Castle Rock: Episode 2 Recap and Review

Occasionally, writers and film makers gift us with a fictional universe.

Actually, this practice is becoming more common.  Marvel has pretty well established theirs.  DC is right behind them, and well, we can give DC a participation trophy for trying.

Joss Whedon created one, when he created Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Kurt Sutter is on his way to creating one, as we had Sons of Anarchy, and we will have The Mayans this fall.

There is something neat in seeing that one or more books (or movies or television shows) are connected and share characters.

Sometimes, however, these works of fiction share more than just characters, as what happens in one book, movie or show has a direct affect on another work of fiction.  Marvel has spent years building up to this, in the form of Avengers: Infinity War.

Finally, we got Rocket Raccoon in the same movie as Iron Man!  How cool is that?!

However, The King (cough, cough) of a shared universe is…

None other than The Master himself!

Over forty years ago, it began with the publication of Carrie, King’s first novel.

It grew to include that crazy number one fan, that gang of meddling kids, a guy who enjoys time travel, and many, many other novels.

Most importantly, it includes that story of your friendly neighborhood gunslinger.  King himself has referred to his Dark Tower novels as the Jupiter of solar system, with several seemingly unrelated novels that have some sort of impact on our friendly neighborhood gunslinger and his quest.

And most recently, the Hulu TV series Castle Rock joins that universe.  Even though King may not have “officially” written this JJ Abrams creation himself, I will be damned if I can tell (well, other than checking the credits on the internet.)

Castle Rock takes place in what could probably be King’s most notorious fictional setting (other than the unnamed town known as Pennywise the Clown’s personal buffet.)

Needful Things, The Body, The Dark Half, The Dead Zone and several other stories take place in Castle Rock.

I am always up for a visit to Castle Rock.  In fact, it is one of my favorite King hangouts.

And so far, even though I have only watched two episodes, the show is reinforcing that feeling, making me feel like I am paying a  visit to an old friend, where we chat as though we have never been apart.

So join me this week for my recap and review of my visit!

As always:

 

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Top 10 Women in Horror Movies

So, guys and ghouls, it is that time of year again…

Oakland Raiders v Indianapolis Colts

Well, yes it is football season, but that was not what I was referring too.  I mean, do you think I want to be scared into a change pants?  Come on, now!

Well, actually I do.  And watching Indianapolis Colts football is one way to be scared, although many other emotions tend to be involved, which include extreme anger, exhilaration, puzzlement, denial, bargaining and resignation.

But, there are lots of other things that I can watch, other than Colts football, if I don’t want to experience the different stages of grief in a four hour setting (NFL math is funny that way:  one hour of football somehow turns into four hours yelling myself horse (you are welcome for that one) in front of my TV.)

In other words:  horror movies.  Horror movies everywhere…

At this time of year, I feel that autumn is right around the corner.  And this starts right after Labor Day, when the Christmas merchandise at the stores is on display!

And to counter the sight of Christmas decorations when the temperature is still at least 90 F, there is only one thing we can do…

That’s right, watch some horror movies.  Or maybe lots of horror movies.  All right, a metric shit ton of horror movies!

And so many movies to choose from.

We have our classics, like Carrie, Halloween and Friday the 13th.

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Or “new school,” like Horns.  You gotta admit, seeing Harry Potter as the devil is fun!

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Or, we don’t have to limit ourselves to movies.  There are plenty of good, horror themed shows not titled American Horror Story to chose from.  And most are available via the miracle of the 21st century otherwise known as Neflix.  Cable schmable, right?

Now, one thing about horror movies:  they seem to have an audience.  And no, not necessarily horror junkies.

Let’s face it:  most horror movies are geared towards white males.  That is often who your horror movie protagonist is, with a few exceptions, like Night of the Living Dead, which was decades ahead of its time for featuring an African American guy as its protagonist.

And it’s not to say that those movies are not good movies.  In fact, movies like Phantasm (I dare you to cross The Tall Man, boooyyyy!), The Shining, Horns and many others are either classics, or on their way to becoming classics.  And I have no problem with that, they are great movies and deserve their accolades.

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But, I feel like I am missing something when I watch certain movies.  In fact, I feel like I may be missing at least half of something…

That’s right, where are my ladies?  I mean, we make up half the population, right?  So where are we?  Where are we in one of my favorite movie genres?

Well, it turns out that if take the time (after all, rushing us is bad, on so many levels, haha) and look, you can find us ladies in horror movies.  And some bad ass ones at that!

In recent years, we have become even easier to find in the horror, genre and science fiction categories.  After all, Game of Thrones, anyone?  Plenty of kick ass women there!

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And The Master and The Master 2.0 have gotten in on the act, as both Stephen King and Joe Hill have managed to write convincing female characters, who have an identity beyond the wife or girlfriend of the guy who winds up kicking ass.

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So, if you look, we are there in horror movies.  Sometimes we get horribly victimized.  Sometimes we victimize others.  But other times, we throw down some serious shade, and you do not want to meet us in a dark alley!

With that being said, here is my list of top 10 women in horror (both on television and film.)  Keep in mind that this is my opinion only, and could be subject to change at any moment…

And, as always:

Spoiler alert


10.  Sally (The Nightmare Before Christmas)

Well, I may be a little biased with this statement, but I will say it anyway:

Gingers rule!

And as soon as we have enough freckles, we plan to take over the world!

Okay, I am kidding (you hope.)

But this entry on my list has earned her spot on it.  And yes, she just happens to be a ginger.

Guys and ghouls, I bring to you…Sally!

Now, Sally may literally owe her existence to a man.  However, do not underestimate her, as she is tough, smart and resourceful.

After all, a chic who clearly knows her poisons.  Who would want to cross her?

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Sally is a love interest in the movie The Nightmare Before Christmas (and one half of one of one my favorite onscreen couples ever), but to me, she is so much more than that.

For most of her life, Sally is held in captivity by her creator.  She understands that that she may be selling herself short, and she works to build a life for herself beyond captivity, and to connect with the outside world in a meaningful way.

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Sally also brings a message of self-acceptance.  After all, she literally falls apart, but that doesn’t stop her from picking herself back up and continuing on with her life.  That message of self-acceptance is one that Jack Skellington badly needs to hear, as he finally accepts that it is okay to be the Pumpkin King, and leave “Sandy Claws” to those who are better qualified for that job.

Is it a Halloween movie?  Is it a Christmas movie?  It’s an existential crisis!  But an awesome existential crisis!

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9.  Mrs. Vorhees (Friday the 13th)

Every movie needs a good guy (or bad girl.)  This is especially true of horror movies.  After all, where would we be without The Tall Man, Pennywise the Clown, Reverend Kane, along with many other bad guys that make these movies memorable?

Well, we can add Mrs. Vorhees to that list as well.

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When I bring up Friday the 13th, most people think of the guy in the hockey mask.  I then have to gently remind him that he is the protagonist in the 19 or so sequels that the franchise has generated, along with the awesomely bad crossover where Jason and Freddy meet…spoiler alert:  they don’t meet for Netflix and chill!

So, let’s go back to the beginning.

In other words, the infamous Camp Crystal Lake.  And a few horny teenagers.  And of course, the campers.

And…the camp’s cook?

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Yes, the camp’s cook.  And the mother to Jason Vorhees, who (supposedly) drowned due to the horny camp counselors not doing their job, due to fact of being…well…horny.

Again, Jason is a non-factor in the first film of the franchise.  We do see the “Jason half” of Mrs. Vorhees personality, as she rationalizes killing teenagers, but Mrs. Vorhees is responsible for all the blood and guts.  All.  The.  Blood.  And.  Guts.

All of it!

I personally love a lady vs. lady show down.  There is something much more fierce about those, and so primal.

Well, I got my wish when I watched Friday the 13th, in one of the most epic onscreen lady vs. lady show downs in the history of film and television!

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It doesn’t get much better than that, folks!


8)  Sidney Prescott (Scream)

When I watched Deadpool, I found it amusing that the title character seemed to be self-aware.  He knew he was in a movie, and made reference to that fact throughout the movie.  It was good for plenty of yuks!

The movie Scream also uses the concept of “self aware”, and perhaps one of the best uses of that concept.

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After all, Scream constantly makes references to horror movies throughout the movie.

In fact, in the opening scene, the killer begins by asking trivia questions (see the above entry.)  And that is just the beginning.

Scream pokes fun at the horror genre.  A lot.  After, we now all know to never say, “I’ll be right back?”  Or to drink or have sex in a horror movie, as those acts also mean certain death.

However, underneath the humor, Scream is still a horror movie.  With a protagonist who kicks ass.

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And oh yeah, this protagonist just happens to be a girl!

Sidney’s plight is something that is all too familiar:  her mother was raped and murdered.  The murderer was supposedly caught and put in jail, but Sidney is struggling to come to terms with her mother’s death, and the repressed emotions that come with the trauma.

