and a good foil for the lead female character, Vicki Nelson, but it was Vicki that first captured me. She had a voice I liked. She wasn’t over-romantic,or maudlin, and never talked about her clothes and shoes. She’s a tough as nails, female, private detective, done correctly. She’s tough without trying too hard, disabled without dwelling on it overmuch, stubborn, prickly, pragmatic, and when confronted with the supernatural, in the form of Henry Fitzroy: Vampire, she takes that, and all subsequent introductions with supernatural creatures, completely in stride. She eventually becomes a vampire herself, and while Henry keeps telling her that all vampires are loners, who can’t live together in the same territory, Vicky is stubborn enough to make it work.

I wasn’t too fond of the short-lived, Canadian television series, Blood Ties, but I think the dynamic between Vicki and Henry was pretty good, it wasn’t as good as the book, mostly because Kyle Schmid is very pretty, but no Henry Fitzroy, while Christina Cox perfectly captures Vicki’s personality. If you don’t want to read the books, then the series is close enough in style to the books to give you a good sample.

 

 

They Thirst – Robert R McCammon

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This was the second vampire invasion book I read, after Salem’s Lot, and I thought it was fantastic. I don’t think it was a particularly deep book, but it was a lot of fun, and most of that fun is in the reactions of people who begin to understand what’s happening.  McCammon does get one major thing right, just as I have always espoused, is that people for whom superstition and faith are a major part of their life, are usually the ones to catch on the fastest, and survive what’s happening. People who believe the evidence of their senses, and stop trying to apply rationality to what they clearly see is happening, are usually the ones who survive.

It wasn’t my first brush with the writing of Robert R McCammon, but it is a fondly remembered book, although the book is a little more dated, as it takes place during the height of late 70’s/80s Pop culture, so some of the characterization needs work. A lot of horror novels in the 80s, were written by straight, White men ,so many of them had some serious  issues with writing PoC, and gay, lesbian and transgender characters, in the sense that most of these depictions were abysmal, as White writers had  less sensitivity  about such groups than they do now, and you have to take that into account if you’re going to tackle some of these 80s books.

I said before, I believe McCammon was building on Salem’s Lot by taking the basic premise of that book to its logical extreme, and asking : What if Dracula came to the big city, rather than a small town? How might that story play out?In They Thirst, vampires take over the city of Los Angeles, and it mostly plays out very much as you think it does. There’s less emphasis on xenophobia, but there’s subsequently  more emphasis on city life, gangs, and how disbelief in the supernatural, and  the cynicism of city dwellers, aids and abets the vampire invasion. Its not as good as Salem’s Lot, because its simply not as deep, but its a game effort, and worth the read.

 

 

30 Days of Night

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I already wrote about this series.

30 Days of Night has since become an entire series of books, with crossovers with other horror comics, and a movie starring Josh Hartnett. The graphic novel is so much better than the movie, and the movie is pretty damn good. The atmospheric art of Ben Templesmith is a huge factor in how scary the first book is. I became a huge fan of Steve Niles after reading this.

What I would like to know is why no one had ever thought of this idea before, given the icy horror of the Arctic, and the loneliness and isolation? Some of the best, and scariest, movies and TV shows have been set in this environment, so why not vampires?

The way vampires are written today, most of them aren’t very scary at all which is why I love to hype up this series. This book actually had me on the edge of my seat the first time I read it, and I’m always going to be fond of the idea, if not the various execution of the idea, over the course of the series.

 

 

 

Sunglasses After Dark – Nancy A Collins

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This is one of my favorite series because it has one of the baddest female vampires to ever be written, and tackles the subjects of sexual assault and trauma in the creation of a new vampire. Sonja Blue’s creation as a vampire was so traumatic that her personality essentially split, with one half being an amnesiac vampire, that carries a silver knife and can walk in daylight, who  kills other vampires, and a monstrous version of her vampire self that she calls The Other. She’s a bit like a female version of Blade, although I do not believe she was based on that character.

The first book is about her coming to terms with what happened to her, and how that ties in with a typical 80s, Evangelical TV couple, who want to use her for their own ends. Over the next three books in the series, she hunts the vampire who made her, while getting into adventures with various men, children, and other supernatural creatures. Most of these books end explosively, and Nancy Collins has a knack for slowly building the suspense, coiling the plot tighter and tighter, until things have to pop off. She does not stint on the gore, but she isn’t trying to write like a guy, in the Splatterpunk tradition. You can definitely tell this novel was written by a woman. This is another 80s vampire, but her writing is less problematic about PoC and gay and lesbian characters.

Later in the 90s, at the height of the Vampire RPG games fascination, Collins wrote a crossover with Sonja, and the Vampire: The Embraced series, which I thought was very effective, considering that she is a very different type of vampire than the ones from White Wolf. (The title is A Dozen Black Roses, and the first four books are available as a set on Amazon.) She even wrote a crossover with The Crow series, in the anthology “Shattered Lives and Broken Dreams”. The later books are not as deep as that first but worth reading, and there are a number of standalone short stories, to get a taste of Collins writing style and introduce yourself to Sonja Blue.

 

 

Necroscope Series – Brian Lumley

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This book was  a favorite for the sheer inventiveness of the vampires in the story. In The Necroscope series, vampirism is a virulent disease that will attempt to survive at any and every cost, and even the most seemingly innocent interaction with the infected, who are cunning, vicious, and highly intelligent, can result in a person becoming infected. The genesis of vampirism is from a planet where it grows as spores (which look like tiny white eggs) in the planet’s swamp lands, and any creature can be infected and pass it on, often resulting in hideous hybrid creatures of man and animal. The infection transforms a person into a conniving, hungry, cruel and manipulative predator, which, even more frighteningly, is still fully capable of human emotions, like love and loyalty.

In the world of the vampires themselves, they were at war with one another until only a handful of long lived lords and ladies are left, living at the top of what few mountains are left behind, called Aeries, and they totally control the human population of the planet, using them for fuel, and food, and transforming them into monstrous, but useful creatures, like plumbing systems, and transport beasts. If you’re familiar with the work of Wayne Barlowe’s Hell series, this world is a close parallel, only slimier. Pretty much everything about Lumley’s vampires is maximally disgusting.

The Necroscope is a man named Harry, who  communicates with the dead, who love him. He and the dead are often the first line of defense against the encroachment of vampirism, as they often warn him in advance of infestations, and sometimes even leave their graves to help Harry, and his special government team of vampire fighters and psychics,  to fight them. If you can get past what I thought were unnecessary descriptions of the women, (Lumley has no idea how to write about women) and some inventive sex scenes, these are very enjoyable books, although the writer’s  florid, but stilted writing style may be hard for some people to get past, too. I know I had a minute getting past the writing style, but if your’e a big horror fan this series is worth it just for the imagery.

 

The Saint Germain Chronicles – Chelsea Quinn Yarbro

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This series is often referred to as horror, but there isn’t much horror in them, beyond the horrible activities that the vampire, St. Germain, has had to endure in his 30,000 year plus life. These are historical novels written from a vampire’s point of view which makes them different enough  to be of interest to me. St. Germain is a vampire who was definitely invented by a woman, think Frank Langella’s smooth, urbane, sophisticated version of in the 1979  Dracula. Since these books were mostly written in the 80s, I suspect that’s who Yarbro had in mind while creating this character, and that’s mostly who I picture when reading the books. Since she wrote this there has been a glut of historical vampire novels with characters not dissimilar to this.

In each book of the series, St. Germain travels to some new part of the world, falls in love, and has an adventure. The books were published in no particular order, and can be read in any order, as well. My personal favorite is Path of the Eclipse, a chronicle of his travels throughout Asia, from China, to Japan, to India and Tibet. Each chapter is often prefaced with an introduction to the life/lives of whatever new characters he will be interacting with, and  where he is, in the form of letters and/or documents. Yarbro manages to perfectly capture the world weariness of an incredibly long lived creature, that tries to hold itself aloof from human affairs, but keeps getting embroiled in various human dramas, often because of St. Germain’s deep well of compassion for the mayfly lives he interacts with.

If you love a well researched historical novel, with vampire, then pick up any book in the series, in any order.

Halloween Horrors Directed By Women

XX (2017) Anthology

I recently watched this anthology of horror shorts, directed by women, on Netflix and found it very effective. Not particularly frightening, but moving nonetheless. I not only enjoyed the stories themselves, but there were some interstitial moments between the episodes that I found pretty creepy, and which also tell a kind of story. Of the four stories, three of them deal with the idea of motherhood as a harrowing and anxious experience.

One of the middle stories, and the most frightening, is The Box,  about a woman whose family slowly starves themselves to death after the son peeks into the box of a stranger on a bus ride. I think I read this as a short story somewhere because it felt familiar. Its a very effective and emotional scare, as the mother is helpless to save her family, who are determined to destroy themselves. One of the other stories chronicles the adventures of a mother whose husband dies in a giant panda suit just before his daughter’s birthday party called, appropriately enough, The Birthday Party. It’s the funniest of the stories, but I was exasperated by it because it didn’t fit the gray mood of the rest of the anthology.

Dont’ Fall is the most straightforward horror story with no message to it. A group of people go camping and run afoul of an ancient cannibalistic evil. Her Only Living Son is a favorite of mine. Its like a sequel to Rosemary’s Baby, if she had run away from  all the people trying to manipulate her, and tried to  raise her son not to be the AntiChrist. It’s interesting that the two most effective stories are about mothers trying to save their children from the aftermath of bad choices.

