Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Dark Shadows, The 1973 Tapes: The Enemy Within


Just the SPOILERS AHEAD, ma’am

“You had an imaginary friend?” “ He is NOT imaginary and he is NOT my friend!”

What do you get when you cross The Omen with a particularly gimmicky Lifetime movie about star crossed lovers? The Enemy Within, that’s what! Welcome back dear friends to The 1973 Tapes as we cover The Enemy Within, Christopher Pennock’s comeback story and the devilish entertaining return of Cyrus Longworth, Actual Antichrist. Also returning is Lisa Richards as Sabrina Jennings, building up the Jennings clan during this arc in the ashes of Trask’s, setting up the return of Amy, making this a real family affair. Bloodily entertaining and armed with a real doozy of a twist, The Enemy Within is another wonderful entry into this arc, one that raises the stakes for the serial and introduces a few more dangerous pieces onto the board for the long game.

Click HERE to get the episode.
In what basically could be called a “post-credits sequence” in the story The Fall of the House of Trask, it is revealed that The Dark Lord’s methodical torture of Isaiah Trask was to produce and heir in the form of Cyrus Longworth. Growing up, Cyrus had a voice in his head that he called John. That voice would tell him to do things, vying for control of the boy’s body. Well, now that boy is all grown up and in control of his demonic passenger, attempting to live a normal life as a handyman for hire in Bangor. But the sudden arrival of a new neighbor in his cul-de-sac, a Sabrina Jennings from Collinsport, threatens to break apart his control of his dark other half. And then...the bodies start piling up.

I know that Pennock has a, shall we say, divisive reputation within the Dark Shadows community, but here he really shines as the good-natured, but haunted Cyrus. A lot of the story’s opening minutes are centered around establishing Cyrus and Sabrina’s rapport, which allows both Pennock and Richards’ ample time to connect just as actors and really find a new footing within the franchise. Will Howells’ script really leans into both actors’ warmth and natural down to earth personalities and it makes it dark, murderous turns that the plot takes hit all the more.

Pennock is also given another great foil in the form of James Unsworth’s John. John is a sardonic (he prefers that word to “sarcastic”), constantly mocking second lead to the story that is always piping in Mystery Science Theatre 3000 like commentary on Cyrus’ life or coaching him through awkward social interactions. Directors Darren Gross and David Darlington neatly fold Unsworth’s performance into the background of the story. I was kind of worried that his constantly running commentary on the story would grate on me after awhile but thankfully the script makes him genuinely funny and Unsworth and Pennock have an adversarial, but engrossing chemistry that stands as a sharply entertaining contrast to the romantic dynamic Pennock and Richards find early on.

But it wouldn’t be Dark Shadows without some supernatural murders and The Enemy Within’s got ‘em in spades! As soon as Sabrina moves in, people start dropping like flies, and shockingly enough, it isn’t because of the Antichrist! The end result miiiiight be too good to give away so I’ll just say it has to do with the Jennings family curse and leave it to you to experience for yourself this spookiest of holiday seasons. But trust me when I say, it is more than worth your time. Given a extra heft of pathos by Pennock and Richards’ heartfelt performances and their character’s tragic backstories.

Another Tape down, gentle creeps! Both a solid direct sequel to The Fall of the House of Trask and a portentous continuation of the “1973” arc, The Enemy Within brings all the romance and horror of Dark Shadows back to the forefront with it’s localized story and heartfelt script. Equal parts demonic drama and romantic New England interlude, The Enemy Within is another authentic slice of Dark Shadows drama from the fine folks at Big Finish Productions as they build the range into something more than just standalone creep shows.

NEXT TIME! The Lucifer Gambit! Amy Jennings! More murder (probably)! Part 4 of 9! Exclamation points! 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 justin@betweenthepanels.com Odds are he will want to talk about Hellblazer.

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