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And then people start getting killed.  Sidney is still struggling with her trauma, and is now unsure of who she can trust.  Sidney is also now unsure that she did correctly identify her mother’s killer, and fears that she may have put the wrong man in jail.

Throughout the movie, Sidney shows herself to be a fighter.  From the reporter who will not stop harassing her to her friend and boyfriend who turn out to to be the killers, Sidney proves that she is resilient, and a force to be reckoned with.

Processing trauma and coming out on the other side is difficult, but is rewarding when it is finally accomplished.  The character of Sidney Prescott is a wonderful example of this.

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7.  Nancy Thompson (A Nightmare on Elm Street)

Often, I joke (well, sort of) that I am in a relationship with…my bed.

Hi, my name is Leah, and if I don’t get my sleep, I will cut a bitch!

In other words, my bed is a refuge, as is my sleep.

Well, sleep usually is.  Although sometimes I am given to having nightmares…

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But I am lucky in the fact that my nightmares, no matter how real they seem (that one featuring the Tall Man and strange Lovecraftian creatures was certainly a doozy), are just dreams in the end.

They can’t hurt me.

The subject of this particular entry, however, was not so lucky.

Poor Nancy.

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Falling asleep became dangerous for her, so no refuge for her.

I mean, she dozed off in class and nearly got killed for it.  Makes the detention one would normally expect seem kind of mild, right?

However, Nancy sleeps on it (see what I did there) and decides to do something about the evil creature who has been tormenting her and her friends in their dreams.

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First, she recruits her boyfriend, Glenn, to help her catch Freddy. But when that doesn’t work, she doesn’t give up, and instead persuades her father to help trap Freddy.

Nancy just will not take no for an answer, and will stop at nothing to destroy Freddy Kreuger for good (or at least until the next sequel, at any rate.)

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She will not go down without a fight, and I have always loved her for it.

Freddy Kreuger may be one of my favorite horror movie villains of all time, but let’s face it, without Nancy, he would be nothing.  And that is not just because he needs dreams from teenagers so that he can exist.

The fact that my favorite horror villain has to face off against a woman is just icing on the cake.  Wait, I take that back.  Nancy is the cake, icing and all.

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6.  Willow Rosenberg (Buffy the Vampire Slayer)

Now, I often tell people that high school was hell for me. And it was.

I spent most of my time isolated.  And being isolated was actually the good part.  When I was “only isolated,” I considered myself to be lucky, as least I wasn’t being tormented.

The lesser of the two evils, I suppose…

But what was that saying that I heard way back when, about a guy with no shoes who meets a guy with no feet and gets some kind of new perspective?

In other words, I should be lucky that my school was not built on a Hellmouth, right?

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Isolation and bullying is one thing.  We can talk about the lesser of two evils and so forth…

But when your school is built on a Hellmouth, and when you have to deal with vampires, werewolves, and all kinds of other Big Bads, I think we are beyond the discussion of the lesser of two evils.

In fact, you may just piss one of those Big Bads off by referring to him/her/it as “lesser.”  And that would be dangerous indeed.

And in the midst of all this…well…Hell, we have Willow Rosenberg.

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Now, Willow may be a classic “sidekick” to Buffy, who had the fortune (or is it misfortune?) of moving to Sunnydale, CA, where her destiny as The Slayer awaited her, but make no mistake about it:  Willow is also a bad ass herself.

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Not only did she fight along Buffy’s side (along with Xander, Giles and a few others), Willow also, like so many of us, struggled to find her identity in the Hell otherwise known as high school.

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As a result, one of the most fascinating character arcs in television history emerged.

How often do you see someone go from high school computer nerd, to fledgling witch, to full fledged witch, all the while never losing her integrity, making the arc seem so natural?

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Oh, and Willow also came out as a lesbian somewhere in there too, making her one of the first major characters in a TV show to be openly gay.  And it was all so natural too.  When Willow finally coupled up with Tara, it seemed so right, and to be true love, as opposed to some kind of fetish.  Her friends accepted her as gay, and nothing really changed between them…I loved it!

Oh, and any time I think any of my break ups were bad (along with my high school experience), I just think what was done to poor Willow in the name of entertainment for the masses.  I think this is where that term ugly cry comes into play.


5.   Carrie White (Carrie, 1976)

Yeah, see above…

I will say it once and I will say it again:  High school, aka government babysitting is overrated at best.  At worst, it is Hell.  And the high school in question does not even need to be built on a Hellmouth to suck.  High schools do that quite well on their own, thankyouverymuch.

And again, my high school experienced sucked.  It sucked bunches.  My best memory, other than finally graduating, was getting a 100% on a calculus test.

The teacher must have though I was a freak…

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Well, I am a freak.  But I actually think my freakage is pretty mild, compared to this particular entry.

Meet Carrie White.

On one hand, Carrie is your typical high school reject.  At best, the other students ignore her, and she is invisible to pretty much everyone.

But the at worst part is just horrible.  Getting pelted by tampons, while you are having your first period at age 17 and thinking you are dying…well, I think I would trade going to high school on the Hellmouth for that one!

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However, on the other hand, Carrie is not your typical high school reject.  For one thing, she has a religious fanatic for a mother at home, who shames her for getting her period, getting asked to prom, and pretty much shames her daughter for existing.

Carrie also possesses telekinetic powers.  And this turns out to be bad news for everyone.  When a high school prank goes horribly wrong, and Carrie is humiliated at prom, everyone is at the brunt of Carrie’s revenge.

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Carrie’s powers are unleashed, and the results are epic, to say the least.

I have always said that the villains in this movie are Margaret White, along with Carrie’s cruel classmates.  Carrie is the most innocent among all the characters.  How could you expect her not to finally retaliate, after the happiest night in her tormented life is ruined?

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I shed more than a few tears when Carrie died (see the part above about the ugly cry.)

And for the record, my high school classmates should be lucky that I did not possess telekinetic powers…

Very lucky…

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4.  Lydia Deetz (Beetlejuice)

“Well, I’ve read through that handbook for the recently deceased. It says: ‘live people ignore the strange and unusual”. I myself am strange and unusual.”

Oh, the above quote…

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When I first heard it, there were so many emotions to process…

Happiness was one of them, of course.

And, believe it or not, relief was one of them as well.

I may have fallen in love a little that day, with a fictional character.  I have a bad habit of doing that, it seems.

Of course, I am speaking of Lydia Deetz.

As a 90’s kid, “Goth” was a thing.

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We all had them in at least one class.

The kids who wore all black, even in the summertime.

Often, they loved horror.

They had an affinity for creepy things.

Their taste in music was cutting edge, to say the least.  Nine Inch Nails, anyone?

Lydia Deetz started the Goth culture.

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She rocked the all black and pale-face make-up before it was cool (I mean, I was pale-face before it was cool, but no make-up needed here.  Gotta love being a soul stealing ginger, AmIrite?)

In case I have not made this clear, I was not a kid who fit in.  In fact, I didn’t really belong anywhere.

Growing up, I felt like a ghost.  Sometimes I wondered if I was actually dead, and everyone knew it but me and forgot to tell me.

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And like Lydia, I lived in a world of my creation.  I loved to read and write, and create art.

Those interests don’t exactly make one’s phone ring off the hook on Friday night, but I tried to remain true to myself.

That was the thing I admired most about Lydia:  she remained true to herself.

She preferred the company of ghosts over people (well, I preferred the company of animals, but close enough, right?)

Things that repelled most people attracted Lydia (to this day, my parents still think I am some kind of literary leper for loving Stephen King.)

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Being different is a good thing.  But often, it is lonely.

Characters like Lydia Deetz remind us of how awesome different is, and make the journey a little less lonely.


3.  Eleven (Stranger Things)

“She’s our friend and she’s crazy!”

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Stranger Things is my show and it’s awesome!

Now, no matter what else happens in 2016 (and we still have the presidential election to get through, so the season finale is still a bit far away), we can at say, “At least we had Stranger Things.”

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And there so many things to love about Stranger Things.

It is a tribute to all things 80’s.

It pays homage to all kinds of horror, including John Carpenter films, Wes Craven and even H.P. Lovecraft.

It is a gold mine for Stephen King fans.  The story line of people with PSI abilities is classic King (Firestarter, anyone?), not to mention the fact that The Master’s name is lovingly brought up in an episode.

I could go on and on, actually.  Lots of reasons to love Stranger Things

At least eleven, I would say…

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Oh, right.  Eleven.  The subject of this entry!

If you told me that the show Stranger Things centered on the subject of four friends (who are boys) and their entrance into adulthood, along with the loss of innocence they experience, you would be correct.

On the surface, that is what Stranger Things is about (along with a monster christened Mr. Tulip-Head and his band of merry slugs.)  That statement would not be incorrect.

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But, like the books written by a certain famous writer, Stranger Things is so much more than that.

Enter Eleven, everyone’s favorite waffle loving, bald-headed escapee from an evil government lab run by the creep known as Dr. Pedophile.