I wasn’t sure what to expect, and was a little dubious about watching it, at first. Women directors in the Horror genre are very rare, but this turned out to be pretty good. The types of stories  were  female-centric in a way that men’s stories just aren’t, and that was refreshing.

This movie is available on Netflix.

Ravenous (1999) Antonia Bird

I reviewed this movie some time back, and advised people to listen to the DVD commentary, because it’s very informative. I’ve since learned that Antonia Bird died from cancer in 2013. Her films include a few others I’ve watched: Priest, Safe, and Mad Love.

https://tvgeekingout.wordpress.com/2015/07/15/geeking-out-about-ravenous-1999/

A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night (2014) Ana Lily Amirpour

This is a nice little nugget of a film available on Netflix, which I have not finished watching yet, because I was interrupted. (I was about thirty minutes away from the end, which is probably when all the best stuff happens.) This is a remarkable story about an unnamed and  beautiful Iranian vampire, who spends her nights trying to resist her hunger, in the presence of an innocent young man named Arash. The movie isn’t frightening, so much as it is melancholy, although The Woman, as I call her, does manage to cause plenty of death.

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Jennifer’s Body (2009) Karyn Kusama

Despite people hating this movie, I actually enjoyed it , and thought it was pretty funny. This was my first introduction to Megan Fox ,and based on her performance here, I wish her career had continued. I wasn’t sure what to expect actually. I think I expected the director (who, at the time,  I did not know was a woman) to simply use the plot as an excuse to have Megan Fox be naked and/or sexy. I thought the trailer a little misleading. But the movie turned out to be a lot deeper, as it was about the friendship between these two very different characters, and how people change and grow apart as they get older. The movie was also written by a woman, Diablo Cody, which explains some of its humor.

Anita, played by Amanda Seyfried is friends with a bitchy cheerleader named Jennifer. Now I should have paid closer attention because I was unclear if Jennifer had been turned into a vampire, or if Jennifer actually died and was replaced by some creature. At any rate, its up to Anita to try to stop her, because, obviously, Jennifer is evil. It was hard not to like Jennifer though, because she’s actually funny, and some of the best dialogue in the movie is between her and Anita during their knockdown fight at the end.

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Raw (2016) Julia Decournau

I have yet to watch this film, but I really  liked the trailer, and so its on my Halloween list. It heavily reminds me of a cross between the movies  Thelma and Jennifer’s Body.

Its interesting to me that so many horror films directed by women seem to involve the concept of eating and the  forbidden and blood.   The anthology XX had an episode about people denying food, A Girl Walks Home Alone is about a vampire, and this one is about a young vegetarian developing a taste for raw meat after a horrible campus initiation. Ravenous and Jennifer’s Body are about cannibalism. At some point someone is going to have to analyse why that is.

Pet Semetary (1989) Mary Lambert

This is the one movie on this list I’m not a big fan of, but a heckuva lot of people really really love it, so I’m recommending it for viewing. I thought the movie was kind of ridiculous, and some of the acting was simply terrible. On the other hand, Fred Gwynne, who played Herman Munster on the sitcom, was great, and I liked Denise Crosby, who was really likable here. I was creeped out by the family cat, but I  laughed at part of the ending, when this tiny munchkin went on a murder spree. I don’t hate this movie ,but I don’t have happy thoughts about it either, although I did enjoy the Stephen King book it was based on.

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Near Dark (1987) Kathryn Bigelow

I gave a review of this movie earlier in my blogging career. This was directed by the great Kathryn Bigelow, who won an Oscar for her movie The  Hurt Locker, and gave us such great characters as the Aliens version of Ellen Ripley, and the Terminator 2 version of Sarah Connor.

https://tvgeekingout.wordpress.com/2015/08/12/near-dark-1987/

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Carrie (2013) Kimberly Peirce

I did a review of this one where I compared Kimberly’s version to the one directed by DePalma, charting the difference between when a man makes a female- centered film vs. when a woman does it. Basically, there seems lot more meaningful interaction between the women in a female directed movie. At some point I’m going to revise this review to add some new thoughts.

https://tvgeekingout.wordpress.com/2015/03/16/carrie-vs-carrie/

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Honorable Mentions (Not Directed By Women)

These five movies were not directed by women, but the women characters are not just in the center of the plot, they are the plot. Any one of these movies would be great for a female themed marathon on Halloween night, along with longstanding favorites, like Alien, and Halloween.

Ginger Snaps (2000)

This is one of my favorite werewolf movies, right up there with the newer movie, Wer. Here, two teen Goth sisters, Bridgette, and Ginger, the local high school weirdos of a small suburban town,  discover that Ginger has developed lycanthropy, after being bitten by a wild animal, while on their way to play a prank on another girl. There is a parallel here between the disease and sexual maturity, as Ginger has just had her first period, which is why the animal attacked her. Ginger Snaps considerably deepened the discourse around the subject of feminine transformation, rage, and sisterly love,  and upped the werewolf game.

Thelma

This is a repost of a mini-review I did  in May of this year.

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I’d been looking forward to seeing this for some time, and it did not disappoint. Now, when I first heard the description of it, I had not yet seen the trailer, and I was expecting something like Carrie, but quieter. Then I saw the trailer, and found that it’s something wholly different from Carrie. This movie isn’t about vengeance, it’s about desire, and what happens to a person when that desire is repressed.

For one thing, this is a much quieter, and more subtle movie than Carrie. It’s so low-key, that the supernatural aspects of the story kind of sneak up on you. They sneak up on you because they’re  loosely covered by several other issues that you will find compelling enough to be distracting.

The film is based in Norway, and the lead character, Thelma, starts to experience epileptic seizures, except it’s not seizures. Her doctor says they are psychosomatic, and stem from emotional suppression. At the same time, she meets a young woman who comes to her rescue, after she has a seizure in the college’s public reading room, while that room’s giant picture window is battered by a flock of birds. Every time she resists her feelings for Anja, or tries to suppress her powers, she has a seizure.

Thelma and the young woman, Anja, start to get closer, but Thelma comes from a quietly strict Christian background, and she becomes very conflicted about her relationship with Anja, which starts to take a romantic turn. It turns out that Thelma isn’t necessarily conflicted because of the Christianity, but because she has the power to make things happen to people, when she strongly wants it. The Christian beliefs her parents espouse are what was used to keep her powers in check.

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When Thelma was a child, she became jealous of her baby brother, and wished him away several times. The last time she does it is emotionally devastating to her mother and father, but this isn’t something you find out until the middle of the film, and only in flashbacks, and explains why her parents treat her in the quietly aloof manner that they do.

As Thelma becomes overwhelmed about her relationship with Anja, (she keeps having sexual nightmares involving snakes, and dreams about drowning, which is classic symbolism of someone being overwhelmed by a subject), she wishes Anja away too, and it’s a testament to the low-key horror of the movie, that even at the end, you’re not entirely certain that what is happening is real. Did she bring Anja back? Is Anja even real? And then there’s the further question, brought up by her father, about whether or not Anja truly loves Thelma, or did she make Anja love her because she wants her to love her.

It’s not a straight horror movie, with jump scares, and frightening moments. The most frightening moment in the movie is when Anja disappears, and Thelma kills her father. But mostly it’s those nagging questions,that stay with you, as you start to realize Thelma is far more dangerous than you may at first have believed. Her mother and father were in a car accident a few years before she went to college, and though it’s not explicitly stated, you wonder if it was Thelma who caused it.

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After Anja disappears, Thelma leaves college to go back home, where her family welcomes her, but her father decides that she can’t leave. She takes control of her abilities, takes a horrific revenge on her father, and walks out of the house. She goes back to school, where she is greeted by a newly returned Anja, who passionately kisses her.  Her mother is disabled, and uses a wheelchair after the accident, but by the end of the film, Thelma has given her the ability to walk again.

Like several other movies I’ve seen in the past few years (It Follows, Annihilation, A Quiet Place), the horror comes not so much from what happens in the movie, but from its mood. The wintry landscape of Norway, and the remote location of Thelma’s home, is very effective. On the other hand, I can’t say that the movie was enjoyable, either. It’s too haunting for that, and I am still disturbed by the questions that arose, and the answers I came up with.

For those of you on the LGBTQ spectrum this movie is safe enough to watch There is a brief moment when you think there’s a Kill Your Gays Trope, but by the end of the movie, that has passed. Its a movie about overcoming repression, and acceptance of the self.

Thelma is available on Hulu.

It Follows

I’ve done two reviews for this movie. One is an examination of the meaning of the monster, and the other focusing on the female -centric symbolism embedded in the film.

https://wordpress.com/posts/my/tvgeekingout.wordpress.com?s=it+follows

https://tvgeekingout.wordpress.com/2017/04/19/it-follows-2014-more-thought

Added Bonus:

28 BLACK WOMEN HORROR FILMMAKERS:

http://www.graveyardshiftsisters.com/2018/02/28-black-women-horror-filmmakers-meosha.html

A Black Buffy the Vampire Slayer

 

Well, some of you may have heard about this:

‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’ Is Getting a Reboot With a Black Lead

https://www.thedailybeast.com/buffy-the-vampire-slayer-is-getting-a-reboot-with-a-black-lead

 

https://the-orbit.net/progpub/2018/07/22/buffy-is-coming-back-and-this-time-shes-going-to-be-black/

I also am not loving the idea of naming a Black woman ‘Buffy’. I’ve got to be honest, on top of the fact that ‘Buffy’ has been played by 2 wyte actresses, ‘Buffy’ as a name is white coded. It doesn’t scream blackness. It screams pretty much what all other corners of USAmerican society screams: whiteness. That kinda solidifies the idea that ‘Buffy’ is a wyte name. On the other hand, if it’s going to be a reboot, they kinda need that name (although it could be a nickname, perhaps one based on athleticism).

