A Clown with a Twist

As part of our Contemporary Media and the Gothic series, Jenah Colledge has done a character review of Twisty the clown, from the hit US show American Horror Story: Freakshow. Jenah is third year English and Creative Writing student.

The element of fear; certainly a major emotion associated with clowns. With many people, the mere word ‘clown’ causes their brain to throw up a barrier, a guard, in order to lock out any conversation. The clown has, most categorically, became a horrifying scare factor for most children and adults, yet has anyone ever considered slowing down their running shoes to ask why? Of course if in a physical situation where you are being chased by a white face with an axe, I would advise otherwise. Literally however, this is a subject that involves a larger meaning, an in depth glance at the twisted psychoanalysis of a carnival slave.

Initially, the disturbance a person feels over clowns may be stimulated from the underlying fear of the unknown, causing sudden apprehension as to who the clown really is. I know my mother told me to never talk to strangers. After the seed is planted, the mind begins to boggle. An overpowering whirlwind of thoughts reeking havoc within the walls of the human mind, in search of confirmation or understanding about what is simultaneously going on within the mind of the clown; in the mind of the man hiding behind paint.

As a Gothic figure, the clown is often used through imagery to signify the unknown, a terror and even mass murder (Stephen King’s IT). Yet little is ever given away regarding the story behind the action, much is left to the interpretation of the reader/viewer and what they imagine to be the cause. That is of course, when they’re not sprinting forward with the victim in a haste to escape danger. More importantly, most – well those who come face to face with a clown – might remain their focus on the threat, do they not? In doing so, they neglect the opportunity to understand the reasons why and the unfortunate circumstances that led to the clown’s ‘freaky’ ways. However, from a screen point of view, one would say it’s wise to run first and think later but in retrospect, literature offers the chance of pause to understand the threat.

Steering away from the norm, a television show recently involved a narrative story time, to sympathise with the characters life stories whilst showcasing an explanative message to the viewers.

American Horror Story: Freakshow went into a symbolic depth about the importance of acceptance towards those who are different in some way. The ‘Other’, if you like. The show focused intensively on the psychological damage that could be caused to an individual and the effects or events that can develop and occur from that. With writer Ryan Murphy incorporating the detailed life of a circus freak into each episode, it looked like his aim was to pull at the emotions of his viewers in the hope that they would condone the ‘freakish’ behaviour. Giving reason to something, of course at times can ensure understanding.
Twisty the massacre mad clown, portrayed his emotions using only his eyes, due to modelling his man made permanent masked smile. In an intense unraveling, viewers were faced with the distraught and weak Twisty as he succumbed to an evil force more powerful than him, commissioned to collect his tarnished soul. The transformed childlike character crumpled at the feet of Gothic Edward Mordrake in a desperate attempt to explain his actions were to blame on his bullied past. It didn’t work.It ends with his soul being taken for his crimes, leaving the viewers sympathising with the clown.

This is all grand if you’re not in desperate need to flee from a killer clown yourself. No seriously, if you are, then run. However, with the option of thought it’s then easy to identify that on this occasion and maybe others, clowns and their ‘horrifying’ presence is masking a tortured human being suffering from tragic memories. In that case, aren’t we all guilty of being controlled by our subconscious mind? So, although a fancy costume may add to a clowns image, deep inside they’re working just the same way as the rest of us. Now that’s twisted!

Episodes Referenced

“Monsters Among Us”. American Horror Story: Freakshow. Ryan Murphy. Fox. 8 October 2014.

“Massacres and Matinees”. American Horror Story: Freakshow. Ryan Murphy. Fox. 15 October 2014.

“Edward Mordrake (1)”. American Horror Story: Freakshow. Ryan Murphy. Fox. 22 October 2014.

“Edward Mordrake (2)”. American Horror Story: Freakshow. Ryan Murphy. Fox. 29 October 2014.