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And oh yeah, Eleven possesses PSI abilities, along with being on the run from “Papa” (shudder.)

At first, Eleven serves as kind of homing beacon, to help Mike and his friends try to find their missing friend Will, whose disappearance just happens to coincide with Eleven’s appearance.

However, the boys, especially Mike, grow to like Eleven on her own merits.  A friendship develops, and Eleven becomes fiercely protective of her new friends (see the opening sentence to this entry.)

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Through their friendship with Eleven, the boys mature, and also come to the realization that the world is not a safe place, nor is it always a fair place.  Eleven brings out the best in Mike, who begins to fall in love with her.

The realization that the world is not a safe or fair place comes in the final episode, when Eleven (seemingly) sacrifices herself to the alternate dimension known as the Upside-Down, when she battles the monster that was responsible for kidnapping Will.

Out of all the characters on the show, Eleven proves herself to the most selfless of the bunch, who takes the meaning of friendship to a new level, when she sacrifices herself for another child who she does not even know.  She also proves herself to be a tough fighter, in her journeys to the Upside-Down and her battle with the extra-dimensional monster.

Stranger Things

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And a fierce protector of Eggo Waffles everywhere.  Do not, I repeat, DO NOT mess with that girl’s waffles, if you know what’s good for you!

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2.  Vanessa Ives (Penny Dreadful)

I love Eva Green

Oh, how I love Eva Green!

Eva Green is the bomb.com!

Did I mention that I love Eva Green?

Okay, just wanted to make my point clear.

And the reason I fell in love with Eva Green was her portrayal of Vanessa Ives on the show Penny Dreadful.

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I have problems.  I really do.  Sometimes they feel like they number around 99, although I am really not sure if a bitch accounts for more than a few (although my crazy dog could be put into that bitch category.)

But then, I can go watch the period horror/drama known as Penny Dreadful, and I get some perspective.

In other, my problems are pretty damn mild.  Or maybe even non-existent, really.

After all, I don’t have the Devil Himself after me.

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Or Dracula, for that matter.

I may have guys hit on me and give me unwanted attention, but at least they aren’t evil incarnate.

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(On a side note, no one has ever seen my ex and Lucifer in the same room together.  Fun fact of the day!)

Nor am I harassed by a coven of witches who are willing to hand me over to at least one of the above.

Oh, and I don’t live in Victorian London, where women are limited to only a couple of roles, and if they don’t fit in, then well, that’s just too bad, isn’t it?

I have just described a day in the life of Vanessa Ives, the main character of the show Penny Dreadful.  Yikes much?

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But somehow, despite all of the horrors she has to endure throughout her life (both supernatural and non-supernatural), Vanessa Ives is able to maintain a kind of grace that one rarely sees even in people who have not been cursed by an unknown evil force.

Vanessa makes everyone around her better.  Her influence is something to behold, as she brings out the best even in those who may not be the best humanity has to offer (Victor Frankenstein and Sir Malcolm being prime examples of this.)

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Vanessa’s influence even extends to the ‘non-human” characters in the show, including Caliban (otherwise known as The Creature) and Ethan, the werewolf.

Caliban, in particular, benefits from his friendship with Vanessa.  Even before he became “The Creature,” Caliban was in danger of his losing his humanity due to his employment with the Banning Clinic.  However, when he is forced to care for Vanessa, he begins to see his patients as individuals, as opposed to numbers, and realizes that his employer is in the wrong in its treatment of its patients, and that he can no longer work for them.

Eva Green as Vanessa Ives and Rory Kinnear as The Creature in Penny Dreadful (season 2, episode 5). - Photo: Jonathan Hession/SHOWTIME - Photo ID: PennyDreadful_205_1509

(Another side note:  anyone who watches the episode A Blade of Grass without tearing up at least a little bit has ice water instead of blood in his/her veins, and we cannot be friends.)

Even after Caliban is transformed into The Creature, Vanessa extends her friendship to him, reminding Caliban that he is more than a corpse stitched together and brought back to life as a science experiment.

Vanessa’s character serves to make the ending even more poignant, as she sacrifices herself so that others may live.

Vanessa’s friends mourn her death, but it is clear that she lives on in each of them, as her influence continues, even after her death.

Rory Kinnear as The Creature in Penny Dreadful (season 3, episode 9). - Photo: Jonathan Hession/SHOWTIME - Photo ID: PennyDreadful_309_3066


And now, for my number 1 woman in horror…

drum-roll-please

I give you…


Dana Scully (The X Files)

OK, let’s get one thing straight…

That’s Dr. Scully to you!

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Now, in case it wasn’t clear, I was a nerd growing up.

I liked math and science.

I read books on theoretical physics for fun.

A wild day for me consisted of visiting the library and finding five books.  OR SIX BOOKS.  SIX BOOKS!

So, as you can imagine, my social calendar was clear until approximately February 30th, 2087.  Although these days, I’m a little more booked, because that calendar is clear until May 32nd 2072, although if you need something, I may be able to shuffle things around and pencil you in.

But, in the fall of 1993, things began to look up.  Well, a little bit, at least.

For that is when we had the debut of The X Files.

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Before I watched The X Files, I did not see a lot of representation of women in my world, aka the world of nerd.  Now, this did not necessarily bother me much, at least on a conscious level.

However, deep inside, I knew that something was missing,  I could not tell you what, but I knew that my world was lacking.

But then Agents Fox Mulder and Dana Scully made their entrance to the screen.

And right away, it became evident of what my world was missing.

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You see, the world of horror and general nerdiness had been waiting for a woman like Scully.  Finally, she arrived.

And she did not disappoint.

Scully was smart (see the opening sentence to this entry.)

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Not only was Scully smart, she could throw down some serious shade.  And usually, she was wearing heels of at least three inches while doing that.

And her autopsies were so cool!  They almost made me want to go to medical school, just so I could throw around medical jargon like that.  Almost.

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Scully also kept her partner Mulder grounded.  Mulder could get a little nutty at times with his (literally) out of this world theories, but Scully was able to reign him in, and was the yin to yang.  They made a great team.

While Mulder often had to rescue Scully from cannibals, a death fetishist and a few other horrors (both human and supernatural), Scully often often rescued Mulder.

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I loved seeing her storm in with those heels, pointing her gun and flashing her FBI badge.  Sometimes her efforts backfired, and Scully would end up in a dire predicament as well.  But many times, Scully was able to get Mulder out whatever predicament he found himself in, and the two could go on to kick ass for another episode.

Scully also faced the same sexism many of us in the “real world” have to face on regular basis.  Sometimes people were reluctant to respect her, or would ignore her in favor of her male partner.  But Scully always handled that so well, and could silence her naysayers with a single look or sentence.  And I loved her for it.

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And I have one thing to say:  Representation matters.  I am someone who has spent her life feeling invisible and ignored.  And its not fun.  I do not wish that on anyone.

But when we create characters such as Dana Scully, the world becomes a little brighter.  And a little less lonely.

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At last, someone gets us.  And the journey becomes exciting,  At last, we begin to see the hope.


Well, that’s it for my top 10 ladies in horror.

I am sure I missed a few, but compiling this list was not an easy task.  So a shout out to any I may have left out:  You are not forgotten!

So, if you don’t feel like being horrified by Indianapolis Colts football, pop in one of these movies, or tune in to Netflix and watch one of these shows.

At the very least, you can kill a few hours.  Or maybe, just maybe, you can appreciate one of these films or TV shows in a new light, after seeing some kick ass ladies!

Happy watching!

 

Penny Dreadful: Season 3 Finale Recap and Review

For once, I am at a loss for words.

And no, I don’t exaggerate.

I am literally speechless.

Last night, I watched what I thought was simply the season finale to Penny Dreadful, which is one of my favorite television shows.  And that is saying something, since I don’t care about most television shows.  I read books.  I hold things to a very high standard.

In other words, it takes a lot to impress me.  A lot.

And Penny Dreadful impressed me.  It impressed me, and did so much more.

I fell in love.

I fell in love with the characters.  I could see a bit of myself in every one one of them.  Even the ones who were not “human.”

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I fell in love with the dialog.  This is one of the most quotable shows I have ever watched.

I fell in love with the setting.  This show has gorgeous visuals, there is no other way to put it.

I fell in love with the story lines.  Some of the story lines were better than others, but I loved them all.

And I may have taken this show for granted.

Not that I expected a long run, but I thought we would get more seasons.  If a show is this good, we get more seasons, right?

Well, no.  Last night, I watched the finale to season 3.  Turns out this is also the series finale.

In other words, I said goodbye last night.  And it was gut-wrenching.

I had an ugly cry.

My nose got stuffed up.

My eyes turned red and bloodshot.

My makeup ran all over my face.

In other words, it was beautiful.

Gut-wrenching still, but beautiful and cathartic.

ugly cry

Endings usually are.

So, without any further ado, I bring you my recap and review of the series finale of Penny Dreadful.

