Monday, November 21, 2016

The Dark Shadows Daybook: NOVEMBER 21


By PATRICK McCRAY

Taped on this date in 1968: Episode 636

Barnabas returns from the demise of Nicholas Blair to find that Adam is missing. At Collinwood, Adam overhears Carolyn speaking of past love and becomes consumed with jealousy. He breaks in, and Carolyn -- between blows -- chides him on his fall from tenderness. Adam, poor incel that he is, points out that Carolyn could have rewarded him with love, but chose not to. When Carolyn tries to call the cops, Adam swats her and kidnaps Victoria. Later, after speaking with Carolyn, Julia encounters Adam in the Old House. He has no reason for hostility now that Eve and Nicholas are gone, but he remains angry, and refuses her sedative. She hears a scream from the basement and runs to it. Later, she awakens to find Barnabas explaining that Adam has Victoria in the basement, strapped to a table by Eve’s skeleton, the experiment beginning again. They confront him with a gun, via a secret passage. Adam is lost in the litany of sins others have thrust upon him. Is he using Victoria or taking out his wrath on her? Adam reminds Barnabas of their life force link -- harm for one means harm for the other. Faced with Victoria’s imminent demise, Barnabas aims the pistol at Adam and pulls the trigger.

It was when I was watching this that I realized why FRANKENSTEIN stories aren’t scary. For me, the scariest stories involve events happening to me that I’d rather, um, avoid. Those things come about by a supernatural force beyond my control or by a physical force that really has it in for me. Now, look at Frankenstein’s Monster. Benevolent. He doesn’t want to be here. He can’t talk. People keep shoving torches at him and then congratulating themselves as if they’ve discovered kryptonite. He looks a mess. It’s cold and damp. He’s gotten the death shocked out of him. What else could go wrong for this guy? He has to use coercion and blackmail just to get a friend, and then she hates him. And it’s not his fault that the kid with the flowers can’t swim. It just goes on and on. So, what’s there to fear in this guy? Little more than there is in the average angry person. He’s like a pre-white liberal guilt Incredible Hulk. But we’re a post-white liberal guilt audience. So it’s okay to view him with a rational sympathy. So... he’s going to Be Mad at People Who Do Bad Things? Well, don’t Do Bad Things. Dr. Frankenstein’s kind of an hysterical jerk, so I don’t feel very sympathetic toward him. So are the townspeople. But I’ve made a special point not to be an angry villager in my life, so if Frankenstein’s Monster killed me, I’d at least have the comfort of knowing it wasn’t personal.

I think the boon and bane of horroresque stories like Frankenstein and its derivatives is the sympathy we’re supposed to feel for the creature. It’s cool that horror can contain seemingly contradictory moments of emotional repulsion and connection. Ultimately, though, the catharsis in horror either comes from seeing evil defeated or, to Hell with it all, consume us in an endgame, thus literally getting it over with. At that point, sympathizing with a misunderstood monster just gums up the works. It’s like these modern versions of DRACULA, none of which are satisfying. If it’s horror, let him be a sumbitch I’m relieved to see staked. If it’s an oozy romance, let me see a genuinely misunderstood lover escape or die trying. But don’t start with him as a baby eating monster and end with him as a beast deserving a harpoon to the heart, but leave me a gooey center of hey-he’s-not-a-bad-guy. At least, don’t tell that story if you want me to be scared.

So, we come to the end of the Adam story. I for one am ready for this thing to be over. I have seen months of a violent manchild suffer from understandable impulse control and a constant flow of misinformation. There aren’t many places this story can go. The Zapping of Nicholas Blair is hard to top. If you’re like me, you find these denouement episodes especially whacky. I see my heroes suffer for months to overcome an enemy, and it never quite ends and some new threat arrives right on time. But please, give the Collinses at least one night off, huh?

At least we have Betsy Durkin. When it comes to the Durkin, it’s a casting choice that’s workin’. Is she Alexandra? No. But like George Lazenby and Timothy Dalton, we were never given a chance to grow solidly inured to her. The mental exercise I play involves imagining Durkin in the role from day one. Too close in look and style to Carolyn? Although that may have been a good thing. Hint hint. Her Victoria has a likable spunkiness to her, as well as a clear mind. And she looks like Julia Louis-Dreyfus.

On this day in 1968, you know, um… stuff happened.  Not a huge news day, though. I’ll be honest. The big news? Adam’s loose! Run for your lives! Etc.

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