‘Dark’ is Delicious

I know a TV show is exceptional (or at least exceptionally complicated) when I start rewatching from the beginning because I know I missed things. With Netflix’s German-language time-travel series, Dark, there is a lot to miss. But unlike some mind-bending shows—I love Twin Peaks, but yeah—this one rewards deep detective work. For this reason alone, it’s worth exploring its labyrinthine caves and complicated family trees.

I discovered Dark a few months ago when a few enthusiastic videos recommending the series randomly appeared in my YouTube stream. After the trauma of Games of Thrones, I was looking for a new show, so I checked it out. By the second episode, I was hooked.

The drama plays out across multiple generations, time periods, and even worlds (as the cliffhanger at the end of Season Two suggests) and yet never loses its laser-sharp focus. The show not only has beautiful acting, stunning cinematography, and a score that haunts one’s dreams, but also poses philosophical questions—Bookstrap Paradox anyone? Esoteric symbols show up on the cover of an 80s Heavy Metal album, in a hospital hallway, and tattooed on the back of a creepy (and sexy) priest named Noah. Latin quotes, Biblical and mythological allusions lend intellectual vigor to outlandish concepts, and yet it all works together in a neat, believable puzzle. This slow burn is worth the investment.

Am I gushing enough yet?

The show has been compared to Stranger Things. I can only judge by the first season—I stopped watching ST after that—but other than some of Dark taking place in the 1980s, it’s an entirely different show. The German ’80s has a more dour feel than the American one, perfectly exemplified by the nuclear power plant steaming on the horizon in many of the shots or just offscreen. This feels more like the 1980s in the nuclear disaster faux-doc Threads. There are 80’s pop songs in this show too, but they don’t exactly evoke nostalgia. A Flock of Seagulls never sounded so sinister.

A lot of the drama in Dark is centered around the personal relationships of the town’s inhabitants. There is a sense they are isolated, as well as miserable. Perhaps the looming apocalypse has already happened, and the incestuous citizens of the fictional Winden are the last to know. Each character suffers his or her own private drama, sometimes over multiple time periods. Wouldn’t we all love to go back in time to fix our worst mistakes? But in doing so, would we set into motion the very mechanism that allowed those events to occur?

Dark is filled with these types of questions. You’ll find yourself thinking about it long after the credit sequence when you must force yourself from watching just one more episode after a three-hour binge.

Aside from the German language (I recommend subtitles over the English dubbing), Dark may turn off some viewers because it’s impossible to do something else when you watch (like fold laundry or check your phone) without missing something crucial. Some have claimed it takes a higher intellect to get it. I would argue it just takes a certain level of attention. Like a masterfully layered game of logic, deep dives into the maze will yield satisfying eureka moments.

There’s a sense—and I pray the third season doesn’t prove me wrong—that the show is leading the viewer toward a tighter and more complex knot that will untie as long as we pull the right string. Searching for it is half the fun.

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Great Villains Part Three

Psycho Bitches – The Borderline

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I won’t be ignored, Dan!

The best depiction of a borderline personality disordered individual ever committed to screen is Glenn Close’s Alex in Fatal Attraction. This Cluster B disorder (of which women are most afflicted) is marked by poor boundaries, impulsivity, and a violent reaction to any real or perceived rejection. At first these seductive femme fatales appeal to a man’s fantasy of the no-strings attached hot affair. The borderline’s lack of boundaries and amorality are a turn-on in the bedroom, but when the man tries to return, sated, to his wife or move on to a more appropriate girl (as in the case of Mormon boy, Travis Alexander), the borderline psycho bitch just won’t let go. She may, as in the case of Jodi Arias, at first subject herself to her lover’s diminishing returns and lack of respect (he famously referred to her as his three-hole wonder), but a girl can only take so much abuse. Her already dangerously damaged ego lies coiled like a cobra ready to strike. She shows up at his house looking cute and breezy—I drove from California to Arizona, but I just happen to be in town. He lets her in—hey, what’s one more lay? I can get her out of here in time for my trip with my new “virginal” girlfriend. Sorry lover. While you were showering off her stank, petite Jodi struck, and struck hard.

Continue reading “Great Villains Part Three”

The Horror of Aging

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I’ve Had Those Moments

As a woman in my mid-fifties, I’ve experienced the horror expressed in this classic moment of cinematic grand dame guignol. I started a YouTube channel recently, and I admit to spending as much time on my make-up, hair, and flattering lighting as I do my “content.” Like many Virgos, I’m vain. I can relate to that famous literary Virgo, Blanche DuBois, who once bemoaned about the “hard knocks my vanity has taken,” and she was only in her thirties at the time.

Vivien Leigh still looks damn good under the bare light bulb. My God, Tennessee Williams was a genius. Check in time at the Tarantula Arms. It doesn’t get any better than that.

Continue reading “The Horror of Aging”

Vamp Lit

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Me before I’ve had my morning coffee.

