Archive for the ‘horror’ Category

“Reading Robert Aickman is like watching a magician work, and very often I’m not even sure what the trick was.  All I know is that he did it beautifully.”-  Neil Gaiman

Recently, I came across a mention of Robert Aickman again.  He was  a horror writer I’d hear about every once in awhile, certainly not as famous as many of his contemporaries.  A writer’s writer, it would seem.  The twentieth century’s “most profound writer of what we call horror stories”- according to Peter Straub.

Yet, he certainly has his critics as well, his stories being described as too obscure.

Curious to finally read him and form my own opinion, I picked up a copy of Dark Entries.

The first story within, “The School Friend” begins, “It would be false modesty to deny that Sally Tessler and I were the bright girls in school.” And so, an older Mel reflects upon how she met one of her oldest girlfriends.  Only a few pages in, I was hit by this doozy of a line.  “I was able to construe Latin fairly well for a girl, but the italics and long s’s daunted me.” Really? I recalled how once another woman mentioned she’d been reading a work with a female main character which happened to have  been written by a man.  Everything was fine and believable until the writer had the character make reference to her period by calling it, “my menstruation.”  Because no woman talks like that.  I had a similar feeling here because I doubt there is any female who thinks to herself, “wow! I can do this pretty well, you know, even though, I’m like, only a girl.”

Okay, so Mr. Aickman wasn’t going to win any POV awards for this, but I tried to put that aside and concentrate on the rest of the story.

Forty-one year old Mel comes into contact with her old friend after decades apart when Sally returns to their hometown after the death of her father.  A man who “never went out”, and who received a doctorate for an unknown subject.   Sally, herself, was always odd- living to work and revealing very little about her private life.

Now Sally has moved back in her father’s old house.  One that Mel describes as, “entirely commonplace, and in the most unpleasing fashion.”  After her friend suffers an accident, Mel is asked to look after the place.  To her surprise, she discovers every room is kept locked; there is one chain with numerous keys to open each one.

What Mel discovers inside the house is difficult to say even after one has finished the story, and my initial reaction was one of disappointment.  Some ambiguity is fine.  Were Miles and Flora really haunted in The Turn of the Screw, or was their governess mad?  What exactly did Eleanor and Theodora see in The Haunting of Hill House?

But here, it felt like full pages had been ripped out.  As though the author was being lazy, here you do the work.  I’ll just sit back and appear clever.

Yet, the story stayed with me, and I recalled hearing how Aickman’s stories begged to be reread.  In doing so, I did notice more things- said and unsaid- that had escaped my initial notice.

I’m not yet settled on how I feel about this particular little strange story, but it continues to gnaw.

Fritz Leiber: “Robert Aickman has a gift for depicting the eerie areas of inner space, the churning storms and silent overcasts that engulf the minds of lonely and alienated people. He is a weatherman of the subconscious.”

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“Under the oil lamp that hung outside the Hare and Billet public house opposite the willowed pond at the bottom right of the heath, a spindly figure came hurrying into view.  She was cloaked in black, pulling the swirling material close to her body and moved with determined strides, hurried along by the threat of what stirred above.  Illuminated by the orange glow of the pub windows, she stopped suddenly, distracted by a noise at the pond.  Beyond the curtain of dark willow branches that dipped down into the water something was moving.”

…..

Racing up the old Dover road from the coast two large black carriages pulled by four muscular black horses attempted to outrun the storm that had kept pace with them since their arrival in the country.  Finally Blackheath opened up to them, the storm a dramatic black sea above it. The carriages veered and swayed as their wheels hit verge and pothole, turning the corners too fast and at alarming speeds.  They threatened to topple as they approached the Princess of Wales public house that marked entry into the village.”

Set in 1850s Blackheath- an area of south-east London- Alan Williams’s novel begins as forty year-old Maggie Cloak makes her way home through a crazy storm, while her younger sister, Judy, sits at her desk penning the first lines of the gothic horror she is attempting.