And, as always:

Homer spoiler


Synopsis

Dr. Seward finds her receptionist, Renfield, in her office listening to her sessions with Vanessa.  Renfield exhibits odd behavior and attacks Dr. Seward.  Dr. Seward realizes that she is dealing with a supernatural creature, and is able to fight him and capture him.

Ethan, Kaetenay and Malcolm arrive in London and immediately notice that things have gone awry in London.  They are told that the air has become poisonous, killing thousands of people.  They hurry back to Malcolm’s mansion, concerned about Vanessa.

Once Ethan, Kaetenay and Malcolm arrive at Malcolm’s mansion, they are almost immediately accosted by vampires.  Malcolm is bitten, but saved by the arrival of Catriona, who cauterizes his wound.  Dr. Seward also arrives, and tells the group that she has captured Renfield, who can help them find Vanessa.

Caliban dines with his family, and they discuss moving away from London,  Caliban’s son Jack expresses a desire to return to the beach when he is well.  However, Jack becomes overtaken by his consumption, and Caliban helps him to bed.

Ethan leaves the mansion to find Victor, as he feels that Malcolm needs a doctor.  A mysterious boy is awaiting him at Victor’s apartment, and promises to lead to him  to Victor.

Dorian returns to his mansion, and demands that the women who have gathered there on behalf of Lily leave.  Most leave, but Justine stays, and challenges Dorian’s authority, stating she will not return to her old life and that she would rather be killed by Dorian.  Dorian obliges her, snapping Justine’s neck.

Victor holds Lily captive in Henry’s lab in Bedlam.  He tells Lily that the serum will make her better, but Lily disagrees.  She then proceeds to tell Victor the story of Sarah, her daughter who died in infancy.  Lily was forced to prostitute herself so that she and her daughter could survive.  One night, Lily was badly beaten by one her of customers.  By the time she arrives home, Sarah has died from the cold, and Lily is heartbroken.  Victor has a change of heart, and lets Lily go.

The mysterious boy leads Ethan right to Dracula, and Dracula unleashes his creatures upon Ethan.  Ethan fights back, but turns into a werewolf because it is the full moon.  He is joined by another werewolf, who turns out to be Kaetenay.  Both wolves fight off the creatures, and transform to their human selves.  Ethan realizes that it is Kaetenay who cursed him and is angered.  Kaetenay tells Ethan that he cursed him in order to help save the world, and that Ethan has the ability to help Vanessa, despite his curse.

Victor tells Henry that he has allowed Lily to go free.  Henry chides Victor for this, telling Victor that his work in science will amount to nothing.  Henry then tells Victor that his father has died, leaving his estate to Henry.  Henry demands that Victor address him by his proper name:  Lord Hyde.

Dr. Seward leads Malcolm and Catriona to Bedlam, where she has locked Renfield in a cell.  They also meet up with Victor, Ethan and Kaetenay.  Dr. Seward hypnotizes Renfield, and deduces where Dracula is holding Vanessa captive.

That night, Caliban awakens in the middle night and checks on his son.  He discovers that his son has passed away from consumption in his sleep.  Marjorie and Caliban make plans for his burial, and Marjorie demands that Caliban ask Victor to resurrect their son.  Caliban refuses to do so, stating that he will not curse his son to eternal life.  Marjorie then tells Caliban that if he does not resurrect their son that he can leave their home.

Malcolm, Kaetenay, Ethan, Catriona and Victor hunt down Dracula.  They are again accosted by vampires, but fight back using various weapons, such as guns and stakes.  Ethan escapes the creatures and finds Vanessa in a room lighted by candles.

Ethan tries to persuade Vanessa to escape with him, telling her that he will protect her from the dark forces that seek to possess her soul.  Vanessa tells him that this is impossible and the she wants her suffering to end.  Together, they recite the Lord’s Prayer, and Ethan shoots Vanessa with his gun, ending her life.  Before she dies, Vanessa tells Ethan she sees God, and He is waiting for her.

After Vanessa dies, the sun comes out from behind the clouds, and Dracula flees.

Lily returns to Dorian’s mansion, where she finds the body of Justine.  She tells Dorian that she cannot be with him any more, and leaves.  Dorian is skeptical, and predicts that she will return to him.

Caliban buries his son at sea, against the wishes the wishes of Marjorie.  He returns to living his life in the shadows.

A funeral is held for Vanessa.  Malcolm says that he will not return to Africa, as he will stay in London to properly grieve Vanessa and the rest of his family.  Ethan states he will also remain in London, as he considers Malcolm his only family now.

The episode ends with Caliban visiting Vanessa’s grave, reciting a Wordsworth poem, in honor of his friend.


My Thoughts

So many thoughts…such as long blog post.

And I don’t really care about the length.  After all, this is my last post in regards to this show, so I may as well make it count, right?

This post will probably wind up being a bit emo, so let’s talk about some of the lighter moments in the finale, as there were a few.  After all, you can’t have a series finale be all about the feelsies, right?

I loved the action scenes in this episode.  In fact, I think they were my favorite part of the episode.  I can be a sucker for moments that don’t require mountains of tissue.

One of the best action scenes was the Werewolf Bowl.

That’s right.  Game of Thrones got its Bastard Bowl.  Therefore, Penny Dreadful gets its Werewolf Bowl!

bastard bowl 1

Ethan was kicking ass on his own, but then he is joined by the “gray wolf.”  Who is none other than Kaetenay!  How about that?

And it turns out that Kaetenay was actually responsible for Ethan’s curse, and that he had a good reason for putting that curse on Ethan…who knew?

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I also loved the gun fight that took place between the Scoobies and Dracula’s groupies.  Malcolm and Victor were bad ass, but in my mind, they did not hold a candle to Miss O’-Nine-Tails, aka Catriona.

On a side note:  did anyone else think of Danny Glick when they saw that kid vampire, or was that just me?

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That’s right, I misjudged Miss O’-Nine-Tails.  Turns out that she was not on the side of evil, but on the Scoobies’ side the entire time.  And a valiant fighter.

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She swung from rafters, for Pete’s sake.  And cauterized Malcolm’s wound without a second thought.

In other words, she was a total fucking bad ass.  The only bad thing I can say about her now is that she was only in a handful of episodes…sniff…

In fact, Buffy herself would have been proud…a turn of the century Slayer?  Hey, I can dream, right?

Oh, and let’s not forget Renfield.

Renfield munching on a frog and tendering his resignation to Dr. Seward…priceless!

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As always, the visuals for this show did not fail to impress me.

In particular, I was struck by the scenes of Ethan walking down the street, with the Japanese lanterns in the background.  The contrast between the colors was beautiful, and made things look that much more eerie.

One thing is for sure:  the visuals on this show have spoiled, and pretty much everything I watch will be held up to the standard that Penny Dreadful has set.

I would also like to talk about character arcs for a moment.

For instance, the ones I find fascinating are Dorian’s, and Caliban’s (we will talk more about Vanessa later.)

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On the surface, these two may not have very much in common.  But that’s on the surface.

Both are immortal.  Both have lived in the shadows, so to speak.

In fact, when the show started, Dorian and Caliban lived in the shadows.  And neither cared very much about the lives of others, although often, they would use other humans as a means to an end.

However, one character took a different path from the other, and became a better person for it.

Rory Kinnear as The Creature in Penny Dreadful (season 3, episode 7). - Photo: Jonathan Hession/SHOWTIME - Photo ID: PennyDreadful_307_1030

That’s right, Caliban is the one who experienced growth.  In fact, out of all the characters, Caliban may have been the character who experienced the most growth.

Slowly, throughout the series, Caliban found his humanity, through the memories of his family, and his relationship with Vanessa.  The same cannot be said of Dorian, however.

Caliban has learned from his experiences.  For example, he chooses not to resurrect his son, even though it costs him his relationship with his wife.  Dorian does not learn from his experiences, however.  When  he grows tired of Lily, he discards, along with Justine and all the other women who had a been a part of Lily’s army.

And while both Dorian and Caliban may continue to live in the shadows, only one has seen the light.  And that would be Caliban.

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Ok, time to talk about the feelsies…

And there were so many of them, in what turned out to be the series finale for a spectacular show.

Finally, we got a little more information on Lily, when she told the story of what happened to her daughter.  Did anyone else feel the oxygen getting sucked out of the room, or is my imagination just that vivid?

The story of Lily’s daughter was tragic.  It also brought up an interesting point:  our memories, both good and bad, make us who we are.  And to rob someone of his/her memories, as Victor intended to do, would be a cruel act.  Myself, I have plenty of bad memories, as I am a domestic abuse survivor.  But if I were robbed of those memories, I would not be me.  Like Lily, being a shell of myself, and not having those memories, some of which are painful, but essential to my being, would be the cruelest punishment of them all.

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Then there was Caliban.  Which made me cry more, the death of Vanessa, or the sight of Caliban burying his son at sea?

I don’t know, but the two are pretty close.

I thought a bit of Pet Sematary, which I read earlier this year, when watching this episode.

