Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Dark Shadows, The Road to Bloodline: The Curse of Shurafa


S-P-O-I-L-E-R-S Ahead!

Andrew Collins’ Barnabas shines in the viscerally entertaining The Curse of Shurafa!

Hello and welcome back to the Road to Bloodline, my latest foray into the Big Finishverse, detailing all the adventures our goth heroes took in the time after Bloodlust! Today we are discussing a legit “Greatest Hit” for the range, 2015’s The Curse of Shurafa, written by Rob Morris and directed by the ever steady Ursula Burton and David Darlington. Starring the newly regenerated Barnabas and well deployed original audio clips of Dr. Julia Hoffman herself, Grayson Hall, this icky epic is centered around a “lost episode” in Barnabas’ life in which he, Hoffman, and Professor Stokes faced down an evil Egyptian sorcerer once imprisoned by blood magic. This story was always one people told me I needed to get on and after listening to it, I now completely understand why. Packed to the gills with skin crawling horror and plenty of grist for the mill that is shipping the Barnabas/Julia paring, The Curse of Shurafa is an all around winner of an audio.

Barnabas Collins is having a quiet (read: brooding) night in when his kinfolk Amy Jennings-Cunningham asks him to keep an eye on his young relative Harry. The ancient vampire first blanches at the idea, but quickly finds himself regaling the young man with a tale of his mispent immorality, attempting to cure his affliction with Julia Hoffman and Prof. Stokes in Egypt. At first, I was kind of let down by the reuse of the “major character tells a new character” motif Panic introduced. Again, I was EXPECTING something set in real time after Bloodlust as this one, again like Panic, explicitly mentions the events of the serial in the lead up to Barnabas’ tale.

But my frustration quickly melted away as Andrew Collins launched into this absolute belter of a story. Unlike Panic, this audio’s concept is much, much stronger and has a real drive to it thanks to Rob Morris’ steadily horrifying script and Collins’ dynamic performance of it. Though Scott Haran and Stephanie Ellyne pipe in occasionally with banter, Shurafa is 100% Collins’ show and he more than rises to the occasion. Starting with a haughty, low toned timbre and building to a roaring fury, much like Jonatrhan Frid at peak powers, Collins commands the audience’s attentions, setting up the scenes in beautiful tandem with the detailed script and really allowing us to drink in the details through his performance. I have lamented a bit that I wished I could have spent a little more time with this new Barnabas during Bloodlust, but Curse of Shurafa has more than made up for his resignation to side-character in that serial.

Also? When I say Rob Morris’s script is horrifying, I mean, like, truly gross and off putting. Wallace actually had warned me prior to starting this one that it had some choice moments of body horror in it, and readers, he weren’t friggen kidding. You see, Shurafa’s whole terrifying gimmick was that he liked to put people to death using Egyptian fly larvae, sealing them in sarcophagi with thousands of them and opening the caskets to a newly born horde of flies. Well, naturally, now that he’s trying to come back to life, he just loooooves taking over people USING flies and swarming them inside and all through people and it is just as nasty as it sounds. Burton and Darlington’s sound design really amps up the ick factor of these scenes as they really layer the sound effects and background noise heavily on top of the mix, providing an unsettling score and support for Collins’ arresting performance.

You’ll notice that I haven’t really talked about the Julia Hoffman of it all, because frankly, the few times the production used Hall’s voice, it never really stood out that much for me. A few people had told me before I listened that it was a cool selling point of the audio, so you can imagine my disappointment when they were only a few incidental clips of Hall reacting to something. That isn’t to say that isn’t a cool touch! Because it totally is! And one I could see myself being really into should they pursue that further, but as it stands in this one, Hall’s contributions to the story were little more than a novelty to this listener. I know that might be an unpopular opinion, but know that it comes from a place of love and sincere criticism.

But that nitpick aside, I REALLY, really enjoyed The Curse of Shurafa and I could see it becoming a story I put on a regular rotation around my new Seaview’ed digs! Masterfully directed by David Darlington and Ursula Burton and blessed with a wonderful, largely solo performance of Rob Morris’ script by Andrew Collins, this audio is an early stand out for this column. As it stands now, this one is the one to beat! But it is still early days, my creepies so we shall see what we get into further down the Road. If you liked this audio, let’s talk about it over at The CHS Drawing Room on Facebook! It is a new discussion space we here at the CHS moderate and it has already pulled in a groovy crowd of fellow goths and weirdos who have already started all manner of great discussion. We hope to see you there. We have plenty of brandy for everyone!

NEXT TIME! The Scribe Award nominated In The Twinkling of An Eye! The return of Marie Wallace’s Jessica Griffin and Sheriff of my Heart, Jackie Tate! That should be a pretty good time. Until then, Be Seeing You.

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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