It is a few years since the Fox Sisters of Hydesville, NY made headlines with their spirit tappings, and across the sea, the Spiritualist Movement has caught fire.

As their chocolate store is barely selling enough sugar mice or marzipan ladybirds to keep them fed, Judy declares they must finally close shop and, “We must open the Blackheath Seance Parlour!”

And so begins one of the most fun, engaging romps I’ve read in years.  Filled with beautifully realized characters, a poignant portrait of a troubled sister relationship, a surprising friendship between Maggie and a minister, a serial killer stalking women across the desolate landscape, psychics, angry royalty, and a very naughty gothic number by Judy… this one had me utterly engrossed.

It may be important to note, that others have pointed out some anachronisms.  Indeed, it is unlikely that Judy’s bawdy, explicit novel with 18th century sensibilities would be so easily published in the repressed, hushed nineteenth.  However, the inaccuracies blended so easily into the story, that they never took me out of it.

Blackheath Seance Parlour

written by Alan Williams

2013

Favorite book read in ages.

… and I fell behind.  Much behind.  While I continued watching, and thoroughly enjoying the sophmore season of Penny Dreadful, I’ve been so caught up in a manuscript, that I didn’t have enough of a desire to write posts on our show of glorious horrors.   So forgive me for skipping to the end, because I do want to take a moment to discuss the season finale.

I won’t do a plot summary as there doesn’t seem to be a point in doing so after all this time.

But there are some key moments that are on my mind:

John Clare and Lavinia.  Anyone who has read my posts know I loathe Frankenstein’s monster.  Whatever name he takes on, however many Wordsworth poems he recites in that knowing and tender voice, he is always, always only concerned with self.  Everything is how it relates to him.  Some hurt him so now the world will pay, and  any woman who doesn’t swoon at his poetic yearnings will find herself at the wrong end of his  hands.  But Rory Kinnear has played him with perfection, always leaving me wanting to find the beauty within the monster.

In Lavinia, we discovered the monster inside the beauty.  As she mocked him, there was a sense that she was really seething, “You thought I must be pure and good because I am beautiful and blind.”

Many have wondered why he let her live.  A moment of kindness?  Or cruelty- knowing her life would become a hell?  I think it was because in that instance he saw himself in her.

We will probably not see either of them again.  Her fate on the cold streets of London can be imagined, as can his in that cold, dark sea.

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next post: an ode to Sembene

 

Originally published on my former blog: Gypsyscarlett Weblog on April 30, 2012

Released in 1966 by Mario Bava, Kill, Baby, Kill, is a fantastic horror set in a Carpathian village.  Despite its ridiculous American title (the original being, Operazione paura) which conjures images of a c-grade slasher, the film is a surprising mix of an old-fashioned ghost story with dashes of surrealism. The film begins as a woman leaps to her death onto a spiked fence.  Then a child’s mocking laughter is heard as the opening credits roll. An outsider, Dr. Paul Eswai, is summoned to perform the autopsy.  He quickly befriends a young nurse, Monica Shuftan, who only recently arrived at the village, herself.   She reveals having been born there, but sent away when orphaned at two years.  “I came to visit my parents’ graves,” she tells him. Image
The two quickly learn that the villagers fear a ghost child named Melissa.   Legend goes that anyone who sees the malevolent spirit will kill themselves Image
The scientifically-minded doctor scoffs at the notion of a curse, while the more emotional, but sensible Monica realizes that science can’t explain the odd deaths which have plagued the village for twenty years. Along with the pile of bodies all found with coins in their hearts, is the mysterious presence of the black-robed Ruth.