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So far, a lot of the reactions have been mixed. Or rather,  the reasons for their negative reactions have been mixed, while the positive reactions are pretty much just  “Yay! New Buffy stories!” My feelings are completely mixed. I don’t know if I should feel happy about it or be annoyed.

I was a huge fan of the original. I think I commented on one of these that I used to watch Buffy like it was a religious experience. Some writers on the subject have distilled this feeling to its essence: For some people, it’s Star Wars, but for some of us, it was Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I was a minor fan of Star Wars. I like it,  for the most part,  but it doesn’t (didn’t) move me the way Buffy did. And something about the time period in which I saw it, (just a few years out of high school) may have played a large part in my reaction to it.

As much as I liked Buffy though, the show does have some major issues, one of which was the subject of race.

https://theconversation.com/a-revamped-buffy-could-rectify-the-original-slayers-problem-with-race-100599

Not to be deterred, however, producers of the show have responded by implying that the new season will not be a reboot with a Buffy who happens to be black, but rather a sequel to the old one, featuring a different slayer altogether. A sequel featuring a different slayer, with her own identity, would be a firm step towards a more radically inclusive and irrevocably transformed storytelling venture.

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I loved Buffy but I’m not necessarily looking forward to a reboot of Buffy because, as this article states, Black fans deserve their own characters, rather than hand me down characters of White shows. On the other hand, I have heard competing ideas of what the show is about. I’ve heard it’s a reboot, but then later I read that this will be a unique character, with her own stories, and that it is a sequel built on the old series. The character’s name will still be Buffy, however, and I think that’s a mistake. If its a reboot, then it’s unnecessary, and if it’s a  sequel to the original, and its a whole new character, then why bother to give her Buffy’s name. Not to mention that there’s not a Black woman on Earth whose name is Buffy. A nickname I could understand but her actual name? No!

I do feel that having a Black woman writer as the showrunner is a good idea because who knows more about what it’s like to be a Black woman, than a Black woman. Certainly not Joss Whedon, whose writing of Black women is, simply, atrocious.

This writer is right in saying that Black people have a wealth of fantasy stories that we’ve created, that we would like to see brought to television, although in an ideal world, I would love  ALL the stories along with the new Buffy.

https://www.slashfilm.com/buffy-reboot-problems/

What’s insulting is the thought that we’re supposed to be happy with whatever representation we get, without understanding that what we crave and demand goes far beyond the simple presence of a person of color on screen. It’s about substance. It’s about the opportunity for an actor or actress of color to be able to stand on their own merit and not in the shadows of their white predecessor. It’s about the importance of highlighting original stories by and featuring talent of color — without presenting it through a white gaze.

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Some people flat out don’t want the new show. There are shows I’d prefer to see ,and stories I’d prefer be told, but I’m not actually opposed to this show. As I’ve said before, I’m incredibly nosy, so no matter what gets put on the air, I’m probably going to watch at least the first episode. I’m not prepared to hate it right away, but I am giving the whole idea  the side-eye.

https://www.themarysue.com/i-dont-want-a-black-buffy/

That’s why I wish, ultimately, that this and even the upcoming Charmed series were original concepts and not hopping on top of existing franchises in order to make them work. Black and non-white creators have our own vampire series that could be up for adaptation. There’s L.A. Banks with The Vampire Huntress Legend, Octavia Butler’s Fledgling(if it loses the age issues), and The Gilda Stories by Jewelle Gomes, which is about a bisexual vampire from the 1850s.

Image result for black fantasy books One of my favorites, that Id love to see adapted to TV is the Maurice Broaddus Joint :Knights of Breton Court, which is a retelling of the legend of King Arthur, set in the hood, with magical characters, and sword-bearing street thugs. There’s nothing like it on TV, right now, and this story deserves to be seen.

 

Image result for coyote kings of the space age This is another one of the unique stories I would love to see brought to TV. Coyote Kings of the Space Age Bachelor Pad is kind of indescribable, although I suppose it would be called the Black version of Ready Player One, if it took place in the show Atlanta.

And here’s a few more:

https://littlefoxandreads.wordpress.com/2017/01/24/diversity-in-sff-1-sci-fi-fantasy-books-with-black-protagonists/

Vampire Song  Videos

Hi!

Here, have a musical interlude. I don’t know if this is a fine Monday, but I hope it’s a good one.

Love Song For A Vampire by Annie Lennox (from Interview w/The Vampire)

I’ve been an Annie Lennox fan since her first song, Sweet Dreams Are made of This, waaay back in the 80s. Now couple that face, and voice, with the visuals of Bram Stoker’s Dracula from 1992, which is very possibly one of the most gorgeous vampire movies ever made. It’s been a long time since I watched this video. I’d forgotten it’s as romantic, and overwrought, as the movie.

 

Bela Lugosi’s Dead by Bauhaus (from The Hunger)

This song was originally featured in the movie The Hunger from 1983. I would have been too young to see it when it was released, but I read the book when I was about 16 or 17, and it was the first time I’d ever encountered that whole lesbian vampire theme. Those of you who have not seen this movie will be very happy to know that, not only does the movie star David Bowie, but that it remains very faithful to the book, and takes its themes seriously.

 

Tear You Apart by She Wants Revenge (from American Horror  Story: Hotel)

This song heavily reminded me of Bauhaus’ Bela Lugosi song, which is probably why I like it, and the fact that it played on one of my favorite shows, American Horror Story, makes me  a little biased.

 

Cry Little Sister (from the movie The Lost Boys)

I was seventeen when I saw this movie, the year it was released. I was total trash afterwards, (cuz I was just EXTRA  back then. I’m an older, slightly less EXTRA version, now.). I think I told some guy it was the greatest vampire movie ever made. In my defense, the movie is still pretty damn good, and  I had not yet been exposed to Bram Stoker’s Dracula, or Interview with the Vampire, yet.

Of course, I bought (and still have) the soundtrack.

 

Sympathy For The Devil by The Rolling Stones (from Interview w/The Vampire) 

I am aware that the original song was done by The Rolling Stones, and that the movie version was sung by Guns N Roses, but I like Motorhead a lot, and I got really excited when I found they’d done a cover of this song, which has always been a favorite of mine.

 

 Moon Over Bourbon Street by Sting

Sting specifically wrote this song about Louis after reading Interview with the Vampire. I remember at some point he was in talks to star as in the movie version of The Vampire Lestat, which is a movie that still needs to be made, even though Queen of the Damned pretended to be some version of it.

My favorite version of this song is the Club version, which I love to listen to on my commute to work.

Stuff I’ve Been Watching

 

Midnight Texas (NBC)

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So, I’ve watched maybe two episodes of this show and I’m really liking it so far. I’m willing to date this show for a while, because it’s good fun and makes me laugh. Midnight Texas isn’t a deep show. It’s not a Bryan Fuller Joint, or Westworld, but it’s a fun little interlude before going to bed, since it airs at ten, Monday nights, and I gotta go to work in the morning.

The main character, Manfred Bernardo, can see ghosts. His Auntie comes from the town of Midnight, and after she dies suddenly, leaving him in debt to some type of criminal, her ghost tells him the town can be a safe place for him, where his skills will be appreciated.

Midnight Texas happens to be the home of various supernatural beings, and Manfred fits right in. Upon his  arrival, Manfred meets a local girl named Creek, and while her father is deeply suspicious of him, the young lady is intrigued, and the two of them develop a relationship very quickly. A lot of things happen quickly in the show, and many of the plot points happen in a kind of throwaway manner that takes some getting used to. I understand the idea is to keep it light, and not get too bogged down in philosophy, meta- physics, and whatnot. The show is supposed to just be fun, and I’ll watch it in that spirit.

I have a lot of favorite characters on the show, most of which are supers. There’s some good representation on the show, and I’m looking forward to learning more about the various characters. I missed the second episode, but managed to watch the third. The creators are trying to keep things light without being ha-ha funny, which is a fine line. It doesn’t look like they’re trying so much to reproduce True Blood, as reproduce the mood of True Blood. Some of these characters are mentioned in the True Blood books though.

Manfred, for example, is the psychic that Sookie met when she visited Dallas.  Midnight Texas is based on source material from the same writer, Charlaine Harris. I have not read the books. I opted not to, because I didn’t want my brain focusing on the side issues of the books, while watching the show. I may read them at some point in the future, because they seem like fun, but not right now.

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We have a full complement of creatures on the show, so you’d think my favorite would be the Reverend Emilio Sheehan, who happens to be a Were-Tiger, which is kinda awesome. He seems rather morose, which is appropriate as I consider actual tigers to be the “crabby old men” of the giant cat world. There are WoC in the cast. One of them owns the local bar/diner, and I don’t think she has any superpowers, but I could be wrong, and it’s something that could be revealed later. The other is the local witch. The town does have some mundane people inhabiting it, and some of them are aware of the supernatural qualities of the others.

You’d think my next favorite would be the Angel, Joe because he’s really, really hot. I’m not into blondes, as a rule, but I’m willing to acknowledge the occasional hotness of some of them. He happens to be living with a Hispanic man named Chuy, who also happens to be an Angel, and I wonder if the two of them being a couple is the reason they’ve been exiled to Earth.

