Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Dark Shadows, The 1973 Tapes: Beneath the Veil


The holidays have stolen my will to be cheeky so I’ll just plainly say SPOILERS AHEAD.

“There is no Heaven. Or Hell. Just this. Now.”

Happy Ghoul-idays everyone and welcome back to The 1973 Tapes! One man’s trek through the moldy, but shockingly engaging unofficial history of the town we all love. I will admit that Thanksgiving did me in a bit. I feel like it is a more draining holiday than we all would like to admit. BUT THAT SAID, I have returned to you all with a doozy of a tale to talk about! 2013’s Beneath the Veil! A skin crawling tale of murder tourists, dead Windcliffe doctors, and malicious, wandering spirits looking to cut a bloody swath through the patriarchy. All that plus Marie Wallace! This arc may have gotten off on a bit of a slow, low-key start with The House by The Sea, but Beneath the Veil kicks it up several dozen notches with a twisty tale of murder and magick.

British vacationers Alfie and Emma are on a unconventional holiday. They have come to America and taken a pilgrimage to see the nation’s most notorious serial murder sights. A bit macabre, but who are we to judge? I mean, it IS us, after all. So naturally, their car breaks down in the sleepy, not at all cursed Collinsport and even more naturally, people then start dying by the bale full. But this is just the START of the dark delights that Kymberly Ashman’s script delivers for this second installment of the arc. We will get into those here in a second, but again I have to praise this range’s accessibility. This story delves pretty deeply into the deep bench of characters Collinsport has to offer, but even if a listener didn’t know any of that Ashman’s core story of two super self-absorbed and often tacky murder tourists, given a darkly funny life by actors Simon Kent and Brigid Lohrey, getting mixed up in a town that has legit supernatural junk happening on the regular is pretty friggen fun and would be something I would imagine would hook new listeners to the appeal of the franchise.

Even better though for nerds like me, as this story doubles down on the status quo set by The House by the Sea in order to slowly grow out the range’s scope and serialization. I had been told that this arc takes to weaving in threads of things early, but little by little as the threads were attached to larger narrative quilts that were happening in the foreground (how’re these blanket related metaphors working for everybody?). While the first audio was more concerned with building a foundation, Beneath the Veil builds upward on it, very well. We see the quick return of Stephanie Ellyne’s Amy Jennings, shepherded in by none other than Carolyn and Maggie Evans themselves (both Kathryn Leigh Scott and Nancy Barrett returning to the roles and lighting up my day with their fantastic voices). We also get a quick mention of old, super-possessed-by-Nicholas-Blair, Gerald Conway, who is holed up still at Seaview, surely NOT scheming to destroy the town or the Collins family nosiree. We even get the first explicit mention of Beyond the Grave as a known quantity in this world, which is super exciting for me, Kate Ripperton’s Number One Fan. This bit proves that the range has really started to commit to serialized storytelling, so it is is fun to see that from early stories like this, knowing what I know now as a listener and fan.

Marie Wallace
But this adventure’s biggest development is the return of Marie Wallace to Dark Shadows (at least from my perspective). Though the script cheekily never outright says she is Frankenstein woman Eve, it does heavily hint at it, as she is credited under the name and serves as a flesh vessel for the newly awakened Danielle Roget, who was reintroduced after Conway blundered into Seaview. Wallace’s cooing, icy performance is a constant boon to the audio as she latches onto the young couple, seeking to take over Emma’s body and leave Collinsport. It is a little disappointed that Brigid Lohrey gets to be the final voice actor of Danielle (even though she is truly stellar throughout the audio! Even before the possession!) as Wallace’s take is truly spine-tingling is a material, almost warm creepiness, but I will take what I can get really. Any time any original actor show up in the booth for these and gives it their all, I am going to be happy. Nobody has really phoned it it just yet, though I don’t expect any would. They are all class.

Anyway, woolgathering aside, I really, really dug Beneath the Veil. Not just for it’s endless twists as this thing has one of the crazier endings, The Tony and Cassandra Mysteries notwithstanding, I have heard yet. But for it’s being emblematic of this range really trying to build something, beyond just being good solid horror stories with a well known licence behind them (though it DOES do that pretty damn well on it’s own). Kymberly Ashman and directors Darren Gross, David Darlington and Jim Pierson really nail this sophomore effort, by keeping it simple and creepy while at the same time slowly building a weird corner of the Big Finishverse that fans both new and old could dig into. Prequels aren’t usually supposed to be this fun, but I will be damned if I’m not having a blast with these. And I still have a little over half a dozen left to go! It is a Collinsport Christmas come early! IA! IA! CTHTHULU FLAGTEHN! Erm, sorry, I just get excited.

NEXT TIME! The Enemy Within! The return of Cyrus Longworth, Action Demon Child! Some Jennings family intrigue! Christopher Freaking Pennock! It should be a fun time. Be seeing you. 

The complete 1973 saga:

Justin Partridge has always loved monsters and he thinks that explains a lot about him. When he isn’t over analyzing comics at Newsarama or ranting about Tom Clancy over at Rogues Portal, he is building Call of Cthulhu games, spreading the good word of Anti-Life, or rewatching Garth Marenghi's Darkplace for the dozenth time. He can be reached at the gasping Lovecraftian void that is Twitter @j_partridgeIII or via e-mail at Odds are he will want to talk about Hellblazer.

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