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     When a teen-aged girl claims to have seen the ghost, her petrified mother cries for her husband to seek help from the witch.  But when he opens the door to do so, she is already standing at the threshold.   “We know when someone is in harm’s way.”
When Paul arrives, he is aghast to witness what he considers Ruth’s arcane healing methods.  And further, he ignores her warnings to leave the village.   Instead, he continues to search for rational answers and save the ailing Nadienne. Meanwhile, Monica is plagued by a doll-filled nightmare that suggests there’s more to her past in connection with the village than even she is aware.. As the plot deepens, Monica, Paul, and Ruth find their way to the home of the Baroness Graps, the reclusive mother of the ghost child.  Two are seeking the truth.  One, is looking for retribution. Image Not as well known as Bava’s sublime, Black Sunday, this film is every bit as worth a view.   Interesting camera angles and dazzling colors create a highly atmospheric mood.   An intelligent script converts some of the genre’s even by then tired clichés.   Giacomo Rossi-Stuart displays solid acting as Paul, though he lacks the charisma necessary to elevate the role from merely the “good guy”. It is the women of this film that the camera loves.  Erika Blanc is effective as Monica, and even drab clothes can’t hide her charms.  The haunting Fabienne Dali (Ruth) steals every scene she’s in.  And of course, there’s always Melissa and her devoted mother…

In honor of the gifted science fiction, fantasy, and horror writer, Ms. Lee, who passed away on May 24, 2015, here are some lines from her collection of retold fairytales, Red As Blood.

from “Wolfland”:

“She must have slept, dazed by the continuous rocking of the carriage, but all at once she was wide awake, clutching in alarm at the upholstery.  What had awoken her was a unique and awful choir.  The cries of wolves.”

“Having run the gamut of her own premonition, Lisel sank back on the seat and yearned for a pistol or at least a knife.  A malicious streak in her lent her the extraordinary bravery of desiring to inflict as many hurts on her killers as she was able  before they finished her.  She also took time to curse Anna the Matriach.  How wretched the old woman would grieve and complain when the story reached her.  The clean-picked bones of her granddaughter had been found a mere mile or so from her chateau in the rags of a blood-red cloak; by the body a golden clasp,rejected as inedible.”

from “When the Clock Strikes” :

“The duke’s funeral cortege passed slowly across the snow, the broad open chariots draped with black and silver, the black-pumed horses, the chanting priests with their glittering robes, their jeweled crucifixes and golden censers.  Crowds lined the roadways to watch the spectacle.  Among the beggar women stood a girl.  No one noticed her.  She gazed at the bier pitilessly.  As the young prince rode by in his sables, the seal ring on his hand, the eyes of the girl burned through her ashy hair, like a red fox through grasses.”

from “The Golden Rope”:

“All around the house,the dead trees, a palisade out-stared the moon.  They were a constant reminder of her youth which she had given up her vitality which had been drained.  And yet, tonight it seemed to her there was a strange stirring in the trees and in her blood.”

red as blood

Mary Shelley

 

Originally published in my former blog: Gypsyscarlett Weblog on February 9, 2009

In the summer of 1816, a cold spell swept across Europe and North America.   The unusual chill caused snowfall in July and unparalleled thunderstorms.   Pamphlets were passed around predicting the end of the world.

During June of that year,  five of the most famous persons in the world gathered together in a summerhouse in Villa Diodati, on the southern shore of Lake Geneva in Switzerland.  “Mad, bad, and dangerous to know”- Lord Byron, Dr. John Polidori, ethereal Percy Shelley, Claire Clairmont (eighteen years-old and pregnant with Byron’s child), and her stepsister, Mary Godwin (mistress to the married Shelley).

Mary Godwin (later Shelley) was born on August 30, 1797 to the radical political philosopher William Godwin, and  founding feminist Mary Wollstonecraft (authoress of “A Vindication of the Rights of Woman”).   Mr. Godwin never got over the death of  his wife who died due to complications during childbirth.  He taught young Mary to spell her name by tracing the letters on her mother’s tombstone.