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Tate Langdon – The Loveable Murdering Rapist

As part of our Contemporary Media and the Gothic series, Holly Youell has done a character review of  Tate Langdon, from the hit US show American Horror Story. Holly is first year English and Creative Writing student.

Things to look for in a potential boyfriend:

  1. Good sense of humour? Check
  2. Loyal? Check
  3. Loving? Check
  4. A history of murder and setting his stepdad on fire? …Wait.

It’s not a completely alien concept – at least not to the world of fiction anyway. So many novels, films and TV programmes centre round a sexy, smouldering character who despite having murder on their resume are an audience’s obsession – the Byronic Hero.

Byronic heroes are written to romanticise a disturbing creature that an audience would normally have a negative disposition to. It originated in the early 19th century and the heroes were typically reimagined versions of creatures with strong connections to the supernatural – a popular one being the sympathetic vampire (tvtropes.org). These characters are described by Stein in 2004 as being ‘rehumanised’ and are given a moral centre. Usually they have their own rules and create their own moral code that they live by – shunning the rules of society and more often than not having a murky past which hints at dark crimes. Over time twisted, psychotic humans were given this treatment as well as the supernatural creatures, which birthed many Byronic heroes including the arrival of Tate Langdon. Masses of fans watching the FX hit series “American Horror Story” fell in love with Tate Langdon, portrayed by Evan Peters. At first it was probably Peters’ good looks which charmed audiences but as the series progresses it’s revealed that there’s something very wrong with Tate. Not that this matters to an audience though. Tate is still loved even when details of his dark actions come to light. Years later the shine has worn off for some people and they find themselves questioning the obsession a large chunk of the audience has with this somehow lovable murderer, wondering just how they were tricked into liking this character.

Tate’s initial introduction is when he is in Ben Harmon’s office at a counselling session, where he describes the dreams he has of killing students at his school. He says he kills people he likes, claiming that he’s taking them from the ‘filthy god damn world’ to somewhere ‘cleaner and kinder’. His cynicism is a popular trait among Byronic heroes and is due to a troubled past. Though he’s expressing mature fantasies of a disturbing nature he’s framed as an innocent boy. Tate is brash and funny, making jokes out of his life with an infectious smile. He has the inquisitiveness of a child, requesting Ben tells him more about the other patients in a tone that suggests patient confidentiality isn’t a thing he’s considered – just as a child wouldn’t. He also says ‘I like stories’, which is a simplistic sentence and is said in the way you’d expect an infant to. It then becomes acceptable for Tate to be a character to root for as his sick fantasies can be excused by his childlike demeanour and charm.

Tate’s redeeming qualities are shown as quickly as possible to ensure the audience bonds with him before his exact nature is revealed. In the first meeting with Tate his story is immediately interlinked with Violet’s to help with his likability. He comments on her self-harm in a way that suggests he’s familiar with this kind of pain himself, demonstrating vulnerability and giving him the potential to become a figure for Violet to empathise with. Violet has already been shown to be bullied at school even though it was only her first day. Three of the bullies attacked her and though she was outnumbered she fought back. Because of this, Violet is liked by the audience as those kind of courageous qualities are admired in a person. When Violet, an outsider, finds herself another kindred spirit in the form of Tate, a path is made for a romantic pairing. The tale of the love between two outsiders in society isn’t out of the ordinary but still resonates with the audience as something to be rooted for, thus beginning a Romeo and Juliet emulation. With audience sympathies behind it, these feelings can be attached to Tate even when he’s not being active in his Romeo role, allowing his behaviour to be overlooked. The idea of Tate being a saviour to other characters favoured by the audience came about in episode two, where he saves Violet and Vivienne from the home invasion. Out of seemingly nowhere Tate arrives and proceeds to take control of the situation, using his wit and keeping cool to overcome the invaders. It doesn’t matter that he ended up killing these people in place of calling the authorities, what the audience remembers is that Tate was Violet’s hero.