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Lemuel

Well, you know who my favorite is. Lemuel, the rather unique vampire who feeds off human energy, and eats other vampires. We get to see his backstory in the third episode. He used to be a slave and there’s a scene of Lemuel being whipped for trying to escape, which I didn’t appreciate having to look at. That scene is pretty graphic and you may want to skip it if watching Black people being tortured is not your thing. The point of all that is to show how far Lemuel will go to be free, I guess.  After a couple of escape attempts, Lem encounters a Native American vampire, who transforms him. Lem’s immediate course of action is to avenge himself on the slave owner, who had him beaten, and that guy’s entire family. That’s pretty graphic too.

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Olivia

 

Later, Lem and the other vampires in his clan, have a falling out, because Lem thinks he’s become just another slave to his thirst. In the third episode, Len’s Maker returns looking to take over Midnight for himself. The townspeople rally together to kill the vampires.

This seems to be the main theme this season, as we’ve  had three/four episodes, in which the townspeople need to band together to defeat some outside force. In the middle of all this plot, we learn that Lem started off as an ordinary vampire, but after encountering Manfred’s aunt when she was a child, she transformed him into something else, a vampire that can feed on other vampires.

The characters often have some deep philosophical insights, but like I said, it’s in a blink and you’ll miss it manner. (Joe and the Reverend do this too.) Lem is played by Peter Mensah, who is extremely handsome, in his bold blue contacts. You may remember him as a gladiator from the show Spartacus.

I  like Lem’s girlfriend, Olivia, who is some type of international assassin. She’s a total badass, and she and Lem are the town’s heavy hitters, when it comes to defense. I don’t normally pay a whole lot of attention to White television actresses, unless they’ve firmly established themselves with a good track record, but I like this actress. She’s blunt spoken, clear-headed, and pragmatic, all qualities I admire, and I see why Lem likes her. She has some secrets from her past, that she’s trying to bury, while dealing with  anger issues.  I could do with a lot fewer scenes of Olivia and Lem gettin’ it on, though. It doesnt need to be shown in every episode.

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Fiji

Fiji is another one of my favorites, and I like her, not because she’s the town witch, although that’s kinda cool, but because she has a talking cat. I don’t know much about the cat’s backstory but he’s snarky, and dismissive, just the way you’d think a cat would be. How it happened that her cat talks, we don’t know yet. Fiji is very young, but she’s also extremely powerful, and well-respected in the town. Most of the mundanes know what she is, and rely on her to protect them.

Fiji is also really cute, and kind of adorkably nerdy. She has a mad crush on one of the townies, a guy with the unfortunate name of Bobo, and her feelings seems to be reciprocated. One of the more powerful images I have of her, is from the first episode, where she crushes a police vehicle, with little more than her bare hands, and a strong will. Fiji looks sweet and vulnerable, but she ain’t the one to mess with. She’s  refreshingly different, as Black women rarely get to be emotionally fragile, but powerful love interests, and/or witches either.

I’m going to try to enjoy this show while it lasts. It’s on network television, which has a nasty habit of cancelling the shows I like, so I don’t hold out much hope that Midnight Texas. will be around next year. This is the same station that just canceled Still Star Crossed. But then I was trying really hard not to get attached to that show. (That didn’t work). I’m not gonna try that with this show and it still might get canceled. I might as well get attached. There’s always the books, which I’m told, Charlaine intends to keep writing.

 

Mr. Mercedes (Audience Network)

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I liked this show, too. I was expecting it to be a deeply serious dramatic type  show, but it turned out to have a quirky sense of humor, not because the writing is funny, or people are telling jokes, but because certain characters and situations are just odd. It’s not like the show Psych, which was a deliberate comedy. This is not a comedy. It’s just some of the characters are weird.

The show is based on a trilogy of books by Stephen King, the first title of which is Mr. Mercedes, named after the killer in the book. Brendan Gleason plays Bill Hodges, a retired cop who is trying to figure out what to do with himself, now that he’s no longer working. until he is taunted out of retirement by Mr. Mercedes, so-named after he drove a Mercedes into a crowd of job seekers outside a job fair, killing several. I like Gleason’s character. One of the funniest recurring issues is when he can’t believe various women find him attractive. (It’s definitely the beard.)

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The show begins with  a very graphic scene, and I was heavily reminded of the events in Charlottesville Virginia. There’s no mystery about the killer for the audience, just as in the book. We’re introduced to Brady Hartsfield early in the story. The book remains very faithful to the books, except in tiny details like the wacky neighbor lady who lives next door, and Bill feeding a massive tortoise passing through his yard one morning. I’m not sure if this is a pet or what.

Bill is assisted in his sleuthing, by the kid he hired to mow his lawn, and who happens to be a computer wiz. Jerome is played by Jharrel Jerome, and I like him already. His character is a refreshing change from the Black Male Sportsplayer/Jock, we see so often on TV. Black men are rarely cast as hardware nerds. Brady is also a tech-nerd, and works at one of those big box technical stores, which is something like Best Buy, and I like that Jerome seems to be every bit his equal when it comes to the esoteric workings of computers.

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I think Bill’s quirky neighbor is meant to represent a woman with which Bill has a brief, but satisfying relationship, in the books. Or at least I hope so. I don’t know if this will happen on the show, but in the book, Janey is murdered by Brady. This is not a catalyst to make Bill chase after him, because Bill was already unofficially working the Mr. Mercedes case. This is Brady’s attmept to make Bill commit suicide. The neighbor, Ida Silver, is played by Holland Taylor, and if she looks familiar, that you may have seen her in every funny show of the 90s.

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The villain is played by one of the alumni of the cable show, Penny Dreadful . Harry Treadaway, who played Victor Frankenstein, is as disgusting character here, as he was on the other show. Apparently, this is how he’s going to make his career, playing unlikable people in perfectly good shows. The show remains very faithful to the books with him too. He has an incestuous relationship with his mother, whom he later poisons, and it looks like the writers are sticking to this plot, although in the book, the mother  initiates sexual activity. In the show, it appears she doesn’t know that her son regularly masturbates with her as his subject. (I know! Ewww!)

Their relationship does have a very Bates Motel feel. Brady works at a Big Box store, with other quirky characters, and a deeply stupid boss, who is constantly shit-talking Brady’s dreams of life beyond the store. This goes a long way towards humanizing this incredibly shitty character, who mowed down dozens of people with his car, just for shits and giggles. This is not something that happens  in the books, so I wasn’t expecting that.

I’m going to keep watching this because the pilot certainly captured me. The show airs on the Audience Network which may be difficult for some of you to access. I have access to it through DirectTV, and its possible you may need that, to watch this show.

 

 

The Void (Netflix)

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I love a good creature feature, and I was attracted to this movie because of its use of tentacles in its promotional material. I wasn’t expecting a whole lot when I sat down to watch it. I was sort of expecting a little Cthulhu type stuff, and there’s certainly a little of that in it, but there was also a lot of it I couldn’t make hide, nor hair, of.

It seems to be about a group of cultists attempting to call some dark being to Earth, to inhabit the bodies of humans, and the cultists are partially successful. They’re doing this in collusion with a doctor at the local hospital, where they’ve trapped several people.  Daniel Carter, Maggie, James, and inexplicably, an Asian woman, named Kim, who I lost track of by the end of the movie.

These people have to fight off monsters inhabiting the bodies of their friends, and a couple of trigger happy locals, while working their way through the maze of the hospital, to find and stop the doctor from unleashing Hell on Earth, through the body of his pregnant daughter.

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I have to give fair warning. The movie is very gory, with lots of blood and other fluids gushing all over the place. People get skewered with knives and/or shot, and sometimes they get torn apart by creatures. The cult members wear white hooded cloaks and look a little like KKK members, but there is no equivocating in this case. They are definitely villains ,whose job it is to keep the hapless victims trapped in the hospital to be fodder for the monsters. There’s also an element of the movie The Thing, as the monster is a conglomeration of various body parts and live people.

The movie doesn’t have the happiest ending either. At the end Daniel, and I guess her name is Maggie, get trapped in an alternate universe featuring a giant black pyramid. It’s not a bad movie, but it’s not an A+ movie either. A lot of the plot seems to have been borrowed from  other Lovecraftian pastiche movies, like Hellraiser, and Re-animator ,and the acting is sometimes a bit dodgy. But I think the key words here are “not bad”. It’s a good workmanlike plot where bad things happen to bad, and sometimes not so bad,people, who sometimes act like cowards, and occasionally act like heroes.

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Daniel isn’t the most charismatic guy in the film, although he is set up as our hero, who has the most sense,  and who  is gonna save the world. None of the other characters stand out as especially interesting either, really. Basically, if you’re watching this movie, it’s just  for the monsters, and gore.

The Strain Season 2 – First Born

Okay, this is my last review for a couple of episodes because I’m going to be reviewing other stuff. It doesn’t  matter too much as the show, even though its season has been shortened by a couple of episodes, still insists on meandering its way towards the plot. I think I can skip at least a couple of episodes, as nothing important is likely to happen. I don’t dislike this season  exactly, but everything that was most annoying about the last season, is pretty much still happening, only with slightly quicker editing.

I was really hoping, with it’s emphasis on Quinlan and Gus that I wouldn’t need to look at either Zach or Kelly during this episode, but the show decided to torture me anyway by opening with a completely unnecessary scene of Zach and Kelly hanging out.