Although both Godwin and Wollstonecraft had been disciples of the free love movement, he was outraged when his own daughter began a love affair with the married poet and refused to speak with her. Mary had spent her childhood haunted by the idea that she’d murdered her mother and  was determined to prove her consequent life worthy.   It had not been easy growing up the child of famed revolutionaries.   Now,  practically disowned by the father she adored, and in the company of  the poetic geniuses, Byron and Percy, Mary felt an even greater need to prove herself.

On June 16, 1816, as candles flickered and lightning illuminated the room, Byron read from Fantasmagoriana,  a volume of German shudder stories translated into French.  Upon finishing, he challenged everyone in the room to write a ghost story.  This was just the incitement Mary needed. She later explained, “I busied myself to think of a story,- a story to rival those which had excited us to this task.  One which would speak to the mysterious fears of our nature, and awaken thrilling horror.”

However, she was unable to think of an idea until June 22nd.   On that evening, the conversation turned to, “the nature of the principle of life, and whether there was any probability of its ever being discovered and communicated.”  They discussed the experiments of Erasmus Darwin who had, “preserved a piece of vermicelli in a glass case, till by some extraordinary means it began to move with voluntary motion.”

Past midnight, she found herself unable to sleep- imagining a corpse reanimated.  “My imagination, unbidden, possessed and guided me, gifting the successive images that arose in my mind with a vividness far beyond the usual bounds of reverie.”   Her eyes closed, she saw, “a pale student of unhallowed arts….kneeling beside the thing he had put together.  I saw the hideous phantasm of a man stretched out, and then, on the working of some powerful engine, show signs of life, and stir with an uneasy, half vital motion.”

After opening her eyes, she was still not able to dismiss the “hideous phantom”.  She later recalled thinking, “O! if I could only contrive one which would frighten my reader as I myself had been frightened that night.”  A few moments later she realized,  “I have found it!”

The next morning, she announced having thought of a story.  And along with the dream, she brought with her  a lifetime spent devouring the works of Goethe, Dante, Schiller, Shakespeare, Milton, and Matthew “Monk” Lewis.

In writing, Frankenstein ; or, The Modern  Prometheus, she would further utilize the theory of vitalism which held that a life force separated living things from  non-living things.  Some believed in a connection between vitalism (or elan vital) and electricity.  In 1803,  Giovanni Aldini had claimed to make dead bodies sit up and raise their arms by applying electricity.

Mary began, “It was on a dreary night of November that I beheld the accomplishment of my toils.” ( This opening spoken by Dr. Victor Frankenstein would later become the opening of chapter 4 in the 1818 edition and chapter 5 in the revised 1831 version).

Dr. Frankenstein discovers the secrets of creating life.  After gathering human parts from charnel houses, he infuses the spark of life into the being.  However, Frankenstein is immediately horrified at the ugliness of his own creation.    He casts the Monster out into the unfeeling world.  This Monster- sensitive and tender- seeks understanding from Man but is constantly spurned until he chooses suicide. ”I shall die.   I shall no longer feel the agonies which now consume me, or be the prey of feelings unsatisfied, yet unquenched.”

As Mary began penning what at first was only intended to be a short story, she could have no idea that she was creating one of the most enduring characters ever invented.   The  unnamed Monster, rejected by his own father, (as Mary had been rejected by hers) would outlive all of the five men and women gathered together in that villa on the shores of lake Geneva.

*quote by Lady Caroline Lamb- lover to Lord Byron

the monk

reblogged from my older blog, Gypsyscarlett: Writing the Victorian Gothic.  originally posted on May 20, 2012