October is the month for all things horror, but since that is generally most (not all) of what I read, I like to focus on one specific sub-genre. This time around it’s vampires. I read Dracula last year. I recently finished, and reviewed, Twilight  so that’s out of the way, thank God. So next up are two classics from the king and queen of horror literature: Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice and Salem’s Lot by Stephen King.

Here we go. Ladies first.

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The Terminator, a Modern Prometheus

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Enter the assassin

If a movie I’ve seen at least a dozen times (maybe more) since its release in 1984 can still get my heart racing and my palms sweating when the steely endoskeleton rises from the infernal wreckage of an 18-wheel fuel truck, I know that I am experiencing a great work of art, tested by the passage of time and an 80’s perm: a true classic.

Nothing delivers the punch quite like The Terminator directed by James Cameron. A rare combo of action, sci-fi, and horror, it is the perfect movie with something for everybody, including a convincing and heart-felt romance. Okay, I admit the cliche orgasm hand grasp and slow-mo release is corny, but still…it works. My God! It all works.

Let’s break it down. Continue reading “The Terminator, a Modern Prometheus”

A Taste of Evil is Delicious

Suuuuusan…..

Summer reading (and viewing) demands a lapse of taste (let’s save the serious stuff for the first autumn chill), so I’ve been happily cooling off in a witch’s pond of pulp Gothic romances circa 1970. I adore them! A close aunt of mine, as eccentric as any dowager you’ll find on these faded pages, used to keep a stack of these in her attic along with the Creepy and Eerie comics belonging to my cousin, which formed my early literary development and fostered in me a love of horror, romance, and camp.

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The gorgeous Barbara Parkins as rape victim, Susan.

I cherish my small collection of  Magnum Gothic Originals gleaned from used bookstores. Even in the “Easy-Eye” large print (thank God) format, most of these clock in under 300 pages, making for perfect beach reading.  Continue reading “A Taste of Evil is Delicious”

Fifty Shades of Trash

I’m many years behind the times, I know, but after plowing through The Bestseller Code, which analyzes the plot structure of  Fifty Shades of Grey in detail as an illustration of what makes a book popular, I decided I’d better read it and find out more. I went to my local library and checked out a well-thumbed, dog-eared, and stained (ew!) copy and tore through it in a few days. In other words, this was research, people.

Reader, I liked it. I like trash, what can I say? I cut my literary teeth on The Carpetbaggers, Susann’s Valley of the Dolls and my personal favorite Once is Not Enough (it never is), and of course Peyton Place. And I’m happy to report that I’m  not the only one who appreciates the bad and the entertaining. Trash, like a good campy horror novel, has its place in my reading library, along with the leather-bound tomes of classic literature. I think a lot of readers are on the same page (no pun intended). I needed to flush out the wizards and orcs and lengthy iambics from my Tolkien marathon, and what better way than with some super popular—over 100 million sold!–erotic romance?

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My Cousin Rachel

My torment…

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I picked up the baton of my Gothic literature reading challenge again and went running down the track with one of my favorite novels  My Cousin Rachel  by Daphne Du Maurier. I was inspired by a Goodreads reading group to join in even though this is probably my third time reading going at it. Three’s a charm because I’m loving it once again. There are so many reasons why this story works, one being that it’s essentially a Victorian novel written as a 1950’s pulp romance. Love the cover above, especially considering Rachel wears nothing but mourning through the entire novel, albeit seductively so.

What separates du Maurier’s book from the legions of these… Continue reading “My Cousin Rachel”

Better Late in the Game…

…Than Never in the Game

Early in the new year,  I was having dinner with friends whom I adore, and it was something about their ecstatic, tandem eye rolls and Oh, my Gods! over the latest season of Game of Thrones that finally convinced me to let go of my resistance and start watching from the beginning. In a few months I had binged my way through the series. And yeah, I’m hooked. Another friend recommend I read the book(s)–ugh! I’m not one to read those doorstopper, fantasy series, but before I knew it I had ordered the expensive, illustrated hardcover GOTs, and today (after taking several breaks to read other books) I finally finished the first volume of A Song of Ice and Fire by George R. R. Martin, and even though I knew it was coming from watching the show, I was blown away by its operatic, pyromaniacal, dragon birthing climax!

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The book definitely helped me understand the series, and vice versa. as everyone familiar with the series knows, there are many characters to keep straight, and a lot of (ahem) ground to cover. I was grateful for the map many times. But despite the story’s complexities, Martin’s concise writing style and dimensional characters are tethered to a clear logic within the realm of fantasy, so that by the end of the book I really did believe in dragons. I think that’s the key to success in this genre. The world Martin builds works because its opulent impossibilities ride tandem with strict laws and codes, brewed in a cauldron of the most extreme human passions, all of them grounded in reality.

Strange Magic

Continue reading “Better Late in the Game…”

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