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Caliban was kind of the anti-Louis Creed.  He resisted temptation, and gave his son a proper send off, so that his son would not be damned for all eternity.  And boy, was this painful to watch.  I heard a splintering noise and figured that was the sound of my heart breaking wide open.

Before I conclude this post, let’s talk a bit about Vanessa and her arc.

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Now, I wasn’t happy that Vanessa died.  In fact, I was anything but.  I hated it!

I hate this ending, but I also feel that this was the only ending.  While this ending sucked, it was definitely the right ending.

Some may vehemently disagree with me on the ending, along with the fact that John Logan did not let us know that this was the last season of the show.

However, I agree with Malcolm:  Vanessa never would have found happiness, had she lived.  She was doomed for all eternity, and would have been fleeing from the darkness all of her life.  Not even Ethan would have been able to protect from those forced that sought her soul.

Timothy Dalton as Sir Malcolm in Penny Dreadful (season 3, episode 1). - Photo: Jonathan Hession/SHOWTIME - Photo ID: PennyDreadful_301_5002

So Ethan performed the ultimate act of love:  he shot her and ended her suffering.  However, he used his powers as Lupus Dei to bring her back to her God, so that she found peace before her death, and (hopefully) salvation in the afterlife.

Josh Hartnett as Ethan and Eva Green as Vanessa Ives in Penny Dreadful (season 3, episode 9). - Photo: Patrick Redmond/SHOWTIME - Photo ID: PennyDreadful_309_1688

And I agree with John Logan that this was really Vanessa’s show.  Vanessa touched the lives of many, including Ethan, Malcolm, Caliban and even Dorian.  So without Vanessa, there is no show.

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Announcing the end of the series would have been a spoiler of sorts, as any intelligent person (probably) would have deduced the death of Vanessa.  And where would the fun have been in that?  Personally, I enjoyed this season.  Knowing that it was the last season would have put a damper on my fun, although I still would have watched it.

The Rainbow comes and goes,
And lovely is the Rose,
The Moon doth with delight
Look round her when the heavens are bare,
Waters on a starry night
Are beautiful and fair;
The sunshine is a glorious birth;
But yet I know, where’er I go,
That there hath past away a glory from the earth.

And what better way to end the series, than to have Caliban recite a Wordsworth poem, in honor of his friend?

Vanessa touched the lives of everyone she met, but I believe that she had the greatest effect on Caliban.  When she was a patient in the Banning Clinic, he was the orderly tasked with caring for her.  However, it could be argued that she helped him much more than he helped her, as she brought out his humanity even then, making him the best man he could be.

Rory Kinnear as The Creature in Penny Dreadful (season 3, episode 9). - Photo: Jonathan Hession/SHOWTIME - Photo ID: PennyDreadful_309_3197

And even after he became an un-dead Creature, Caliban’s relationship with Vanessa still made him a better man.  It inspired him to reunite with his family, even though that ultimately proved painful, with the death of his son and the loss of his relationship with his wife.  However, these losses served to bring Caliban back from the dead, so to speak, and proved that he was not in fact the monster everyone saw on the outside, but someone more human than almost everyone else on the show.

Nothing is more beautiful than a man who recognizes what true humanity is, and strives to make sure that everyone is afforded it, no matter the cost to himself.

Rory Kinnear as The Creature in Penny Dreadful (season 3, episode 9). - Photo: Jonathan Hession/SHOWTIME - Photo ID: PennyDreadful_309_3066


Well, that’s it. That’s it for Penny Dreadful.

We have been so lucky to have been blessed with such a wonderful show.  The acting, the visuals, the dialog, the writing…all of it was superb, and I would not change a thing, as this show has been simply perfect.

So, I am tearing up a little, but I bid the series goodbye, and am thankful to have had the privilege to watch it, and spend so many hours writing about it and discussing it.

The series may have been cancelled, but it will live on in my heart forever.

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Penny Dreadful: Season 3, Episode 4 Recap and Review

Sometimes, all you need is a big, ugly cry.

You know, the kind where your face ends up covered in snot, your nose and eyes are swollen and you share the same coloring as a ripe tomato.

ugly cry

And sometimes, you need this, but you don’t know you need this.  So, it’s up to someone, or something, to let you know that you need this, so that ugly cry doesn’t stay trapped within your soul forever, turning you into some kind of horrible monster (or is that just me?)

So, enter one of my favorite television shows…

No, not Buffy the Vampire Slayer, although thanks to the Scoobies, I learned the meaning of “ugly cry” at a relatively young age.

No, I am talking about the “other” show about vampires.

The Master 1

Yes, that’s right...Penny Dreadful!

I know, makes sense, right?

You need some catharsis, so just watch a period horror show series and you’re good, right?

Josh Hartnett as Ethan Chandler, Timothy Dalton as Sir Malcolm and Eva Green as Vanessa Ives in Penny Dreadful (season 1, episode 1). - Photo: Jonathan Hession/SHOWTIME - Photo ID: PennyDreadful_101_3501

Well, actually, the answer is yes.

Penny Dreadful may be that “literary show period show with monsters”, but once again, it has proved to us that it is much, much more than that.

I mean, if you’ve been faithfully watching the show from the beginning (or binge watching, I won’t judge), you have probably realized this already:  that Penny Dreadful is much more than meets the eye.  It has shown us that it, in fact, is much more than meets the eye time and time again.  And that is the reason why I love the show so much.

But just when I think I can’t get blown away again, it happens.  I watch, as is my custom on Monday nights right now, and I get my socks knocked off.  And all for the price of just under one hour of my time!

So, let’s get to it, and review and dissect this week’s episode, titled A Blade of Grass.

As always:

Homer spoiler


Synopsis

The episode begins with Vanessa trapped in a fugue state.  Vanessa has traveled back in time to her days as a patient in a mental institution, the Banning Clinic.  Dr. Seward tells Vanessa that she is trapped in this state until she comes to some kind of resolution, but that she will not abandon her.

Vanessa is trapped in a padded cell at the Banning Clinic.  Her only reaction is with the orderly who would later become The Creature.  At first, the orderly plays by the rules, and tells Vanessa that she is not being tortured, and that what is being done to her is being done in the name of science.  However, the orderly gradually comes to believe that this is, in fact, not true, and begins to show compassion towards Vanessa.

One day, the orderly brings Vanessa a blanket, after she is forced to undergo hydrotherapy and is shivering and wet.  The orderly comes back later and takes the blanket from Vanessa, as it is against regulations.  Vanessa reacts by clawing him in the face.  The orderly subdues Vanessa, and Vanessa is then confined to a straight jacket.

Because Vanessa is confined to a straight jacket, the orderly is forced to feed her himself.  He brings a wooden spoon from his house, as the wooden spoon will not hurt her mouth.  Vanessa complains that she is being tortured because she must become “normal”, as the current social structure will not accept a woman like Vanessa, who deviates from the norm.

The orderly begins to open up to Vanessa.  He will not reveal his name, but talks about his wife and son.  Vanessa tells him that she thinks that she has been touched by Lucifer.  The orderly leaves the room, but turns to Vanessa, and tells her he believes her story about Lucifer, as he was there.  His eyes then shine black.

Vanessa begs Dr. Seward to pull her back to the present, but the doctor tells her that is impossible at the moment, as Vanessa must work through these memories.

During her time in the institution, Vanessa is robbed of her ability to speak, as she is gagged.  One day, the orderly removes the gag, and brushes her hair and puts some makeup on her, to restore her sense of dignity. Before removing the makeup and mussing up her hair again, he holds a mirror before Vanessa’s face, and reminds her that this is who she is.  The orderly reads Vanessa poetry, and fantasizes about a day when they can walk out of the institution together.  The orderly then leaves the room, telling Vanessa that it is Christmas day, as he shuts the door.

Over time, Vanessa becomes closer to orderly.  One day, she removes her gown and attempts to seduce him.  The orderly responds to her kiss, but pulls back, and puts the gown back on Vanessa.  He begs her to get better, as he has seen what happens to Dr. Banning’s lobotomy patients.

The orderly then begs Vanessa to talk to him about her problems, and pulls up a chair.  Vanessa brings up Lucifer, and the orderly’s eyes turn black, and he introduces himself as the devil.  The devil tells Vanessa that her God has abandoned her, and that if she gives herself over to him, they can rule the earth together.

A laugh then echoes through the room.  Lucifer cowers in the corner, as the devil’s brother, also wearing the orderly’s face, appears to Vanessa.  We find out that this second entity is Dracula, and unlike Lucifer, he wants Vanessa’s flesh and blood.  Vanessa nearly gives herself over to Dracula, but snaps out of it, once she hears his name.  Vanessa then cites the Verbis Diablo and levitates, coming back to reality with the orderly next to her bed.

Taking the advice of the orderly, Vanessa pretends to be “normal,” in the hopes that she will be released from the clinic. However, she refuses to deny her faith, and the doctor refuses to release.  Instead, he shaves her head and schedules her for a lobotomy instead.