Into the Gothic World of the Monk

One of my maxims for writing stories that take place in past eras is that people have always been the same.  What goes on inside hearts, and behind closed doors has never changed.   It is only the outer society that differs in clothes and manner.
     A fantastic example of this is the 1796 novel by Matthew G. Lewis.   It is difficult to imagine this being published in the staid Victorian period.  But go back one century to the much more bawdy 18th, and this book was not only published, it was a smashing hit.  The fact that some critics deemed it obscene and dangerous, of course, only helped to sell more copies.
      Matthew Lewis, born on July 9. 1775, to a prominant English family, wrote the novel in a span of ten weeks.  Inspired by the novel, Mysteries of Udolpho, he aimed to write his own Gothic masterpiece.   Evidently putting aside any care or worry what anyone would think of him or his novel, he went full out, no-holds barred. The title character, Ambrosio is the ultimate man of two faces.  To his congregation he is the embodiment of purity and moral excellence.  Inside, he is an ego-ist who feeds on their adoration.
       The novel becomes a Matryoshka doll of stories within stories.  Romance,  sex, magic, murder,  and ghosts  fill the pages. While the confessions he hears indicate that most of the characters are decent enough folk caught up in an unjust world,  Ambrosio, himself, spirals into one of the most loathesome characters in all of literature.  A hypocrite to the extreme who blames everyone  and everyone but himself for anything and everything he does,  his arrogance and utter disregard for others leads him to rape and murder.
     The novel also boasts one of the most fascinating, unapologetic characters in Matilda.  As Ambrosio’s lover and nemesis,  she is his perfect foil, and the reader will be quite curious whose side she is really on.
     Story-wise, the novel is a marvel and it is easy to see why it had such great influence on such later literary figures as Emily Bronte and Poe.  On the negative side, the novel is unfortunately filled with the racism and sexism of its day.  Reading the treatment of the women is not easy.  Their constant punishment will raise the hair of anyone with modern sensibility.   While the men happily go along their merry ways, you can bet any of the female characters who engages in physical intercourse- whether it be consensual sex or  rape, will either die or lose her beauty and retire into a convent.  Only one female character in the book who has had pre-marital sex is “allowed” by the author to marry the man she loves at the end.   But not until after she has suffered one of  the cruelest, most heartbreaking tragedies one can imagine.
     Accepting the book for the era it was written, I was able to greatly enjoy the story while glaring at times and being grateful that authors no longer need to punish their ladies as some sort of horrible, hypocritical “moral”.
     Recommended as a highly engaging, spellbinding, and at times, surprisingly humorous tale with a fantasic, witty end.

Six of Cups

Bohemian Gothic Tarot Six of Cups

Nostalgia.  Fond memories of childhood.  Connecting the past to the present.

from the Bohemian Gothic Tarot:  “Innocence.  Happy memories, especially of childhood.   Indulging in simple, childlike pleasures.  Losing yourself in nostalgia and regrets.  Hiding some ulterior motive under an apparently sweet and naive act.”

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Simone Simon and Amy Reed in Curse of the Cat People

six of swords

Six of Swords:  Remaining serene through troubled waters.  Changes and travel.  Nightmares of the dream and physical realm.   Not being able to escape your problems.  Trying to run away.

from the Bohemian Gothic Tarot: “Getting through a hard time calmly and quietly.  Making a profound change in your life, one that will take some time.  Feeling ‘dead’ to the world.  A period of mourning for a loss.”

let's scare jessica to death

Scene from Let’s Scare Jessica to Death

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Pride in achievements.  Self-confidence.  Valor and bravery through tasks.

from the Bohemian Gothic Tarot: “A hard-won and worthy victory.  Taking a moment to bask in the glory.  A sense of personal achievement.  A victory won at the expense of others.  Letting a triumph go to your head, becoming dictatorial and over-confident.”

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Willemijn Verkaik as Elphaba in Wicked: Die Hexen von Oz

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Six of Pentacles:  Charity.  Helping others in need.  Receiving aid. Financial difficulties.  Monetary and material loss. Making a bargain you may not want to keep.  Making a dangerous pact. 

from the Bohemian Gothic Tarot:  “Charity.  Helping someone in a practical way.  Generosity.  ‘Charity’ with strings attached.  Getting control over someone with your financial support.  A caring act that is in fact hypocritical and self serving.”

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Scene from Fritz Lang’s Der Müde Tod

Season two. Episode 5

A close-up of Vanessa’s eye.  The camera pans out to showcase the profile of the doll made in her image.

