Written by Jerry Lacy, Ian Farrington, Philip Meeks & Paul Phipps
Directed by Ursula Burton
In which Reverend Trask (Lacy), Quentin Collins (Selby), Maggie Evans (Scott) and Angélique Bouchard (Parker), each relate tales of horror and/or intrigue that have befallen them…
In a move which harkens back to the early days of Dark Shadows at Big Finish Productions – whether intentional or not – this quartet of short stories is hugely reminiscent of the two-handers which used to populate this range of audio dramas. Here, though, only one actor narrates/performs each story, putting their vocal talents to good use.
Jerry Lacy both reads and wrote “Trask the Exorcist”, a tale in which the not-so-good Reverend is called upon to drive a devil from the innocent farm girl he has possessed. (It’s also the only story in this collection told in the third person omniscient point of view.) Not surprisingly, many of the sanctimonious Trask’s shortcomings are on display here, and Lacy’s dry, wry delivery throws them into sharp relief.
Arguably the strongest of the bunch, Ian Farrington’s “The Missing Reel” sees Quentin in Los Angeles in 1958 and concerns his encounter with an awkward film buff obsessed with the 1927 silent horror movie The Werewolf’s Curse – and especially the eight minutes of footage removed from the film before its release. A story which will surely resonate with those yearning for the return of lost-presumed-destroyed episodes of Doctor Who (and just about any other cult TV show or film), it’s a darkly cautionary tale about what happens when your impossible dream comes true.
Kathryn Leigh Scott reads Philip Meeks’ “Lunar Tides”, a 1980s Collinsport story set between Kingdom of the Dead and Bloodlust. Hardened by her brushes with the supernatural – albeit more of a ghost whisperer than a vampire slayer – Maggie Evans is the town’s only defence when seagulls begin attacking people and a strange mist rolls in, bringing pestilence in its wake. A newcomer to the range, Philip Meeks’ story may not entirely fit into Dark Shadows’ mythos, but shows a good deal of promise as well as a keen understanding of Maggie’s character; what she really thanks of a couple townsfolk may surprise some listeners!
Lastly, Paul Phipps’ “Confession” is a showcase for Lara Parker as Angélique, who has transgressed yet again and must atone for her sins against “the natural order of things”. Only if she confesses “in exquisite detail, with all the emotions of love, guilt and selfish pride” will the rest of Collinsport be spared her fate. All of these and more are in ample evidence as Parker tells how Angélique has kept a gimlet eye on Barnabas and “that woman” (Dr. Julia Hoffman) during their travels through Morocco and Istanbul, and has saved his life without his knowledge on at least two occasions; “Barnabas Collins still needs me!”, she crows at one point. A dark tale which ends on a Twilight Zone-ish note, it’s carried by Parker’s bravura performance.
Verdict: A solid inaugural selection of Dark Shadows fiction ably brought to life by four of its stars. 7/10
John S. Hall