The night before Vanessa’s surgery, the orderly pays her a visit and tells her that he has tendered his resignation, as he believes that his employer is engaging in inhumane practices.  However, he promises Vanessa that he will not leave before she receives the anesthesia, as he wants that last face she sees to be the face of someone who loves her.  Vanessa kisses him, and both weep.

Vanessa then comes to in Dr. Seward’s office.  The doctor is startled and apologizes for the cigarette burn she gave to Vanessa in an attempt to rouse her.  Vanessa states that she remembers everything, and reminds the doctor that she has told her in the past that people name things that frighten them.  Vanessa says that she is no longer frightened, and that the creature who had frightened her previously is named Dracula.


My Thoughts

ermahgerd 1

And on so many levels, too.

First of all:

All.  The.  Feels.

Now, Penny Dreadful is kind of a feelsie show, but this episode really outdid itself.  Really outdid itself, in fact.  Let me count the ways…

Now, Vanessa and Caliban (whenever are we going to find out his government name?) have had a handful of scenes together.  In particular, there was the poetry scene last year (somewhere along the line The Creature developed a taste for poetry, who knew?)

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And there was the scene in the last episode of the second season, where the two shared a dance…

Eva Green as Vanessa Ives and Rory Kinnear as The Creature in Penny Dreadful (season 2, episode 5). - Photo: Jonathan Hession/SHOWTIME - Photo ID: PennyDreadful_205_1509

But now, we have this episode.

I don’t normally care about awards (Emmy, cough, cough) but really, this episode not winning SOME kind of award is simply criminal!

I mean, this episode was (mostly) done by two actors (although Patti Lupone did a fabulous job, as always.)  It mostly took place in one room.  And the special effects were minimal (although the shadows that appeared when Lucifer and Dracula took over were pretty cool.)

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And this episode was mind blowing.  In fact, it may be one of the best episodes that the series has ever put out.  Which is saying something.

We also had one actor (Rory Kinnear) play three different roles in one episode.  All in his orderly get up.  This brings the number of roles played by Mr. Kinnear up to four (The Creature, the orderly, Lucifer and Dracula.)  Is there anything this man can’t do?

Caliban 1

Let’s talk about Mr. Kinnear for a minute, too.

Many of the accolades for this episode are probably going to my girl Eva Green (and this is not necessarily a bad thing), but Mr. Kinnear simply blew me away after I watched this episode.

I have always had great love for Caliban.  He is one of my favorite characters on the show.  But, to be honest, I never thought (or cared) much about his pre-Creature life.  I knew that he had one, but it never really crossed my mind.

Proteus 1

Until now.  And I had made some assumptions last week.  And we know what happens when you assume…ASS!

This character arc was NOT what I expected.  For some reason, I had thought that maybe Caliban’s job as an orderly had hardened him.  At the beginning of the episode, my assumption was correct.  He was pretty rough with poor Vanessa there for a bit, with the force feeding and having to subdue her when she scratched his face.

But, as this show likes to do, it all got turned upside down.  And in a good way.  The orderly began to read Vanessa poetry.  And he brought a wooden spoon from home, so Vanessa’s mouth wouldn’t be hurt.

And the brushing of Vanessa’s hair and application of make-up, to remind her of who she was…beautiful.  Although when he removed her make-up and clumsily mussed her hair back up again…I think that was actually the most heart-wrenching part, as it symbolized Vanessa having to shed her humanity yet again.

I also loved his story about building a ship with his son, and the realization that people (as in Vanessa) are often forced to live where it’s cold and lonely.  But having even just one person who believes in you can make the cold and loneliness vanish, at least for a little while.

Rory Kinnear as The Creature in Penny Dreadful (season 3, episode 7). - Photo: Jonathan Hession/SHOWTIME - Photo ID: PennyDreadful_307_1030

This episode may be considered to be “Vanessa-centric”, and that thought would not necessarily be wrong.  However, I consider this episode to actually be more about Caliban than anything.  Clearly, the time he spent with Vanessa changed him, and he came away a better person because of that.  And his character became much more interesting because of that.

Of course, I need to throw some accolades at Eva Green.

As if you couldn’t figure that out…

I don’t know how she does it.  Very few people can make crawling on a ground, being nose to nose with what may be (literally) evil incarnate, look classy, but Eva Green has that ability, and should get an award for it, if such a thing exists.

And even when she is clawing a poor orderly’s face, she still manages to evoke sympathy.  I mean, who does that?

My girl, that’s who!

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Before we are done here, I want to talk about the ending a bit.

It would have been easy (and logical) for the episode to end after Vanessa threw down some shade via the Verbis Diablo.  But this is Penny Dreadful.  So nix easy, and (sometimes) you can nix the logical with that, too.

It was pretty clear to me that, along with being Caliban-centric, this episode was about Vanessa not forgetting her humanity, even though she has not one but two forms of (literal) evil incarnate fighting over her.  The scene at the beginning with Dr. Seward telling Vanessa that she would not abandon her for anything (another gem in this episode, aka Patti Lupone proving she is worth her paycheck) was some pretty good foreshadowing of this fact.

Christian Carmargo as Dr. Sweet and Eva Green as Vanessa Ives in Penny Dreadful (season 3, episode 2). - Photo: Jonathan Hession/SHOWTIME - Photo ID: PennyDreadful_302_5122

Vanessa has clearly spent much of her time alone in her struggles, with no one to turn to.

Then, enter the orderly.  Although I still believe that this episode is actually Caliban-centric, as his time with Vanessa effected a massive change in him, it is pretty clear that Vanessa benefited from this friendship as well.

I think that perhaps Vanessa needed a reminder that relying on others is not necessarily a bad thing, so her mind forced her to remember someone who was kind to her.  Someone who loved her.  Someone who was willing to sacrifice for her.

In short, someone who reminded her that she is worthy of love and support, no matter what other-wordly forces that would try to lame claim to her.  A worthy human, in other words.

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So that’s it for Blades of Grass.  Join me next week for the review and dissection of episode 5, titled The World is Our Hell.

Tune in next week…same bat time, same bat channel!

batman and robin

 

A Blood Curdling Look at Small Town Life: My Review of ‘Salem’s Lot

Ah, autumn…

Is there anything better/

What’s not to love about my favorite season?

The temperatures are finally cooling down…

(The fact that I live in South Carolina and am still wearing capris and a tank top while typing this is completely irrelevant.  I originally hail from the Barony of Indiana…and…well…you can take the girl out of Indiana, and I think we all know the rest…)

autumn 1

And the food too.  I can finally make soups and drink hot mulled apple cider without looking ridiculous…yum.

(But no pumpkin spice.  I am already pretty white, and ingesting anything with pumpkin in it…well, I just might be washed out!  Plus pumpkin spice is just plain nasty anyway.)

pumpkin spice meme 1

And Halloween is almost upon us!

Not that horror really needs a season…Michael Myers, Jack Skellington and Pennywise the Clown are welcome (in my head at least) any time of year!

Pennywise 5

As are Stephen King and his various creations! And not just in my head, either! Heck, if The Master wanted to visit me at my humble abode, who I am to turn him down?  (Hey, an obsessed fan can dream, can’t she?)

Stephen King

So yes, we are back to Stephen King.  A total surprise on the blog, I know.

But, again.  It’s fall.  It’s the season for monsters.  And serial killers.  And scary clowns.

And let’s not forget one of the baddest Big Bads of them all…

Yes, the vampire!  Those blood sucking, nasty evil creatures!

And for the record, real vampires don’t sparkle!  That’s right folks, you heard it on this little blog first!

Blade Twilight

No, I am talking about the ones that are bad ass motherfuckers!  The ones you DON’T want to run into in a dark alley!  The ones who may still be sexy in a creepy way, but who will still murder and/or enslave you in a heartbeat!

And vampires have permeated our culture.  They are everywhere, from the world of Anne Rice, to the Twilight trilogy (shudder) and have even made appearances as characters in professional wrestling.

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So much love for the vampires.

But none of these guys would likely be here and would be discussed in this little old blog if it wasn’t for The Master

No, I am not talking about their creator, whoever (or whatever) he/she may be.

The Master 1

No, I am talking about the novel ‘Salem’s Lot.  Written by The Master.

Yes, Stephen King is responsible for the birth of the “modern” vampire.  In essence, he is the “father” of the modern vampire.

Before ‘Salem’s Lot, you had Bram Stoker and Dracula.  Which were (and still are) awesome.  But even King himself said that Dracula probably wouldn’t make it in modern day New York City.  Would probably get mowed over by a cab or something, and that would be the end.

So King, being The Master, did what a good Master does:  he improvised.  He moved Dracula to small town USA.  And it was brilliant:  the result was the masterpiece we call ‘Salem’s Lot.  With (my imaginary) subtitle:  Dracula discovers 20th century small town life.

And it’s a bloody good book…it doesn’t suck (see what I did there.)