Surrounded by her lifelike puppets, their faces aglow from candlelight, Mrs. Poole  nails something into the forehead of her latest (Malcolm’s wife) while chanting in the demonic tongue.

“Mother.” Hecate enters.  “Her hair.”

Mrs. Poole reaches to take the strands which Hecate has snatched from Vanessa.

“May I?” Hecate raises her chin, and her mother nods in amused pride.

The younger witch  saunters over to the doll of Vanessa, while Mrs. Poole returns to her own task.   Together, they intone over their respective works.

The chanting rises.

Gladys Murray bolts awake, screaming.

penny dreadful above the vaulted sky

Back at the manor, Ethan, Vanessa, Sir Malcolm, Ferdinand Lyle, and Sembene are gathered in the drawing room.  Realizing they know what their enemy wants, but not why, they agree to work every weapon, every superstition, every ritual to ward off the nightwalkers.

To a melodic score, the group begins to prepare the house against attack.

A witch appears in the mirror before Lyle.  He throws a black crepe over the glass.

Vanessa prays in her room, alone, until two other witches gather at her sides.   Feeling their presence, she runs to Ethan but then confesses to not being sure if they’d been real or just in her head.

“I wish I were going mad.  Then they could lock me away and cut out the madness.  Do you know the true path to freedom?  Open any vein.”

When Ethan insists she wouldn’t do that, she agrees bitterly that God has a plan.  Perhaps even to why Ethan has killed in the past.

“Whatever you’ve done,” she takes his hand. “I accept you.  We are together for a reason.”

Josh Hartnett as Ethan Chandler and Eva Green as Vanessa Ives in Penny Dreadful (season 2, episode 5). - Photo: Jonathan Hession/SHOWTIME - Photo ID: PennyDreadful_205_1753

Josh Hartnett as Ethan Chandler and Eva Green as Vanessa Ives in Penny Dreadful (season 2, episode 5). – Photo: Jonathan Hession/SHOWTIME – Photo ID: PennyDreadful_205_1753

Back at the loft, Frankenstein argues once again with his Monster.

“Enough.” John slams his hands down on the work table.  “I have lived with your evasions too long.  Don’t think I can’t look into your black heart and see the machinations laid bare!”

After the good ol’ Doctor tells him to get lost, Clare grabs him by the collar.  “Then you had a power, Frankenstein.  If you had only used it kindly, what a different story we would be telling…I will see her.”

Indeed, he goes upstairs to where Lily was busy reading.  As Frankenstein sits on the stairs, listening, John Clare tries to woo the reluctant woman.

“Ours is an exceptional history,” he tries, and there is a pitiful sadness as he recounts a false history.

“Let us start by being friends,” Lily offers.  “I can do no other.”

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During this long night, Gladys Murray continues to struggle, foam now forming at the corners of her mouth, while servants pin down her arms.  Elsewhere, Mrs Poole continues working upon her eerie doll, fresh blood running down its face.

Morning finally comes.

As Chandler makes his way down a busy London street, he is accosted by Inspector Rusk.  “Scotland Yard.  I’d like a few words if I may.”

Meanwhile, Frankenstein takes Lily out to dine where they come upon Vanessa.  Unfortunately, there is not even a flicker of recognition as Miss Ives greets the transformed woman.

lily and vanessa

Back at his office, the Inspector zooms in on the fact that Ethan had lived at the Mariner’s Inn. “There were many murders.  All guests have been accounted for.  Except for one Brona Croft, and one…Ethan Chandler.” The troubles started when Ethan arrived with his show, the Inspector notes.

“You’re a mystery.” And he wants to know Ethan’s real name…

#

While volunteering once more in the village struck by cholera, Vanessa again runs into John Clare.  “Do you know you share the name of a dead poet?”

“Yes.” He chuckles.  “Do you like poetry?”

“All sad people like poetry.  Happy people like songs,” Vanessa smiles ruefuly through one of the show’s most beautiful and elegiac lines.