Yes, Tate is lovable when you view him without his crimes in mind but the issue certain viewers are bringing up is that who cares about the fact he looks after his girlfriend and is good-looking when he’s such a horrendous person? The answer is in Tate’s microcosm. When it comes to societal norms and conventions Tate goes by his own set, which is why some of his crimes can be more multi-dimensional than they first appear, therefore confusing the audience’s feelings towards him. Tate’s upbringing was less than pleasant and helped to shape his view of the world. Born as one of four children, Tate was the only one without a disability. His mother, Constance, considered her other children with contempt, keeping some of them locked away while constantly ridiculing others. Constance had a history of killing people that were not perfect or didn’t act as she wished, such as her cheating husband and her maid. Being expected to be perfect for a woman who murdered those who were not was a great struggle for Tate (CharacterCorpse, 2013). Tate’s father was absent throughout his childhood and he described his father as ‘running away a lot’ which contributed to his psychological upheaval.

As a result of all of this, Tate’s view on the world was warped but his actions were not without motive. The seemingly senseless school shooting was actually Tate thinking he was doing a good thing by helping the students get out of the ‘filthy god damn world’ he especially was acquainted with. He did honestly believe he was doing a service and at the time of the shooting he was high on drugs. A lot of the time Tate thought while doing something atrocious, he was simultaneously helping somebody. Tate found out that Larry, one of Constance’s lovers, murdered one of his disfigured siblings so he retaliated by setting Larry on fire as a punishment. While it’s clear Tate lives by the ‘eye for an eye’ motto his response was as normal for him as somebody who would call the police in that situation. Tate raping Vivienne was his deluded way of trying to provide hysterically broody Nora Montgomery, one of the ghosts, with a baby. Though it was an inexcusable act, Tate did honestly believe that he was helping Nora which is ultimately what Tate’s motivations come down to.

Don’t get me wrong, the crimes are not excusable (and I definitely won’t be hoping my future boyfriend shoots up a school because he thinks he’s doing a service) but in Tate’s interpretation of action and consequence his actions were the appropriate way to deal with things. Upon a deeper look into Tate’s life the superficial claim of ‘he’s a murderer, you shouldn’t like him’ can be dissected to show that actually, there was reasoning behind his actions and the very construction of the Tate character meant the audience were intended to like him – at least at first. In real life however, desiring to be with somebody with clear mental issues, mood swings and violent outbursts is the last thing on anybody’s list


CharacterCorpse. (2013). American Horror Story Murder House: A Perspective on Tate Langdon. Available: http://charactercorpse.wordpress.com/2013/06/23/american-horror-story-murder-house-a-perspective-on-tate-langdon/. Last accessed 18th Nov 2014.

Stein, A (2004). The Byronic Hero in Film, Fiction, and Television. USA: Southern Illinois University. pp2.

TVTropes. (Year Unknown). Byronic Hero. Available: http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/ByronicHero. Last accessed 18th Nov 2014.

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Call for Submissions!

We are looking for original Gothic pieces of fiction to publish in our new anthology, Spectral Visions: Grim Fairy Tales. Our previous anthology is on sale on Amazon right now.

The theme is Gothic fairy tales. They can be horrifying, they can be terrifying, as long as they’re original. We are not accepting science fiction or erotica at this time, and will not publish gratuitous gore.

Submissions should be between 1,000 and 3,000 words, typed in Times New Roman 12 point font and submitted as a word document with 0.5 margins. Poetry should be no more than 30 lines. PDF files etc. will not be accepted. Please note that we ask you not to use headers or footers for anything other than page numbers, and we ask you not to use section breaks. Page breaks are fine.

Submissions should also be accompanied by story title, your name, your website (if you have one), word count and a short bio of no more than 100 words.

Works submitted cannot be published elsewhere, either online or in print.

The deadline for submissions is 21st January 2015. Please email your submission to Colin Younger at colin.younger@sunderland.ac.uk. The anthology will be published later in the year. If you have any questions, please contact Colin Younger.