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In the last episode, I noped out before the scene where The Master infected Zach with a single worm.The writers seemed to consider that some sort of cliffhanger (not realizing we don’t give a shit what happens to Zach) and left that scene until now, where we find that Zach is fine. Well, at least we got the two of them out of the way. We don’t see them for the rest of the episode.

Setrakian finds the Occido Lumen has been stolen. Fet’s conclusion, jumped into with both feet and a yahooo, is that Quinlan did it. Well he’s not wrong. Quinlan and Eph did it, so that Eph could trade Zach for the Lumen. And this is yet another reason why the writers need several good punches to their necks. Eph clearly  and succinctly outlines to Quinlan, why giving the Lumen to the Master, is a bad idea.  He could be dooming the entire human race if he does so, but decides to go along with his plan anyway because he’s a parent, he loves his boy, blah, blah, blah. Honestly, if Eph isn’t the most irritating white male protagonist I’ve ever seen in a show, I don’t know who is. I’m guessing he’s meant to be unlikable.

Quin gets some backstory outlining how he was found by an old witch woman and given civilized behavior, in an effort to fulfill the prophecy that he would one day kill the Master. The Master, discovering his existence, traps Quin and the old woman in a cave. She feeds herself to Quin before he can starve, and become too weak to fight the Master, when he returns.

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Its nice to see Eph and Quinlan bonding like this (NOT!). Quin has no patience for Eph’s general foolery. Yeah, Quin doesn’t like Eph very much either. I quite understand.

Plot is  still dawdling along despite having only 7 episodes left.

We go to Gus’ circumstances as he and Angel try to hide his mother from the local security patrols who are going from building to building looking for vampires, I guess. I’d have more to say about this but I was distracted by all the garbage strewn throughout the halls of Gus’ apartment building. I kept wondering if it looked like that before the apocalypse, and if not, when did the apartment dwellers find time to leave all this loose trash all over the building. Its just a tiny thing, but it strikes me as some white middle-class set designer’s idea of extreme poverty. Lots of trash everywhere.

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Gus is successful at letting his mother get away, but he and Angel get conscripted by the local police to do patrols. Actually, that isn’t a bad idea. The guy who conscripts them says it doesn’t make any sense to have able-bodied men just sitting in jail, when they could be out fighting the plague. Its heartless, but sensible.

Eph makes a deal to exchange the Lumen for Zach at a neutral meeting place. Eph is so dumb that he takes the real book with him trusting that the Master is going to live up to his end of the bargain. Setrakian and Fet track the book to the meeting place.

Glowing red eyeballs on the vampires still make me laugh, tho’!

All these forces converge at the meeting, and the show keeps teasing us with  wonderful ideas, like an infected SEAL Team, that we will never get a show about. Naturally, the Master betrays Eph. That was to be expected. (Just not by Eph.) All the vampires get poisoned when Setrakian, bad-ass that he is, sets off several silver grenades. He even manages to poison the Master enough to slow him down long enough for Quin to chop off his head. So the master appears to be dead, but since its only the third episode and I did read the books, I’m pretty sure he’s not, as most of his worms got away. And we’ve seen him switch bodies before, so…

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So really, it was just an okay episode. Not bad, but nothing really great.I liked all the Quinlan stuff because that’s always cool. Ephraim Goodweather is an annoying idiot that needs a good face-punching. Setrakian continues to be OG, while Fet, Gus, and Angel are his smaller, less intelligent, backup gangstas. Zach needs to be burned in effigy, thereby exorcising him from the show. And no Palmer, Eichorst or Dutch, so that’s in the plus column. I hope this episode isn’t as good as the show gets though.

 

From Dusk Til Dawn Season 3 – Head Games; La Reina

The last season of From Dusk till Dawn was not my favorite, although it wasn’t bad. It was certainly one of the best vampire shows on TV at the time, and that includes American Horror Story. The story is generally cohesive, with most of the episodes remaining on point. When a plotline is introduced, it usually gets resolved, characters often have clear cut goals, and so does the season. (The characters have goals, but since all of their goals are in opposition to one another, characters can often get derailed by somebody else’s plans.)

 The biggest drawback is the acting. It just skirts the edge of camp in a lot of scenes, and in some scenes,  it’s just full on awful. So, there needs to be some consistency there. I’m still largely unimpressed by the actress who plays Satanica. She’s such a lite-weight compared to the bodacious Salma Hayek. It’s really hard to top Salma, so she partially gets a pass, but it’s distracting because I keep wondering what Salma would’ve done with the role. 


There are a few women in the cast, and the show has moved alway from some of the misogyny of the first season, although I still have trouble watching the women get treated as violently as the men. The one mitigating factor is the women are every bit as ruthless and violent as the men, after all, most of them are vampires. My second biggest drawback was Richie and Seth spent most of the last season separated and/or fighting with each other and I hated that. The good news is that in the last episode they were back fighting together, so maybe we can get some great brotherly action this season. The action scenes are cool but I still think there should be more of them. The talking scenes aren’t wasted though. This is one of those shows where you have to pay close attention to what people are saying because a lot of the plot is defined/sharpened in he conversations.

Seriously, though. This show does not get enough love and that’s if people even know what station it’s on, (El Rey).The good news is that it’s on Netflix, so some of y’all can catch up.

Kate’s clear goal last season was to save her brother Scott from his vampirism, which didn’t work out, as she got turned into a vampire, or something like it, when the special blood , from the Sante Sangre, seeped into her wounds.  The leader of the Culebras, Carlos, still had plans for Richie’s, and Scott’s, futures, but appeared to be defeated when Richie and Seth  dismembered his body, and sent him  to the four corners of the world. Everyone was on the trail of the Sante Sangre, the Blood Well. It’s like an oil well, only full of blood which acts like catnip for the Culebras (and turned Kate into one of them). Freddie, the ranger who was hunting the Geckos from the first season, is now a Peacekeeper, working with the Culebras to protect their territory,though he is still human. 

Like Supernatural the show’s focus is  on family. There are a lot of parallels between Richie and Seth, and Kate and her adopted brother, Scott,  who was also turned into a vampire at the end of season one, along with Richie. Kate gets in bed with some fairly awful people, (but Seth and Richie grow to like her, and stop underestimating her dedication to saving her brother.) Seth spends almost the entirety of season two separated from Richie, and indulging in hard drugs, because he’s disgusted at Richie being a vampire, and angry because he feels Richie chose Satanica over him. The two of them are set to forgive/reunite, when an old friend of their family refuses to do a job without both of them, then gives both of them a good talking to, and shames them into working together.

The season premiere introduces a new menace after Carlos’ defeat, and takes place about six months after the least season ended. The SkullKeeper, Calavera, is a demon from Xibablba (Hell) ,who takes the skulls of Culebras and makes them his meat puppets. His possession of said drones is suitably gorey, as he  just reaches into the person’s head and tears out the skull. When the Nine Lords of the Culebras become aware of his existence, they task Seth and Richie to find and destroy him. The SkullKeeper wants revenge on the Nine Lords for imprisoning him in the dungeons underneath The Titty Twister. Thanks to Carlos last act,  blowing up the bar, The SkullKeeper and all of the other demonic prisoners were released. A vampire named Brasa, with a burning hand is introduced, and he uses Calavera to destroy the Nine Lords, and succeeds.

By the end of the episode, Calavera is defeated by Seth and Richie and it’s awesome watching the two of them fighting  again, but  eight of the nine lords are dead, and there’s a new queen, Kate, gunning for Satanica. The true villain is established as Brasa, an enemy of all the Culebras. He helped free Calaveras, and  appears to be the worshiper of someone who looks like Kate, who is wearing bad eye makeup, and talking like a supervillain .

In the second episode, Demon Kate makes a play for Satanica, who has retired from the world of the Culebras, but is still being worshipped as a deity by them. DemonKate doesn’t like that. She follows Seth and Richie to Kate’s underground fight club, where the guys try to convince Satanica to come back and help her people. DemonKate and Brasa, have been roaming up and down the Culebras territory burning up all her worshippers. Satanica, who has found new love after breaking it  off with Richie, has to take down a Xibalban warrior that Kate sent to kill her. In return Kate kills her girlfriend. I knew that girl was deadmeat as soon as I found out Kate was in love with her. Even in the most diverse fantasy apparently the rule is  still “Kill your gays!” I should be mad about it but I’m too tired. I liked that character. She was gutsy.

It may sound like I dislike Satanica too, but I don’t really. I’m having difficulty getting past that actress but I like the character. She’s actually very well written and Hispanic creators don’t seem to have a problem writing female characters with agency. From the beginning of the series, Satanica made her thoughts known, and put in motion her plans to escape her enslavement by drafting Richie to her cause. From the beginning, it was always Satanica who was in charge of their relationship, creating the various game plans to win her freedom. As Richie became more certain of his powers, he had to fight to convince her  his plans were worth listening to. In the second season, a lot of the plot was driven by Satanica’s decisions, and she’s the one who made  the final decision to leave Richie, and retire from the field of play. 

This season is being driven by three women, whatever Kate has become, the last surviving Lord, who gives Richie and Seth their orders, and now Satanica. We are reminded of just how bad ass Satanica is, when she singlehandedly defeats the Xibalban warrior, after Kate incapacitates Richie. Seth and Richie then manage to convince her to come out of retirement.  These scenes are interspersed with scenes of Freddy, along with his female companion, hunting Brasa.  