“I’ve always been drawn to John Clare’s story,” he continues.  “He was only five feet tall.  Sort of freakish.  Perhaps due to this, he felt  a singular affinity with the outcasts and the unloved…the broken…” And the two continue to bond over the haunting lines of I Am.

“And how are we to navigate the waters when they are so alien?” He asks at one point.

“The sea is waiting for you.” She later offers her hand for a dance.  “Set sail.”

penny dreadful john and vanesssa

Dorian Gray paints the town with Angelique until they run into someone she stole money from in the past, and Sir Malcolm enjoys more time with Mrs Poole.

“I can honestly say I’ve never met a woman like you.”

“You have no idea.”

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“What’s damning you tonight?” Ethan teases Ferdinand back at the manor.

The older man sweeps his hand over the relics spread across the table.  “Here it is in Greek.  And in Latin.”

Lapus Dei,” Ethan reads. “The Hound of God.”

“I can’t endure dangling repetitions.  It’s like a poem waiting to be rhymed.”

#

Angelique comes to Gray in her masculine clothes, and recounts the years of pain she has suffered.

“Do you think I don’t understand what it is to feel different?”

“I think I’m tired, Dorian.  I’ve been fighting so long.”

“But you’re not fighting alone.”

Soon they are in each other’s arms as are Sir Malcolm and Mrs. Poole, and Chandler and Vanessa.

Gladys Poole awakens, grasping.  In her room are two headstones.  Upon them, the names of her children.

Hands reach out from below the floor.

Her children rise from out of the dirt.

Come.  They offer.

All goes silent in her room.

Thunder, however, pounds in Lily’s, and she runs to Victor for comfort…

#

An interesting contrast can be seen between John Clare and Angelique.  Both have suffered immeasurable pains due to physical masks.  But one wallows in that pain, while the other strives to enjoy life nonetheless.

During the first season, my only real complaint was the lack of emotion.  Everything looked and sounded great, but there was a disconnect with the characters. All that has changed this season. The relationship between Gray and Angelique is the most touching in a long time.  John Clare might annoy me, but he makes me care, and I’m rooting for him to grow as a person.

Also during season one, I felt averse against what I figured was the inevitable romantic pairing of Ethan and Vanessa.  Not a fan of these two must be together for no other reason than because they are the leads- a weak plot device used on too many programs  However, as tonight Josh Harnett and Eva Green sizzled together, I am  warming to the idea of them.

Ethan’s cowboyisms, Vanessa’s craftiness, Brona back from the dead, Frankenstein vs his creation, Gray and Angelique, Malcolm and Mrs Poole, the witches…am loving this season.

Til next time.

“And then?”
“They burnt her alive.” The fourth episode of the sophmore season begins as Vanessa finishes the tale she began in last week’s, The Nightcomers. However, now Dr.Frankenstein, Sembene, Ferdinand Lyle, and Sir Malcolm have joined the previous solo-audience of Ethan.
“We have to find out what these things are,” Ethan not-so-sagely concludes.
“Yes. They’re witches. Understood,” Dr. Frankenstein interrupts. Since Penny Dreadful may be accused of taking itself a bit too seriously from time to time, this moment of very subtle, natural humor was much appreciated.

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“Witchcraft has a long history in many cultures, Doctor,” the dandyish Ferdinand Lyle puts in, making one wonder if he is trying to throw them a hint, as he can’t be pleased being under the control of Miss Poole.

As the group gathers around the table to continue trying to put together the pieces of artifacts they have gathered, Ferdinand tells them, “It is not so much a language as a collection of known languages. Old languages forming new patterns.”
“Found us to be evil angels so He cast us out,” Ethan deciphers with his knowledge of Latin.
“It is not just a story,” Ferdinand nods. “It is an autobiography. The memoirs of the devil.”

After the group disperses, Vanessa returns to the foyer to find Sembene sitting on the stairs. “Watching those things that hunt at night. Lions.”

