23 February 2015

Dark Shadows: Bloodlust xiii


What a climax this is. After twelve episodes which have each added to the scope of Bloodlust, the series culminates on its most ambitious episode yet. Do not read on if you haven't heard this episode yet, as while I'll try and avoid the biggest spoilers, some of the smaller elements of the episode are still worth hearing fresh. 

The spooky goings-on concerning the layers of illusions generated by Carolyn are much more the sort of thing I expected from Bloodlust before I listened. I enjoyed what we actually got (human drama) far more, but that's not to say this kind of story feels unwelcome here. This is the biggest episode of the series, and Flanagan writes with the intention of tricking the audience. Across the course of the episode, there are moments clearly intended to make you think "So they're the murderer!". Suffice to say the killer's true identity wasn't a complete surprise - I definitely predicted it not too long ago, although that's not saying much - but the explanation justifies the whole series. 

The way the Petofi plot is expanded is particularly satisfying, and makes the whole story potentially catastrophic. The resolution makes complete sense in light of Part Twelve, and this is a great send-off for the two central characters of the series. I can imagine the meeting (probably in a pub) where it was decided what exactly it was that was being dug for - one lack audience subversion. Flanagan does well to make this a coherent narrative, a poignant send-off and an unnerving piece of horror fiction too. The not-so-subtle subtext about humans being monsters has been especially noticeable in Flanagan's last two episodes, but has been an underlying theme of the entire series. When we're dealing with supernatural creatures, it feels like a pleasingly original stance to take.

And so to Bloodlust as a whole. This was my first proper experience of Dark Shadows, and it's encouraged me to try more should I ever work my way through my current backlog. The supernatural isn't something I'd naturally reach for, but I think people in my position and its fans would both be satisfied by this, with a healthy dose of both drama and horror to keep things ticking over. Regarding the plotting of the series, I can't fault Bloodlust, with each beat coming at precisely the right time. The two-hander that was Part Twelve was a great choice, and my favourite of the series because it shows just how far two characters have come. Their union helps sell the threat Petofi poses tenfold.

But the rest of the team behind Bloodlust have all been exemplary too, not just the writers. The cast are all of a staggeringly high calibre and their investment in the scripts is invaluable. Although there are no weak links, I must single out Matthew Waterhouse, Asta Parry and Lara Parker for especial praise. They haven't had the easiest of parts to play (particularly so in the former case) but all have proved a revelation. Bloodlust doesn't end entirely happily, but given it's set in Collinsport, that's the best that can be hoped for. 

I was aware that there's at least one story set in the twenty-first century but deliberately avoided it in case it might reveal any detail whatsoever, like if a character survived this. However, seasoned fans should be more than happy with how the franchise is treated here, with many explicit references to the stories The Blind Painter and Beyond the Grave throughout the series. I don't even know what these stories are about, but I recognise the titles now. That's how steeped in Dark Shadows (or at least Big Finish's incarnations) I've become just from purchasing Bloodlust. Damn Joe Lidster and his powers of persuasion.

Any criticisms I may have levelled at early episodes have now been repealed, especially with David Darlington's style of sound design and music. These have complemented the main feature perfectly, and have been remarkable scores in themselves. Perhaps we might get some kind of isolated score release in future? I can but hope. 

Bloodlust is a perfect place for Dark Shadows beginners. A lack of foreknowledge doesn't limit enjoyment, only serving to add another layer of mystery to whole thing. And it certainly rewards repeat listens, and I've already found out with Part One. A repeat of this formula is surely a must, and I'd like to do all I can to help get the word out about this series because inevitably it won't get anywhere near the kind of numbers it deserves, which is a tragedy. If you still haven't bought it, do it. Take a punt. You won't regret it.

Part Thirteen wraps things up perfectly, but leaves the door for more supernatural stories wide open. And I hope to be there when they come (hint: May).


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