 It gets complicated but I like the mythology of the show. I think I’ve mentioned before that a lot of the vampire mythology is based on Mexican vampires and gods, and some it is just wholly made up stuff. The understanding behind the mythology has evolved since the first season, slowly revealing various beliefs, lore, and artifacts, and what part the Gecko brothers have to play in all of it.

The show has also evolved beyond women as eye candy on the show. I like seeing so many bad ass Latinas onscreen, most of them are exceptionally good at kicking ass, or are just terrifying, or powerful, in their own right. They have agency, make decisions, and affect the plot, and it’s nice to see the occasional Afro-Latina, in the mix too.

I like the evolution of Seth and Richie’s relationship. If you’re looking for another brotherly relationship, but one that’s less claustrophobic than The Winchesters, then the Gecko brothers are it. They do low-key love each other, and although I  don’t like it when they fight, the two of them often have clear-cut reasons for punching each other. Richie is a vampire now, and Seth is still human. Richie occasionally mentions to Seth how he’s going to live forever, trying to convince Seth to become a vampire, but he has never tried to change his brother against his will. It’s subtly played but you can tell that Seth, the older brother, is often disgusted by what Richie has become, sometimes he’s eye-rollingly exasperated by it too. He makes it clear to Richie that he doesn’t want to be a vampire and manages to do that without belittling or demeaning his brother.  He doesn’t like that his brother is a Culebra , but he’s still there for Richie when he needs him. For example, there’s a scene where Richie goes back to his office, puts on a smoking jacket, and picks up a cigar. Seth rolls his eyes and gives his little brother a “what the hell are you doing? “look, but says nothing. He’s gotten used to Richie being weird over the years. 


 And yes, they fight every bit as well as the Winchesters, often sharing weapons, and synchronizing themselves during a fight. They always know where their brother is, and what he’s doing in a fight, something that comes from years of fighting side by side. Richie is smarter and more philosophical than Seth, who mostly leads with his emotions. But that’s okay, as Seth isn’t actually evil. He knows the difference between good and bad, and strives to do good, where Richie can sometimes be lead astray, into philosophically sound ideas, that require evil acts. Yes, Seth thinks Richie is evil, but he appears to be becoming a lot less judgmental about it. This is his little brother. He gets a pass. 

So this show has more pros than cons, and looks set to become an exceptional show, that everyone is ignoring, in favor of watching The Strain, which has not improved even half as much as this one in three seasons. It has a concrete mythology, plenty of action and gore, interesting family relationships, and character consistency. The plots are intricate and not dumb, arising as they do out of the various characters quests for power, love, freedom, or just money.

Stay tuned next week when I’ll try to find time to review another couple of episodes, and let you know  how it’s developing.

(ETA: Wow! Don’t those photos make you the least bit curious about what the hell those scenes were about?)

The Strain Season 3 – Bad White

This second episode shows a tightening of the script just a bit. Since the show has fewer episodes this season, if the writers want to wrap as much of it up as possible before the season ends, they have to jettison a lot of extraneous plotlines. This episode didn’t involve a whole lot of movement, so much as a whole lot of maneuvering, which is to be expected in a second episode, as various characters lay out goals or aims, and move into positions to achieve them. It’s a little slow in that we are still dealing with the fallout of last season, but we have got movement on the nature of certain people’s goals, and the layout for this season.

Ephraim Goodweather : Has got homework in the form of trying to steal the Occido Lumen from Setrakian, so he can exchange it for his son. For the first time he and Quinlan meet and it’s kind of awesome. Quinlan sees right through Eph’s bullshit almost right away. He is not fooled for a moment, although Eph is able to distract him, by throwing his suspicions back at him. This is one of the most well written scenes I’ve seen on the show. It was actually fun to watch. 


I still don’t like Ephraim, but he’s a much more interesting character, now that I understand these purposefully built flaws. Eph is an alcoholic. With that comes a host of recriminations and bad decision making skills. Eph is frustrating to me exactly because of his weaknesses, and I don’t think the viewer is meant to like, or identify, with him. He genuinely loves his child, although I’m still not sure what he feels for Kelly as that’s never made clear. Kelly is a cipher, anyway.

As it stands, Eph is really, truly alone in the show. He doesn’t have anyone in particular to attach himself to, now that Zack is gone, and Nora is dead. Note: there’s a brief conversation had by Setrakian and Eph about Nora, so at least they remember she existed, which is more than I can say for some shows, where the characters simply move on without remembering one of their comrades has died.


I’m looking forward to more interactions between Quinlan and Eph, as that relationship looks explosive. (I do like what I see developing between Fet and Quinlan, which looks like they have more in common with each other, as they’re both warriors, to-the -manner, born.) Eph and Quinlan are either gonna fall in love, or try to kill each other, they are such different men. Quinlan is a very controlled, self contained, thousands of years old vampire, with clear goals, and little patience with human messiness. Eph, is a weak willed alcoholic, with no clear goals for his life, but has deep emotional ties, and is smart as a mf. This can only end in tears and betrayal, or bro-hugs, as far as I’m concerned.

Dutch: What is it with women being named Dutch in TV shows? Why is this a popular name suddenly? Anyway we get some Dutch action as she throws in with a group of old, but thoroughly useless, hacker friends, who are trying to ride ou the current wave of what they believe to be merely urban discontent, by stealing stuff from rich people. Their way of handling this is by breaking into rich people’s homes, and buildings they believe are abandoned. Now they know about “the plague”, as its called, but I’m not entirely certain they understand its nature, or if they do, they don’t care. In fact, the leader seems to think it was caused by overpopulation, and that its some kind of reset button for the human species. He’s not exactly wrong, but he ain’t right either. 

You can tell by the artfully torn pants and watch cap, that this guy is a rebel.

Dutch does try to warn them about how dangerous it is, but they just poo- poo her concerns as Dutch being hysterical. Consequently, they all die, when they break into a high-rise, and get waylaid by the vampires, which I saw coming as soon as they laid out their plans. Dutch, who thanx to Fet, has definitely  been “born again hard”, is one of the only ones to survive, decides this is not the group for her, and coldly leaves them to their own devices, after beheading their worm infected leader, which is some of the coolest shit I’ve seen her do, since the beginning of the series. You can tell the plot has been tightened up because all the things that just  happened would’ve taken seven episodes of the last season, watching Dutch dither around, until she felt like leaving. This all happens in about fifteen minutes and we get some nice vampire action too.

Zack and Kelly: Unfortunately, we also get some Zach and Kelly scenes, but the upside here is that these scenes  would’ve taken to the middle of last season before. Now that Zack has his mom, he’s been whining about  seeing his dad, and being just as snarky, and disrespectful to her, as he was to Eph, so at least his lack of character remains consistent. I’m never gonna like this actor, who is conistently awful. He finally gets to see what type of creature his mom actually is when he catches her feeding on another child, and tries to make a break for it. I don’t know what the outcome was for this scene, (other than he didn’t escape, ), because I noped the fuck out of watching any more of it. I was ready to move on. I really don’t care about Zack even half as much as Ephraim does.


Vasiliy Fet: Gets his ashes hauled. This show should avoid any and all love scenes, as they are, every one of them, entirely cliche. I don’t know who his new woman is, or even if she’s staying, but she didn’t make a great impression on me, becasue I’m not particularly interested in watching people hooking up during the apocalypse, although I guess that’s what’s happening. The city is going to Hell, and people are short on food and medicine, but the bars are still open apparently. See, it’s scenes like that that confuse people into thinking maybe the apocalypse isn’t so bad. For every scene of people enduring hardship and danger, we then get a scene of people who seem to be just living it up, as if nothing were happening. My expectation would be that the streets would be thoroughly empty at night, and full of people running around during the day, because no vampires can go out then. The show seems to have this a little backwards,with everyone running around at night (or like Set and Fet, just casually walking around), and off the streets in the daytime. 

The budget is so low for this show that they keep reusing the same helicopter shot, and an overview of the city with a few fires in the distance. I wished this network cared enough about this show to give it a budget, instead of trying to do such an epic idea on the cheap.

Eldridge Palmer: Has discovered that Setrakian has been using vampire goo to extend his life and is desperate to get his hands on it, so we’ve gone back to this character’s original motivations from season one. This goo, called The White, is distilled from vampire worms, and Palmer has funded a laboratory, to figure it out, but experiences a setback when the lab leader quits.  Palmer goes to Set, to plead for The White, in exchange for taking himself off the playing field. Set turns him down, explaining to Fet later, that The White is only given to very special and specific people, in exchange for their service against the vampires, and it only extends life, not immortalizes, as Palmer seems to think. Eichorst,the smug little maggot that he is, gets to smirk at Palmer a lot, but otherwise doesn’t get much done in this episode. He does mention the blood factories he intends to set up later, and that they need to increase the number of people to sign up to have their blood typed. Why?


I feel like this  plotline is a mistake and can be taken out of play. It serves no purpose other than to make Eichorst appear more diabolical, otherwise he doesn’t have much to do. It doesn’t serve the vampires much as they seem to have very little trouble procuring meals, (what with humans just wandering around like there’s no danger), and I don’t see how this helps The Master, because he doesn’t either. In fact there’s not much purpose in The Feelers, although they’re interesting to watch. 

Overall, not a bad episode, but not good either, just like the first one. Stay tuned next week when I may or may not review the next one, because there’s going to be interesting new shows airing.