If accepted you are giving Spectral Visions Press:

  1. The right to publish and republish the story in or in connection with Spectral Visions Press, including electronic or hard copy form, including in promotional material or compilations – provided that authorial credit is given in every instance of reproduction.
  2. The right to include your work in an anthology or collection which may retail through Amazon.com or similar outlets.

After your story appears in a Spectral Visions publication you are free to republish your piece elsewhere as long as you communicate to potential buyers that they are buying your story as a non-exclusive piece.

We look forward to hearing from you!

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Spectral Visions–Demon Lovers: Embracing the Monster in Paranormal Romance, Sunderland, 30 Oct


On Thursday 30th October, the illustrious Dr Bill Hughes is coming to Sunderland to speak at the Spectral Visions Halloween Bash. The time and location is to be confirmed, but you are all invited to join us!

Dr Hughes will be speaking on Demon Lovers, the Byronic hero and paranormal romance.

This is his synopsis.

More details to follow!

Originally posted on Open Graves, Open Minds:

A synopsis of my forthcoming talk for the University of Sunderland’s Spectral Visions group; more details to follow soon:

The Twilight phenomenon has made us aware of a new kind of story about monsters. In these narratives the protagonist, instead of fleeing from it in terror or hunting it down, embraces the monster. Twilight was not the first of these tales (nor the best) and sparkly vampires are not the only demonic lovers. But despite a long history of monstrous couplings in literature, myth, and folklore, a distinct contemporary genre has emerged, called variously paranormal romance, dark romance, Gothic romance, or dark fantasy (though the definitions are imprecise and shift in reference).

The best known incarnation of this present-day demon lover is the sympathetic vampire, who was probably the first of these paranormal paramours to emerge from the shadows. But werewolves, angels, demons, fairies, trolls, cyborgs, and even the unlikely…

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Spectral Visions: The Collection – A Launch Party Review

On Friday 26th September, the Spectral Visions team celebrated the launch of Spectral Visions: The Collection. We hosted a party at The Canny Space, the nickname of the Holy Trinity Church in Sunderland. The Canny Space is an 18th Century church, one of the oldest buildings in East Sunderland, and it proved to be the perfect place to hold our soiree.

We began the evening with a talk from Professor John Strachan, associate dean at Bath Spa University. Professor Strachan spoke on Gothic Wearside and its cultural importance. For example, the oldest surviving Bible is made from the hide of Sunderland cows. He then read from The Codex. Professor Strachan is not only an esteemed academic, but he is a talented author. His is one of the contributions to the anthology, and he read to us some of his own poetry. Amongst the poems was a joint-endeavour from Professor Strachan and Dr Alison Younger of the University of Sunderland. Entitled ’12 Ways to Offend a So-Called Lady on a Golf Course’, it proved to be an audience favourite.

We also received a talk from Dr Mike Pearce, also of the University of Sunderland. He talked to us on the cultural impact of the word “canny” and how its uses are all-purpose and unique. It was an interesting talk, especially for those of the audience who had traveled in, and we thank Dr Pearce for his participation in the night.

There was music during the intermission from David Newton and Sam Lord, who performed at Glastonbury this year. They were fantastic, and a delight to listen to.

Left to right: Sam Lord and David Newton play for the audience.

Left to right: Sam Lord and David Newton play for the audience.

After the intermission, we had some of our contributors read their pieces. Pieces read included:

  • Returning by John Strachan
  • Momento Mori by Colin Younger
  • Weaving the Wyrd by Alison Younger
  • Last Call by Elizabeth Hazlett
  • Welcome to the Hell Hole by Lindsay Bingham
  • Laura by Michelle McCabe
  • Green by Kirstie Groom
  • Crimson Blade by Mike Adamson
  • The Kiss of the Vampire by Steve Willis
  • The Journeyman by Lee Mitchell

All these pieces and more are available to purchase in Spectral Visions: The Collection. The anthology was on sale at the launch, but we sold out quickly. It is still available to purchase on Amazon. There was a chance for the contributors to sign the anthologies, a chance that many took advantage of.