And here it goes:  here is my attempt to recap and review this masterpiece…

So buckle up, all both  of you, and let’s take a journey to that unfortunate hamlet known as Jerusalem’s Lot!


 

Synopsis

The book begins with the introduction of an unnamed man and unnamed adolescent boy.  We are told that the boy and man are not in fact, father and son, even though many people make that mistake.  The man and boy appear to be on the run from something, and end up traveling the country, but they eventually settle in a village in Mexico.  The man buys an American newspaper, and is looking for information on a town in Maine called ‘Salem’s Lot.  He then reads an article stating that the town has become a ghost town, and that several people from the town are inexplicably missing. The man tries to speak to the boy about ‘Salem’s Lot, but the boy clams up. The boy, who has become fluent in Spanish, then seeks out a Catholic priest to make a confession.  With the help of an interpreter, the boy makes his confession.  The priest and the interpreter later speak to the man, confirming the veracity of the story.  The priest tells the man that it is one of the strangest stories he has ever heard in his lifetime.

The story then switches over to the perspective of a man named Ben Mears.  Ben is a writer who has moved back to his hometown of Jerusalem’s Lot (‘Salem’s Lot for short) so that he may gain inspiration for his next book.  Ben meets woman in park named Susan Norton, who happens to be reading one of his books.  Ben immediately notices that Susan is reading his book, and also immediately notices how attractive Susan is.  Ben takes Susan out for an ice cream soda, where the two reminisce about their childhood in ‘Salem’s Lot.  Ben asks Susan out on a date, and she accepts.  Ben and Susan’s chemistry becomes more apparent on their date, and Susan invites him to her house the next evening, so that he may meet her parents.  Ben also talks some more about his childhood, and tells Susan that he attempted to rent the old Marsten House, the local “haunted” house.  Ben tells Susan about an experience he had as a boy in the Marsten House:  he accepted a dare to enter the Marsten House and steal a “souvenir.”  Ben stole that souvenir, but also encountered what he believed to be the ghost of Hubie Marsten, the house’s previous owner who had killed his wife and committed suicide.  Ben believes that he has seen Hubie Marsten right before his death, and his description is gruesome.  When Susan asks him why he did not rent the house, Ben informs her that the house has been sold and is not available to rent.

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The book begins to introduces some other characters.  These include:  Mike Ryerson, a grave digger who finds the body of a dog who has been crucified; Mark Petrie, a pre-teen boy whose family has just moved into town and who has a confrontation with the school bully; Matthew Burke, an English teacher at the local high school; and Larry Crockett, a real estate agent who sells the Marsten House to a man named Richard Straker, in a questionable deal where Crockett also promises Straker that he will keep all of their dealings a secret from the rest of the town.

The next evening, Ben has dinner with Susan and her parents.  Susan’s dad approves of Ben, while Susan’s mother does not.  That same evening, two local boys named Danny and Ralphie Glick leave their parents house to visit Mark Petrie, the new kid in town.  On the way to Mark’s house, the boys sense an unknown presence in the woods.  Hours later, Danny returns to parents’ house, minus his brother Ralphie.  Danny is unable to tell his parents and the local authorities what happened, and seems to be dazed.  Danny later collapses at home, and is rushed to the hospital to be treated for an unknown ailment.  A dark presence is said to be prowling the local cemetary, and appears to be carrying the body of a child.  Two men who were hired to help Larry Crockett move some packages for Richard Straker see what appears to be the body of a child when moving those packages.

Ben continues to spend time with Susan.  He discusses his research on the Marsten House with her, telling her that Hubie Marsten likely murdered children while he was alive.  Ben is worried because the house is occupied again, and a child has disappeared.

Ben heads to the local bar one night for a beer.  He meets Matt Burke at the bar, and the two become fast friends.  Matt asks Ben to speak to one of his classes, and Ben happily obliges.

Danny Glick suddenly passes away and the causes are unclear.  His funeral is officiated by Father Donald Callahan, a Catholic priest who is an alcoholic.  The entire town, including Ben and Susan, is shocked by the death.

Mike Ryerson is tasked with burying Danny Glick, and feels that something odd is happening when he tries to bury the boy.  Mike begins to feel ill and not himself almost immediately.  Mike encounters Matt at the local bar.  Matt becomes considered for his former student, and invites him to spend the night at his house.  However, Matt hears some odd noises in the middle of the night, and checks on Mike.  It appears that Mike had died in his sleep.  Matt becomes upset and calls Ben, who immediately comes over to help Matt.  Matt also requests that Ben bring him a rosary or a cross.  Ben then suggests that Matt call the police, along with a doctor.  The local police come to Matt’s house, along with one of the local doctors, Jimmy Cody, who is also one of Matt’s former students.  Dr. Cody confirms that Mike has died, and the police ask Matt and Ben the routine questions.  The authorities also notice that the window is open and the screen door is missing.  Matt realizes that something odd is going on, and tells Ben that he believes Mike was attacked by a vampire.  Ben is skeptical, but is also afraid to not believe what Matt is telling him, as he believes Matt to be a credible source.

Susan argues with her mother over Ben, and tells her parents that she plans to move out.  Susan’s mother becomes upset, and insinuates that Ben may be involved in the recent disappearance of Ralphie Glick.  Susan mother also tells her that Ben was involved in a motorcylcle accident that resulted in the death of his wife.  According to the research by the local authorities, Ben was was cleared of any wrongdoing, although Susan’s mother is still suspicious.  However, Susan receives a troubling phone call:  her ex boyfriend, Floyd Tibbits has attacked Ben, putting him in the hospital with a concussion and several other injuries.

Susan visits Ben in the hospital, and Ben gives her some information about what is going on in the town and what happened at Matt’s house.  Susan then visits Matt, who fills her in on the rest of the story.  Susan is also skeptical, but does not quite disbelieve Matt.  Matt then hears an odd noise in the guest bedroom, and goes upstairs to investigate, holding his cross, while Susan stands guard.  Matt then encounters a creature who resembles the supposedly deceased Mike Ryerson.  The creature tells Matt that “he will sleep like the dead.”  Matt brandishes his cross and the creature vanishes.  Matt then suffers a massive heart attack and is rushed to the hospital.

We also learn that Marjorie Glick, Ralphie and Danny Glick’s mother, has passed away.  Before she dies, Marjorie tells her husband that her deceased son is visiting her in her dreams.  Marjorie also appears to be feeling unwell, but her husband chalks that up to grief, and believes that her dreams are also the result of grief.

Floyd Tibbits has also passed away in his jail cell.  Floyd’s demeanor was noted to be very odd by the local authorities, as he was avoiding sunlight and sleeping throughout the day before he passed away.

Ben, Susan, Matt and Dr. Cody meet in the hospital.  Ben and Matt tell the story of what is going on in the town to the doctor, and also tell the doctor that they believe the town is being attacked by vampires.  Susan is still skeptical, but Dr. Cody has a more open mind.  Dr. Cody also tells the group that several bodies of the recently deceased have disappeared, including the body of Mike Ryerson.  Dr. Cody volunteers to exhume the body of Danny Glick and perform an autopsy, to see if there is anything out of the ordinary.  Matt has begun his research on vampire mythology, and tells Ben and Susan to keep crosses on them at all times.

In the meantime, Mark Petrie also has an encounter with a creature that appears to be Danny Glick.  Mark remembers that vampires must be invited, and refuses to succumb to the creature.  Mark is also able to fend off the creature with a plastic cross that is part of his monster toy set.

The next night, Ben (who has been discharged from the hospital) and Dr. Cody sit with the body of Marjorie Glick, to test Matt and Ben’s vampire theory.  The theory is confirmed when the body of Marjorie Glick comes to life and attacks Jimmy Cody.  Ben is able to fend off the creature with a cross, but the body disappears, and Ben and Dr. Cody must come up with a cover story for the local authorities.

Susan pays a visit to the Marsten house, and meets Mark there.  Both desire to confront Straker and Barlow in regards to the odd events that have occurred in the town.  But both Susan and Mark are captured by Straker, who intends to turn them into vampires.  However, Mark is able to escape and kills Straker, who is actually Barlow’s human familiar.  Susan is not so lucky and becomes one of the Undead.

Father Callahan visits Matt, and the two discuss a way to rid the town of the vampire infestation.  The infestation is becoming quite bad, as many people in the town begin to exhibit unusual symptoms and behavior.

Mark meets with Ben, Matt and Dr. Cody, and informs Ben that Susan is now a vampire.  The group makes a plan to try to attack Barlow, as Barlow is the master vampire.  Father Callahan, Ben and Dr. Cody head to the Marsten House to seek out Barlow and kill Susan.  They do not find Barlow there, but do find a taunting letter from him.  The group also finds Susan.  Ben reluctantly drives a stake through Susan’s heart, so that she may achieve her final peace.  Father Callahan also blesses the house to rid it of evil.