The Strain Season 3: NY Strong

So, I watched the first episode of season three and I can’t say I was impressed. I didnt hate it, but it wasn’t exactly memorable either. The show picks up very close to where it left off in the season two finale, when Eph’s vampirized wife, Kelly, finally kidnapped her son, Zach, and killed Nora. Setrakian finally managed to gain The Occido Lumen, and we had no idea where Gus went.

Eph is, predictably, getting drunk and waiting at his home for Kelly and Zach to drop by. We know this because he has a nightmare that Zach has been turned into a vampire and he has to shoot him. Its a very harrowing dream and this is one of the few times I actually felt for Eph. I want to snark about how it’ll be the last time I have feelings for Eph, beyond wanting to punch him in the throat, but I’m gonna let it go because he’s discovered snark and  actually made me laugh during the following scene.

Setrakian has a voice-over about the sitrep in NY. Its been 23 days, the plague has spread to other cities, and we get some shots of people running about, some fires, and military vehicles, and personnel. Its good that the military has gotten involved but they have their own agenda which doesn’t seem to involve wiping out the vampires, but only containing them.

The Navy Seals are working with Fet, who is their guide around the underground places of NY. I think that’s an excellent use for him, and he is still one of my favorite characters, but he doesn’t work-work with them. He’s  in contact with the Seals by radio, so you know they’re expendable. Like a lot of military personnel in movies they are overconfident. They do make a point of stating that they should be careful not to get any fluids on them, as the fluids from the vampires contain the worm infection, but none of them are wearing contamination gear, even though there’s fluid flying all over the place, when they shoot the vampires.

So, its especially eye-rolling watching Eph get into a fistfight with one of the vampires later in the episode. If you’re trying not to get infected with the worms, fist-fighting the vampires is not the way to stay uninfected. (Yet, Eph does remain so.) Eph fighting in an abandoned parking garage, while trying to steal gas, is one of the better action scenes in this episode, though. He spends a lot of time running around alone as if he were daring the vampires to attack him. Anyway between running about gathering up supplies, and drinking, he works on his bio-weapon against the vampires, a bio-weapon which is beginning to be less effective as the vampires evolve into something else.

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I would prefer that he worked out some kind of inoculation against the infection, instead. That seems like it would be easier to accomplish than killing the vampires one by one, or making them sick. Perhaps a combination of both, so that when they bite people, the people don’t become infected, and make the vampire sick too, but I’m not writing this show, so that idea is gonna die in its infancy.

The show is still taking a pretty casual attitude towards the apocalypse, even though the season has been shortened to just ten episodes. On the other hand, this particular episode was fairly tight, there wasn’t a lot of filler, and we didn’t have to spend any time on Dutch’s boring-ass social problems. We’re introduced to the characters again, find out where they are and get some idea of the problems that will beset them at some point during the season. The trailers for the rest of the season look great, but I have it on good authority that the next two episodes are just as casual in their approach as usual.

We got to see Kelly and Zach interacting. Yes, Zach is still awful, so there’s some consistency there. Now that’s he’s with his Mom, he’s begun whining about his Dad, but at least there’s less of him. Eventually, Eph does get a visit from Kelly, who tries to bargain with him for The Occido Lumen in exchange for their son. There’s a brief appearance by Eichorst baiting a Navy Seals team into following him into an abandoned church, which I could see was a trap as soon as Fet mentioned that it was an abandoned church.

Setrakian and Quinlan teamed up at the end of season two and we get some scenes of Setrakian reading The Lumen and talking about how we aren’t going to get any action scenes out of him this season because he’s got reading to do, while Quinlan looks on impatiently. Quinlan goes to visit the vampire authorities in order to have something to do in this episode. I still think its hilarious how everyone else is deathly afraid of the authorities, but Quin acts like he’s having a friendly conversation with his uncles, or something. He’s totally not scared of them.

The councilwoman, Ferraldo is as spunky as ever. She seems to care deeply about her city and is trying really hard to convince people outside of it, that it needs to be saved. If only politicians acted like her in the real world.  I could’ve done without some of the jingoistic dialogue and cheer-leading by the citizens of NY yelling “NY Strong!” at each other. That was deeply cheesy and they sounded like NY cavemen.

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A lot of information is imparted during the episode, while almost none of it is shown. Its mostly characters talking about how bad things are. This plague is supposed to be a countrywide thing but the show only seems to have enough budget to show snippets of the carnage, and I wish we could get a better overview of what was going on in other cities. We see some fires in the distance and there are lots of sirens. So basically, a louder, smokier version of present day NY city.

One way the show conveyed how dire things have become is when Eph goes to trade medicine for food on the streets. The quarantine of NY mostly just caused a supply shortage, so the citizens have set up a brisk trade market of supplies.

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Gus is back home and trying desperately to save his  mother from her vampiric condition. Even going so far as to give her his own blood. He can’t save her and he knows it, but he tries anyway. He’s as devastated by his loss as Eph and I wished the writers had shown more of that last season. As it stands, Eph barely mentions the death of Nora.

Well, with a shorter season, the plot will have to move forward, and we won’t have much time to watch Gus trying to feed his mom for five episodes, or Setrakian reading until episode nine.

So, while not a bad episode, the show really has not changed too much from the rather casual management of the apocalypse of last season either. The action scenes are always well done, when we can get them, but once again, the acting and dialogue need some help. At least there’s a lot less Zach, and that is a blessing.

Penny Dreadful Series Three Finale (?)

Penny Dreadful Series Three Finale (?)

The Penny Dreadful season finale consisted of a two episode arc titled Perpetual Night and The Blessed Dark. I’m still not sure how I feel about this season or the finale. I’m still processing the ending. It appears that  Lily’s and Vanessa’s stories are truly over. I’d love to see more of Kaetenay in the future and we still never got to meet Mr. Hyde. Basically the other character’s  stories…

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Penny Dreadful Series Three Finale (?)

The Penny Dreadful season finale consisted of a two episode arc titled Perpetual Night and The Blessed Dark. I’m still not sure how I feel about this season or the finale. I’m still processing the ending. It appears that  Lily’s and Vanessa’s stories are truly over. I’d love to see more of Kaetenay in the future and we still never got to meet Mr. Hyde. Basically the other character’s  stories aren’t over and I’d love to see their conclusion, but I’m told this is the last episode for the series. I really don’t want to believe that. It sees so abrupt, with so many threads left dangling. I believe the show could endure without Eva green because the other characters are all very compelling, but we can only hope that the PTB will see it that way.

Also, this season felt  shortened. Wasn’t there supposed to be twelve or thirteen episodes? The season seemed to be moving at the usual leisurely pace of a twelve episode season, when suddenly Vanessa is throwing herself on Dracula, the world is ending, and then she’s dead and everything is back to normal, only without her. I’m not satisfied with the explanation given by the shows writer that basically he meant to do that. I think there much more to the story than that. The show ended much too abruptly, and even introduced brand new characters I’d love to see more of, like Seward, and Jeckyll.

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In the previous episode, titled Ebb Tide, Vanessa discovered the shocking truth about Dracula. She confronted him but eventually surrendered to him, bringing about a kind of vampire Apocalypse, but only  in London, which is where we begin the finale. This isn’t  the most fascinating episode, or even the most interesting event, although I was reluctant to believe Vanessa would do such a thing. No, the most fascinating  event turned out to be Lily’s and Dorian’s story, and the dynamic between Kaetenay and Ethan. I also had finally decided that I liked Catriona, who turned out to be a total bad ass, and I hope there is a next season because I’d like to know who she is, where she came from and if the Mummy storyline will be introduced through her and Lyle, because I’d watch the Hell out of that.

Perpetual Night and Blessed Dark are fairly straightforward episodes, though. I wont recap them, just cover the highlights because there’s not a whole lot of plot. Even during the finale, the show manage to keep that same leisurely tone, as if wasnt about to end in 90 minutes.

Ethan , Kaetenay and Malcolm arrive in London and find  the entire city fogbound, people getting sick from some kind of plague, (from the mal aria), and that Dracula’s minions are roaming the streets as they please, taking whom they will, just like the prophecies stated.The highlight is when Ethan wolfs out among a bunch of minions and is  joined by Kaetenay, who is also a werewolf. Apparentl,  Ethan didn’t know this. Kaetenay says he kept it a secret from his own family even. Well, I’d kind of speculated about  what happened between them. Kaetenay was the one who turned E. into a werewolf.

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Victor sets Lily free after the two of them have a heartfelt discussion about why he shouldn’t obliterate her memories of who she was, and why she did what she did. She harbors a lot of rage for about her dead daughter, the things she felt she had to do for her, and her daughter to survive, because of the life restrictions placed on women at that time. I never thought Lily’s anger or reasons were illegitimate ones. Hell, I was angry for her. Hell, the British trampled every culture and continent they encountered. She wasn’t the only person getting shafted by Englishmen, at that time. I just didn’t think that slaughtering them, one by one,  was the answer to that particular dilemma.  I don’t care how mad you are, that’s a lot of killing.

John, the Creature, witnesses the death of his son. He’s implored by his wife to take him to Victor to be resurrected, but John refuses, and buries his son at sea. That story felt truncated too. In an ideal world there’d be a fourth season where John had made a different choice.

Hyde confronts Victor about not using the formula on Lily and informs him that his father has just died. He is Lord Hyde now, having inherited his fathers titles and estates. We never got to see Hyde at all, and the funny thing is, this finale is something of a surprise to the actor as well, because in some earlier interviews he mentioned the conventional makeup used to create him.