Left to right: Michelle McCabe and Elizabeth Hazlett, signing their pieces.

Left to right: Michelle McCabe and Elizabeth Hazlett, signing their pieces.

There will be a review of the anthology to follow this post, but the reaction on the night was review enough for us. People loved Spectral Visions: The Collection. There are stories and poems to make me laugh, cry and gasp in horror. Every piece is as strong as the one before it, and it is a consistently enjoyable read.

We would like to take a moment to thank some people. Steve Watts, for hosting the evening; Colin Younger for editing the collection and agreeing to read for us; Dr Alison Younger for helping organise the event and reading for us; Professor John Strachan for talking to us and reading his pieces; Dr Mike Pearce for his talk; David Newton and Sam Lord for their music; the student and Canny Space volunteers who organised the night; and to all the contributors, readers and buyers who supported the launch of the anthology. Thank you all for your continued support.

Pictured: Our editor Colin Younger, reading his piece Momento Mori

Pictured: Our editor Colin Younger, reading his piece Momento Mori

Our next anthology will be titled Spectral Visions: Grim Fairy Tales. Details on how to submit your work for consideration of publishing will be available soon, but we do hope you will submit your fairy tales and poetry.

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A Spectral Visions Launch Party

The Gothic is an ever-changing and popular genre which is still contributed to even now. Authors like Darren Shan and L.E Turner contribute to the genre with their children’s and urban fantasy stories, and the genre has continued evolving. Now there is a new anthology of Gothic fiction available to fans.

Spectral Visions: The Collection is an anthology of original Gothic pieces written by students, academics and authors alike. The collection was edited by the University of Sunderland’s head of English and Creative Writing, Colin Younger. Spectral Visions: The Collection is now on sale on Amazon. Boasting a range of poetry and prose from all kinds of creative talent, Spectral Visions: The Collection promises to be a must-have anthology for anyone interested in the creative side of the Gothic.

Edited by Colin Younger; Cover by David Newton

Edited by Colin Younger; Cover by David Newton

We will be featuring a review of the collection on the blog very soon, but it is a worthy investment for anyone who wants to be entertained by tales of murder, mysticism and macabre. There is prose and poetry in abundance from academics and enthusiasts alike. The anthology also features a foreword from Professor William Hughes, who says the collection:

“[S]its squarely – and honourably – within the great tradition of Gothic anthologising.”

To celebrate the launch, Spectral Visions is hosting a party on Friday 26th January at The Canny Space in Sunderland. The Canny Space is the new cultural heritage site in Sunderland, converting the Holy Trinity church in to a centre for performance and learning, and is not far from Sunderland City Centre.

We would like to extend an invitation to you, our readers. The launch party begins at 6pm, and we will be having live performances from the contributors, entertainment and drinks on sale. Come along and meet fellow Gothic fans and be inspired to write your own Gothic fiction.

Dress to impress, and we hope to see you there!

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With me, you will behold terrible wonders; a review of Penny Dreadful

As part of our Contemporary Media and the Gothic series, Stephanie Gallon has reviewed the Sky Atlantic series, Penny Dreadful. Stephanie is an MA English student.

There is some thing within us all.

That is what was blazoned across the character posters for Penny Dreadful, and the mantra of the show. Penny Dreadful is the latest horror-drama to take the world by storm. Critics are impressed, but cult followings are already claiming it to be the greatest show to grace the airs in a long time. This echoes to a past that Penny Dreadful tries and succeeds to reinterpret for television. To understand why Penny Dreadful is such a gripping watch, one must first understand why it is such a fitting retelling. This post aims to both review Penny Dreadful and to critically evaluate it as an adaptation of both story and genre.