She turns from him and wanders away.

Night. Bartholomew Rusk begins to investigate the murder of the couple whose baby was kidnapped by Hecate.
“We’ve been going about this all wrong,” he realizes. “We’re pursuing patterns of logic when the answer lies elsewhere.” In magic.

Meanwhile, Oscar Putney continues plans for his freak show. Down in his cellar, John Clare and Lavinia get to know each other while studying the masks.
“Father’s murderers. All those figures screaming in his new crime scenes. Ah, Mr. Clare, it hurts me to create them. Like I’m bringing them to life and then torturing them. Like some sort of terrible African Voodoo doll.” Of which the now-changing Clare reveals he no longer believe life is all about suffering.
Indeed, she agrees, “there is hope for you, anyway.”

Outside, the newsman waves his papers. “All murders on the underground. Read about it!” Ethan grabs a copy while being watched by the three witches. And then a certain Hecate makes her move:

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Elsewhere in London-

“Honestly, Doctor, this is the last thing I expected.” Vanessa laughs as she assists good ol’ Frankenstein as he clothes shops for his “cousin”, Lily.

Hecate (she claimes named by her classics-loving parents, and holding a degree in botany) flirts with Ethan and thinks she has him enthralled until he accuses her of being sent to spy on him by his father.

Gray takes Angelique out for a night at the Gossima Parlour.
“Electrical lights,” she laughs. “What it does to a girl’s complexion.”
“Shall we keep score?” Gray asks as they settle to play a game of table-tennis.
“Why else live?” The other arches a brow.

S02E04_Evil_Spirits_In_Heavenly_Places_1

“He could smell me,” Hecate later explains to her mother on why she could not hook Ethan.

“Then we shall fight him tooth for claw. I’ll prepare the enchantment for tonight.”

Back at the loft:
penny dreadful evil spirits frankenstein and lily

“So women wear corsets so they don’t over-exert themselves.” -Lily to Frankenstein.
“Yes.”
“What would happen if they did?”
“They would take over the world.”

As the two flirt over the issue of gender equality,back at the mansion Lyle and Malcolm continue to try to further deciper the relics.

“You’re enjoying this, aren’t you?” The former teases. “Now that you’ve given up the Nile, you need a new quest.”

And he further tries to lightheardly warn Malcolm away from Miss Poole. “You might proceed with precaution, eh?…Those little dalliances can get so Byzantine.”

“If we can accept the Devil walks amongst us today,” Sir Malcolm later surmises to his group, “we must conclude this is part of an ongoing story.” Foretelling a future, mostly Vanessa’s…

and then the house is invaded by the three witches…

And thus ended this lively episode. In contrast to last week’s darkly atmospheric Nightwalkers, tonight was a fun-romp through London.  From Vanessa’s lighthearted shopping spree with the Doctor to Gray’s date with Angelique, to Ethan figuring out Hecate, yet not figuring out Hecate, there was a large feeling of lighthearted play.
Kudos to the heads of casting. Along with the main cast, all the actors in the supporting roles are performing briliantly.

favorite lines: “Whatever we can imagine, far worse is true.”- Doctor Frankenstein

“No sensible shoes now, Mr. Chandler.”- Hecate

fun little tidbit: Vanessa always eats dessert for breakfast. A gal after my own heart!

Questions:

-Sembene! Sembene! Sembene!

– might Hecate really fall for Ethan?

– and is she tired of being under her mother’s total control?

– why did she claim that she was named after a sea goddess, and not a moon goddess as Vanessa later corrects to Ethan? Surely she had to figure that Ethan might also have known that fact, and have read Macbeth… It seems a rather stupid, unnecessary lie.  Was it only thrown in as plot convenience so our people could quickly come up to speed?

– when will Vanessa meet Cousin Lily?

– Does Angelique have ulterior motives when it comes to Gray? Probably. But I think it would be a nice change if she didn’t…

til next week…