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The three men are still looking for Vanessa, when Dr. Seward comes calling. She takes them to Bedlam where she has imprisoned Renfield. They need to find Dracula’s whereabouts, so  Seward hypnotizes Renfield into giving up the location.

Dorian goes back to his home and kicks out Lily’s army of women. When Justine refuses to leave, he kills her. Lily discovers her broken body on the floor of the ballroom, and after saying goodbye to both of them, decides to leave Dorian, which I thought was a fitting response. They’ve got no more to offer each other. He betrayed her to Victor, and killed her girl, after claiming she bored him, although I really think he thought she would decide to stay with him. Once again, because of his ennui and cynicism, Dorian ends up alone and I gots no sympathy for him.

The Five; Seward, Kaetenay, Malcolm, Ethan, and Catriona, arrive at Dracula’s lair, where there’s a long drawn out battle with Dracula’s minions. I’d like to point out the fight choreography is great here, as Catriona gets in some really nice stunts, and Drac’s minions have some great body movement. I’d like to believe Cat’s not entirely human, and it would’ve been nice to find out what she was, and if Dracula, or Amenhotep, had something  to do with that. Ethan finds his way down a long hall to a room full of candles, (which is something I always find especially funny. Who takes the time to light all these tiny damn candles?). He finds Vanessa, who convinces him that the only way to stop the end of the world is to kill her, so he shoots her. Everything stops. The minions all stop, the sun comes out and Dracula simply flies away. Why wasn’t he killed?

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Later , everything goes back to normal, as London cleans its streets, the group bury Vanessa, and all go their own ways.Its cute and touching to see Victor grabbing and hugging Ethan, like a little brother. I’m still mad at him for being a dick to Lily, so it’s not that cute. I’m not gonna be shipping these two anytime soon.Later, Ethan, who has nothing to go back home for, decides to stay home with Malcolm, who is the closest thing he has to family now. That’s fitting.

The world spins on without Vanessa being miserable in the middle of it, and the series ends with waaay too many dangling plotlines and characters , we will never get to see.

Oh well…

 

Penny Dreadful : Good and Evil Braided Be

 

The titles are especially apt this season. This episode we get glimpses of all the characters, most specifically their good and bad sides. Most of this episode consists of people dealing with their memories and coping with their aftermath. We find out what John has been doing, a curious setback for Vanessa and Dr. Sweet, we follow Ethan and Hecate’s travels, and our horny little immortal couple, Dorian and Lily. The episode hops around from person to person,but rather than recapping it in that manner I’m going to tell what each character was doing individually.

Ethan and Hecate:

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These two are riding around in the desert getting shot at by Rusk and his posse. Ethan wakes up in a barn and finds Hecate waiting for him to come back to his senses. She insists that the two of them have a future together, even after Ethan makes it clear that he hates her guts. (Ethan seems to hate everybody but Vanessa.) Hecate is blindly devoted to him, normally an admirable quality, but for that reason alone, she should probably come to a bad end.

She and Ethan stop to steal some horses from a small ranch, but when the owner protests this via shotgun, Hecate slits his throat and then proceeds to kill the rest of the family, too. Ethan can’t seem to do anything but watch in horror. Does that make him complicit in their deaths?

 

Kaetenay/Malcolm:

Kaetenay and Malcolm are hot on Ethan’s trail. Kaetenay tells Malcolm that if they don’t recover Ethan the destruction of the world is imminent. He even knows all about Hecate and has visions of Ethan, so  I wonder if this is just  the typical Mystical-Indian tropes or something more than that? Malcolm asks why Kaetenay needs him and susses out that maybe Ethan doesn’t  actually trust Kaetenay, no matter how lovingly K. talks about him.

He and Malcolm find the  bodies of the rancher and his family, and Kaetenay’s behavior becomes more desperate. You can tell because his attitude becomes even more snippy than usual. I am loving Wes Studi in this role. He appears to be having waaay too much fun.

Renfield/Vanessa:

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Renfield has been listening to Vanessa’s  therapy sessions which Dr. Seward has been recording. He continues to behave nervously around Vanessa, and has become so obsessed with her, that he writes her name over and over again (ala The Shining) in his journal. We also catch the classic moment when he eats a fly. This is a very juicy (pun intended) role for this actor and I hope he’s really enjoying it. Keep in mind, that what Renfield  overhears in Vanessa’s therapy sessions, will later be conveyed to Dracula, and his minions, which is something that will play out in the rest of the episode.

 

Vanessa/Dr. Seward:

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Vanessa and the Doctor argue about Vanessa’s  confessions to her in therapy, including the fact that they’ve met before. The Doctor insist that what Vanessa told her is nothing but delusions. At one point, Vanessa grabs the Doctor’s  hand and reads her tragic past. Only then does the Doctor look half convinced. Vanessa asks to be hypnotized, so she can see the part of her past that was lost to her memory, and the doctor agrees. This is something that will play out in the rest of this episode and the next.

 

John:

John (Victor’s creature) is finally back in England. He stops in Limehouse, where he finds Vanessa just standing about, but she’s actually waiting for Dr. Sweet. The two of them have a date and John is delighted to see her happy and holding hands with him.

Some of John’s memories of his human life have been returning and he’s decided to seek out the family he left behind when he died. He finds them but their situation is dire. His little boy is dying, and his wife is so poor, that she has gone to work in one of the many smokestack factories dotting the landscape of Victorian England. It’s a horribly dirty life for the two of them and John is naturally brought to tears. They were not rich when he was alive but at least he held a steady job (which we will find out at the end of the episode, exactly what that job was) and they were all relatively happy and healthy, living in Limehouse.

 

Victor/Henry:

“Good and evil braided be”, seems to be some kind of catchphrase that Victor invented because even though it sounds like a book quote, I couldn’t find that quote anywhere. (If anyone knows where that quote is from, let me know becasue my Google-Fu was no good with that phrase.) He and Henry discuss the serum Henry created and Henry relates how it only has temporary effects on his patients. Victor says he can solve that problem, simply because he is awesome.

During their conversation, Henry becomes more and more excitable, and manic, and I kept expecting him to Hulk Out  at any second, but the show is being very coy about the existence of Mr. Hyde. I do wonder if Henry has been taking the serum, but I’m not convinced, as he’s been trying to ween Victor off  morphine and him being addicted to something would be both  paradoxical and hypocritical.

Dorian/Lily:

I have no idea what Lily’s new young ward’s name is so I’m going to call her Lily 2. What happens between Dorian, Lily and Lily 2 , is the most disgusting part of the episode, which is saying something when we were just watching Renfield eat bugs.

Lily and her protege take lunch at an outdoor cafe and Lily is being coy about her plans to destroy, or take over, the world. I’m not clear on exactly what she wants to accomplish, but she disdains the efforts of the Suffragettes, who are too loud and boisterous to get anything done. I get the feeling she has no firm plans either, but it does seem to involve an army of former sex-workers, I’m guessing. It’s disturbing listening to Lily 2 talk about her abusive past. I know she must be an adult but she looks all of twelve years old. She has this dewy little face, like a baby, so its even more  disturbing when Dorian has her kill her father, later that evening,  and then the three of them have bloody sex over the corpse.

I know this was done for shock value because it went on for way too long, and I was kind of bored and kept getting distracted by the liveliness of the blood, which still looked pretty wet, right up til morning. I just kept wondering why it wasn’t getting tacky, and why  the three of them were  able to move, without getting stuck together. No, I’m not going to show a picture of them cuz…yuck!

Dr. Sweet/Vanessa:

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Honestly, this is the sweetest, cutest, most delicious relationship in the show, since we already know that Sweet is Dracula and that he’s been pursuing Vanessa for years. We already know that his endgame is for her to become his bride, to that end, we get to watch him actually trying to woo her, and he’s fairly successful at it. Hell, I love the guy, even knowing who he is and that he’s a big fat liar.

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The two of them meet in Limehouse because Sweet asked Vanessa out this time. (For their first date, Vanessa had asked him.) So, the two of them have been regularly seeing each other. At one point he tells her she’s beautiful, in a kind of off-hand way, that makes Vanessa smile, and he holds her hand when they visit the house of mirrors. So even though he is evil personified, he is doing everything right that you do on a date, and I wonder where he got his skills cuz I would totally date this guy, (except for the whole, “he’s a lying bloodsucking fiend, who has been spying on me” thing.)

Based on the things Vanessa told Dr. Seward, Dracula spins her a sob story about how he’s also in mourning for his lost wife. (I have no idea if this is a real story, or one he made up to win her sympathies, but I suspect its a lie.)

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At the House of Mirrors, Vanessa is approached by one of Dracula’s minions, who has been following them all evening. He insinuates that Dracula is very close by (well, yeah!) and that she’s met him  before, in the place of her lost memories and Vanessa is very shaken by this. She was trying to leave her past behind, with Dr. Seward’s help, but it just won’t leave her alone. She abruptly breaks off her date with Sweet ad tells him she can’t ever be with him.

Sweet doesn’t like this shit at all. He has been working really hard for possibly weeks, months even,  to woo this woman, slowly and very, very carefully, winning her trust, getting her to like him, bringing her out of her shell, and enjoy his company, and its all been completely undone. Now he’s got to try some other tactic to get close to Vanessa and he doesn’t like that one bit.

When he figures out that it was his own minion, who undid all his hard work, he has his other minions eat him.

Vanessa undergoes a hypnosis session with Seward which reveals she spent some time in a padded room at an insane asylum, and that one of her orderlies was John.

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