Penny Dreadful takes its name from the weekly pieces of fiction that were published in the 19th Century. They were so-called penny dreadfuls as they cost only a penny to purchase, and contained sensationalised melodrama that was often of macabre and Gothic roots. These works eventually penetrated public consciousness, and they were read by many. As they grew in popularity, many stories became infamous, and characters that they created still exist today. It was in A String of Pearls: A Romance that the character of Sweeney Todd was introduced, and before the suave and sophisticated figure of Dracula there was Varney the Vampire, a maybe-vampire maybe-human character that span for 220 chapters.

Penny dreadfuls were not novels, and not constrained by the same laws and codes as the writings of the upper-classes were. Penny dreadfuls were violent, crude and over-the-top in their plots and characters. Though its primary demographic was the working-class male (as detailed in Louis James’ 1963 book Fiction for the working man 1830–50), they were read by many. They transcended class and gender, and in fact were vastly popular amongst the female readership. Many middle-class writers would don a pseudonym so that they might also publish in the books. You can read a more detailed account of how the penny dreadful grew in popularity in our interview with Professor William Hughes.

The setting for Penny Dreadful is Victorian London, the scene of many famous Gothic works. It draws upon the era with great panache, referencing both real life crime stories and places. In episode 2, Séance, Sir Malcom Murray offers his assistance in the Ripper case. The Ripper is obviously Jack the Ripper, a real criminal who murdered at least six prostitutes in Whitechapel from 1887. The Ripper was such a huge figure to the Victorian readers that it inspired many pieces of work and conspiracies. Many public figures were accused, including Prince Albert and Richard Mansfield, who played both Jekyll and Hyde in a production of the show in London. The series also draws upon real geography, in this case a theatre. In Episode 3, Resurrection, Caliban is given a job in the Grand Guignol. Le Théâtre du Grand-Guignol was a Parisian theatre that opened in 1897, which specialised in shows of horror. In later years, its name became synonymous with grotesque shows of fear and repulsion. Though the theatre is based in London in the show, it is a loving homage that buffs of the genre will love. Both these, accompanied by smaller interwoven references, accommodate for an authentic Victorian world that houses the fictitious. In the same world which hosts monsters and clairvoyants, characters make reference to Darwinian theories like survival of the fittest.

On to the characters. The show follows in a similar vein to Alan Moore’s comic series A League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, which began its monthly publication in 1999, and earned itself a movie deal and subsequent theatrical release in 2003. Just as A League of Extraordinary Gentlemen collected characters of Victorian notoriety for its cast, Penny Dreadful does the same. It is an ensemble show, utilising characters of public domain like Dorian Gray (from Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray), Abraham Van Helsing and Mina Harker (from Bram Stoker’s Dracula), and Victor Frankenstein and his monster (from Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein). The characters interact with original cast members, like Sir Malcolm, and are brought together by a common goal: to rescue the abducted Mina and to stop the monsters which captured her.

Amongst the new characters is Vanessa Ives, a childhood friend of Mina’s and a clairvoyant. She is played by Eva Green, Vanessa is proving to be a fan-favourite, choosing not to play the role of an Angel of the House, but instead defying the conventions of the women in literature and actively participating in the hunt for her friend. Vanessa is intelligent, sharp-witted and swift in her actions. She had a stint in an asylum, a common theme in the penny dreadfuls, and she fully embraces her darker side when she discovers her mother’s adultery. She is the one who leads them to Mina, and is the character who goes through the most brutal experiences. She is possessed, she is attacked, she is brutalised; Vanessa survives all of this, making her one of the strongest characters in the show.

