Thursday, 19 February 2015

Dark Shadows Bloodlust Episode Thirteen written by Alan Flanagan, Will Howells & Joe Lidster and directed by Ursula Burton & David Darlington

What's it about: Some describe it as the town at the edge of the world. When Melody and Michael Devereux come to Collinsport on their honeymoon, they don't know the secrets that are hidden behind closed doors. But those secrets will be unearthed when an innocent is viciously murdered. Collinsport will be a town divided. One woman's rise to power will lead to further death and destruction. Families will be ripped apart. Blood will be spilt. And the dark forces that wait in the shadows will wait no more. For in Collinsport, death is never the end...

The Cunninghams: As Amy travelled through what could only be described as Hell to reach her son I was reminded of the hallucinatory dream sequences of Twin Peaks; disturbing, unnatural, unpredictable and preying on your every fear. How she manages to hold it all together is something of a miracle. How wonderful to have Matthew Waterhouse back, even if it was just for a cameo. Andrew (even as a phantom) is as petty and spiteful as ever.

Angelique: She has to get used to be outside of her cave - the world is so much bigger than she remembers.

Sparkling Dialogue: 'Do you want to see what has been causing Collinsport's Bloodlust?'
'I couldn't dig a mine deep enough to house the things that you don't understand!'
'I so hate to break pretty things.'
'We're not talking about the destruction of Collinsport! We're talking about the world!'

Great Ideas: Just as the killer of Lucy Beale reveal came with some surprises, I was certain the reveal of Melody Devereaux would follow in its footsteps. So cards on the table is my guesstimate on who was responsible before I listen to episode thirteen. I am usually so far off the boil with these things (and if I'm honest I often prefer it that way, particularly in a good Agatha Christie adaptation) but I am going to go for Harry Cunningham! Possessed by the hand of Petofi. Either him or Tommy Cunningham (who was still a baby at that point) under a similar influence in a Maggie Simpsons Who Killed Mr Burns style revelation. Let's see how I fare. What this guessing game should reveal is how much fun a good murder mystery is and how it manages to grip an audience just by wielding a big secret. If you skip back a few instalments and you will see that I suggested at the time that the murders were just a smokescreen for the sinister happenings in the mine to continue uninterrupted. Now it is time for all the characters to converge on that location and discover what has been going on. The mine is the jewel in the crown of the beloved Collins Empire and employer to over 200 people. More profound statements about humanity and the supernatural - it isn't anything down the mine that has been causing this town tear itself apart...they did it to themselves. Petty revenge, paranoia, jealousy, rage...all those destructive emotions that turn people into monsters. While David and Carolyn have been wonderful puppets for Count Petofi, Mike Devereaux has been the brains of the operation. A picked upon geek at college, he read the book of Petofi at college. Laughed and ignored, he was a stuttering fool who stumbled across a dark God and chose to worship him. Once he got Melody on his arm he managed to lure her to Collinsport and he murdered her with a two pronged fork and attacked himself to cover his tracks. The werewolf attack was nothing of the kind, Mike replicated it using a pair of garden shears. It is a truly disturbing, graphic scene featuring a number of horrific murders. Barnabas wasn't under the influence in the sense that he was being controlled but Mike threatened his beloved Maggie Evans if he didn't give her a biting. The truth is that the motive of the pathetic, bullied child wanting to make it big and get everybody to pay attention to him by becoming the servant of a demon is pathetically convincing. It looks like Maggie Evans is going to skip town and get the happy ending she deserves. However if a second serial is commissioned I am almost willing to bet that she will be back. The questions it possible to start again? Look at my opening statement of this section. Harry Cunningham? Oh geez, Joe! 

Audio Landscape: It's well worth pointing out at this juncture that David Darlington has doe a sterling job both the post-production and the music for the entirety of the Dark Shadows Bloodlust series. A stalwart of the range, he's mastered the art of conjuring up spooky and suspenseful scenes through the medium of sound alone. His work throughout the 13-part series has been exemplary and should be applauded. Slower, more contemplative moments have been bolstered by atmospheric ambient sounds such as the sea rolling or gulls screaming in the air and the more dramatic scenes have worked thanks to his mastery over convincing crowd scenes and vicious animal attacks. A lot has been asked of him (the running time of this entire story comes in at over 7 hours) but he has risen to the challenge and delivered some outstanding work.

Musical Cues: Whilst I am waxing lyrical, Darlington's score also needs complimenting. Whatever his inspiration was, the use of vocals was inspired and help to brew up a potent atmosphere of doom. The score has to marry the melodramatic nature of the original Dark Shadows TV series but also appeal to a modern audience that expects something more stylish and subtle. The result is an unforgettable soundtrack (especially during the attacks).

Isn't it Odd: Without wanting to give to give everything away, there is a sacrifice at the end of this story that quite took my breath away. Given everything that we have come to know about the character it is a great surprise that they would give up their life for the greater good but it sure makes for a tear-jerking moment. Self sacrifice is a long staple of fiction and is so often pulled off in the most predictable way but I found this to be one of the most moving examples in recent memory.

Standout Scene: The flashbacks to the murder of Melody Devereaux and the lead up to the crime are terribly exciting. After all this build up is fantastic to see how the story all slots together as the killer is revealed.

Result: As a testament to how strong the characters have been in Bloodlust, there is a fifteen minute coda at the end of Bloodlust that wraps up all of their journeys in a satisfying way rather than simply bringing the plot to an end. The final instalment of this serial is much more than the box ticking exercise than it could have been, it is a terrific piece of drama that brings all the threads to a rewarding conclusion (which I doubted was possible given how many characters were being handled). The reveal of the killer was surprising and the motive one that I'm sure anybody would recognise and understand. My favourite part of any murder mystery story are the flashbacks that show how the crime took place and this was handled with real aplomb in Bloodlust. Ultimately for a series about the supernatural, it has something quite reflective to say about humanity at its worst. As was revealed in the previous instalment, this has really been the story of Maggie Evans and Angelique Bouchard and it is glorious to see them both exiting the stage on such a high. What a run Bloodlust has been, completely justifying its serial format and becoming one of the most pioneering ranges the company has produced as a result. I have been following the reactions of the rest of the audience on several forums and I don't think there is anybody who hasn't been whipped up into a frenzy by this series, particularly in the final three instalments. As a performance piece it has offered some striking opportunities (Kathryn Leigh-Scott, Stephanie Ellyne, Lara Parker Asta Parry and Matthew Waterhouse take the honours but there isn't a weak performance in the run) and it has been a pitch perfect exercise in how to structure a serial of this length. You may be getting bored about me banging on about how good this is. Well you don't have to imagine me foaming at the mouth over its malevolent chapters, go check it out yourself. I would be very surprised if you were disappointed: 9/10


Anonymous said...

If i had no prior experience with dark shadows would you recommend bloodlust as a good place to start?

Joe Ford said...

Hi there, wihtout a doubt yes. I had done a handful of Dark Shadows reviews before listening to Bloodlust but this is an excellent jumping on point. You'll learn about the characters and the town as the serial progresses...