The next day, Father Callahan accompanies Mark Petrie to speak with Mark’s parents, to make them aware of what is going on in the town.  Mark’s parents are skeptical, but are attacked and killed by Barlow, who has crept into the house.  Mark flees, and Father Callahan attempts to face Barlow on his own.  However, the priest’s faith falters, and he is unsuccessful in his attempt to defeat Barlow.  Barlow forces Callahan to drink from his blood, rendering Callahan unclean.  Father Callahan attempts to go back to his church, but is unable to enter, as he has partaken the blood from Barlow, and also burns his hand on the door of the church.  Father Callahan is disgraced, and flees town on a Greyhound bus.

Mark makes his way back to Ben and tells Matt, Ben and Dr. Cody what happened to his parents.  The men make plans to attempt to destroy the vampires, but do not know where Barlow’s new lair is.

Dr. Cody and Mark meet at the boardinghouse Ben is staying in, so that they make as many wooden stakes as possible to attempt to destroy the vampires.  Jimmy realizes that Barlow’s new lair is actually the boardinghouse and warns Mark, but Jimmy is killed by a booby-trap placed in the cellar by Barlow, who is seemingly one step ahead of Ben and his remaining friends.

Mark flees back to Ben and tells him what happened to Dr. Cody.  Ben attempts to contact Matt, but is told by the hospital that Matt has died of a massive heart attack.  Ben tells Mark that they must try to destroy Kurt Barlow if the town has any chance of survival.

Mark and Ben then make their way back to the boardinghouse, and find the body of Kurt Barlow, along with several others from the town who have been transformed into vampires.  Ben is able to kill Kurt Barlow with a stake through the heart, but several of his vampire offspring remain in the town, and most of the other inhabitants of the town are either turned into vampires or are killed.  A few, such as Ben and Mark, are able to flee town.  Ben and Mark eventually end up in Mexico, where Mark confesses the story to a Catholic priest.  Mark and Ben then decide to return to town to finish the job.

Mark and Ben return to ‘Salem’s Lot almost a year after the horrible events.  They set fire to the town, but it is unknown if the fire is successful in destroying the vampires.  Mark and Ben leave town again, their business in ‘Salem’s Lot finished.

'Salem's Lot 4


 

My Thoughts

So.  Many.  Thoughts.  Such.  A.  Long. Blog.  Post.

‘Salem’s Lot is a book about vampires.  And it is a great book about vampires…

But there are couple of other things that we need to talk about, in order to have an intelligent discussion about this book.

Surprise, there is more to ‘Salem’s Lot than the vampires!  I know, more to a Stephen King book than meets the eye…who knew???

A part of that “more than meets the eye” is the Marsten House.  King has written about haunted houses, haunted hotels and even haunted towns (Derry is a prime example of that) in other books, but ‘Salem’s Lot was his second book published under his name.  So it’s possible that ‘Salem’s Lot and the Marsten House was simply a “warm-up” for him, for later books like The Shining or even Black House

black house 1

But man, does he do the haunted house aspect of ‘Salem’s Lot well.

Yes, ‘Salem’s Lot is also a haunted house book.  It may actually be a haunted house book almost as much as it is a vampire book.  The Marsten House is another character, just like Ben and his friends, and plays a huge role in the book.  Not only does it provide a creepy setting (the head vampire bunks there, natch), it allows the reader to get to know Ben.  That house was a huge part of Ben’s childhood, and seeing it through Ben’s (borderline obsessive) adult eyes is fascinating.  The house has probably colored much of Ben life, such as his choice of a career, and his decision to return to town after so many years.  The house may have even played a role in Ben’s decision to become a writer, because it made him aware of the mysteries of the universe and so forth.

'Salem's Lot 3

Plus, that house is just plain creepy!  It’s on unhallowed ground because its namesake committed suicide on it?  Shudder!  And it was the site for so many evil acts (Hubie sacrificing children and then killing himself and his wife).  I think King could fill a book with that house’s story…maybe someday he will do just that, if we are lucky!

Speaking of characters that are not people per se…

‘Salem’s Lot.  Yes, the town itself.  I am also going to count the town as a character…

No, I have not lost my mind (you can’t lose what you never had, so I am told).

All kidding aside, the town is a character as well.  We are given so much information about the town and the people that live there.  The gossipy old lady Mabel Worts.  The boy on the farm who wants to drop out of school.  The proprietor of the drugstore who looks up women’s skirts.  The town bully.  An alcoholic priest who listens to everyone’s sins, including the lady who beats her baby.  A wife who cheats on her husband with the telephone company guy.  I could go on and on…

I grew up in a small town.  I have since moved on to bigger and better, and sometimes I look back upon my childhood with a certain amount of nostalgia…

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Until I read a Stephen King book (since so many of them are centered around small towns).  And the king of horror (see what I did there) gives me a reality check.  Yes, small towns can be charming.  But like almost anything else (well, except for Furbies…I don’t see any good in those fuckers), they have their dark side.  ‘Salem’s Lot is a reminder of that.  It is quaint.  We can’t argue that.  But it is ugly too.  Men beat their wives with no recourse.  Bullies rule the schoolyard with iron fists.  There are residents who are just tragic, such as the Weasel Craigs, good men who drink their pain away and become shadows of their former selves.  So I become objective about my childhood once again, and see all sides of the pancake.

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Stephen King writes the small town really well.  ‘Salem’s Lot was  the first one (Derry, Castle Rock and Harlow are just a few more later examples) and will probably not be the last.  Again, the man knows how to realistically depict a small town, weaving together a tapestry where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

So.  Vampires…

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Whew, finally getting to them…

I know no other way to put, so I will come out and say it…

These vampires are scary as fuck.  There is no other way around it.

I hold a special place in my heart for Dracula (don’t want to run into him in a dark alley).  And the vampires on Buffy the Vampire Slayer (good old William the Bloody, although I don’t care for his poetry too much).  And let’s not forget Louis and Lestat.

Spike

But these vampires…

Vampires are scary enough.  Maybe the scariest of the Big Bads.

But again, these vampires!

sparkly vampire 1

The notion of a child (Danny Glick) turning into one of the Undead is just horrible.  Profane even.  But awesome too.  If you are going to scare someone into a change pants, combine the sacred (a child) with the profane (a vampire).  And watch the pants come a’flying off!

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And Kurt Barlow himself (Straker is not a picnic either).  He is scary because he is a vamp (duh) but also because he reminds us again and again, that he is not human (well, duh).  The booby trap that he sets for poor Dr. Cody is something that Ted Bundy would have been proud of, it is that ingeniously evil.  And he kills Mark’s parents by bashing their heads together right in front of Mark…I just have no words.  And none of these acts are supernatural.  They are just good old fashioned (in)human fuckery.  Simply brutal, because they have a touch of realism and could happen to any one of us.

Hell, the creature is so evil that his teeth are still alive even after he is killed.  His teeth bit Ben…ewww!  Can’t get much more evil than that, folks!

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Well, what a trip that’s been!  Do they make t-shirts for this?  Maybe one that says “I survived my trip to ‘Salem’s Lot, but all I got was this lousy bite mark on my neck!”  Too soon. you say?  Maybe, maybe not.  But, it is fall now.  And almost Halloween.  And ‘Salem’s Lot will also have a special place in my heart (near the jugular, actually), no matter what time of year it is.

'Salem's Lot 1


 

Connections

‘Salem’s Lot is a very early King work, but there are quite a few connections to his other books, and it is an important part of the King universe.  Here are the connections I found:

-Donald Callahan is the most obvious connection to King’s other works, mainly The Dark Tower series.  Callahan’s back story is told in book five of The Dark Tower series, The Wolves of the Calla.  Callahan becomes an integral member of Roland’s ka-tet, and plays a huge role in Roland’s quest for the Dark Tower in books six and seven of the series, The Song of Susannah and The Dark Tower, respectively.

Father Callahan

-In the novel Pet Sematary, Rachel Creed passes by a sign that gives directions to the town of ‘Salem’s Lot, and thinks to herself that it is not a very pleasant place to live.

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-As stated before, ‘Salem’s Lot was King’s first foray into the concept of a haunted house.  However, it is not his last.  The Marsten House seems to be similar to a few other houses and buildings in King novels, which include the house on Neibolt Street (It), Black House (book of the same name), Rose Red (movie of the same name), the house on Dutch Hill (The Wastelands), and even the Overlook Hotel (The Shining).  It is possible that these structures are all Twinners to each other, as they share some similar traits.

gorg_and_mr_munshun

-The dog that is slaughtered in the beginning of the novel is similar to a dog encountered by Roland in the short story, The Little Sisters of Eluria, which is part of the collection Everything’s Eventual.  Both dogs have similar markings, which include a marking on the head that resembles a cross.

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-King has also written a prequel of sorts to ‘Salem’s Lot, a short story called Jerusalem’s Lot (Night Shift), along with a sequel of sorts, One for the Road (also part of the collection Night Shift).  Both of these stories provide some information in regards to the cursed town of ‘Salem’s Lot, but also raise many more questions that they answer.

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