It is through Vanessa that we explore the question that is at the crux of the series: do we truly wish to be normal? Vanessa is given the chance to become normal through an exorcism that will rid her of her psychic abilities. Likewise, Dr Frankenstein is presented with the chance to destroy Caliban and put the mistakes he’s made behind him. Instead, he chooses to create another monster, hoping this one will be better-suited for the life they lead. The something inside us all is what the show focusses on, exploring the realms of the monstrous that could afflict us all. All the characters go through heartbreak and must sacrifice something in the end, whether it is the tangible, the incorporeal or their humanity. The monsters are given the chance to lament and express their stories. As Caliban says:

The monster is not in my face, but in my soul

The shows pays loving attention to the characters they borrow. Dorian Gray is a charismatic and charming bisexual, seen in his character portraits being caressed by a snake. He is dangerous and alluring, and both Vanessa and Ethan fall victim to his demonic charms. He is sexual, he is reckless and he is canonically as Wilde described him in his book. Likewise, Victor Frankenstein still fails to see that he is the cause of these creations and the monstrous things they do. He enables them, and when Caliban starts to kill those who become close to Dr Frankenstein, his response is simply to murder and make Caliban a mate. In chapter 5 of Frankenstein, the way Dr Frankenstein describes building his monster is matter-of-fact and clinical. It is easy to forget that he stitching together corpses when he describes it as his “work”. He is a cold and at times maniacal scientist, and Penny Dreadful highlights this constantly through his flippant approach to the murderous creature he has fathered.

The show sets a stunning backdrop with its Dickensian fog and costuming. The characters look authentically divine, and the use of Irish towns and cities to emulate a Victorian London provides a historical anchoring to the scenery. Bram Stoker and Oscar Wilde were both Irishmen, and this is the landscape that helped to craft Dorian Gray, Mina and Van Helsing. The characters look the part of Victorian and composed, and that makes the scenes of horror that much more disturbing.

A scene worthy of mention for its sheer uncomfortable fearsomeness is when Vanessa is trembling as she prays, speaking in fast Latin chants. Suddenly a candlestick falls, and we discover an upside-down cross with thousands of spiders swarming from it. It’s unnerving to watch her praying, but the sudden onslaught of creatures and the hellish symbolism is terrifying. It is not the scene of blood and murder that the show so liberally provides us with, but is a subtler kind of horror that is just as frightening to watch. Or perhaps that is just arachnophobia speaking.

At times though, the show forgets that it has the visual medium to account for while it is in literary mode. In one particularly promising scene, Dr Frankenstein asphyxiates Brona so that he may use her corpse to provide Caliban with a bride. The scene is brutal but accompanied by a long and at times unnecessary monologue. This is of course typical to Victorian fiction, and a mirror to how Dr Frankenstein acts within his book. It is easy to lose sight of the doctor’s monstrous nature in text alone and it is effective without the visual accompaniment, but with the image on-screen of a dying prostitute it loses some of its effect and instead because the hammiest melodrama. Melodrama was the name of the game in penny dreadfuls, and this is an accurate portrayal of a scene as it might be in text. It is a good scene, though it can be dull if melodrama doesn’t interest you. Likewise, the revelation that Ethan was a werewolf was brilliant, though not enough time was spent on his transformation. It could have been gruesome and gory, with lingering shots of twisted muscles, broken bones and the maddened howls of a beast. Instead the sudden scene change to a full moon instead leaves the audience disappointed.

In summary, Penny Dreadful delivers exactly what the title promises. The characters are entered in to a world of melodrama and gore, with small amounts of plot being used in a heavily character-centred arc. The fun of the show comes not from the search for Mina and the vampire master, but the interaction of characters and the development of back-story and relationships. The original characters do not overshadow the characters we are familiar with, but they do not fade in to obscurity. The new characters are archetypes of the genre: Ethan is the hero found in American tales, Sir Malcolm is an African explorer as many of the imperialistic penny dreadful tales had, and Vanessa is the madwoman/psychic, though a very contemporary character by comparison to the others. All of the characters are fantastical, and this is the appeal of the show. It does exactly what a penny dreadful story would do, and it is delivered to us in the same tantalising manner; a weekly dose of story that has us hooked and ready for the next one.

Penny Dreadful was renewed for a second season in June 2014. We can expect more of the same from our new favourite show; blood, gore, and careful attention to the literary roots that inspired this drama. Personally, we can’t wait.

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