Friday, August 29, 2014

Castle Psychedelic Panic Dracula

There are two Draculas.

One is the proper Dracula. Proper gothic:
Cobwebs, corridors, decay. Darkness relieved only by torchlight.

There is (barring the occasional wolf or wife) only one real monster. This is classic horror--there's tension and the fear of anticipation. Suspense. Depression. Mood. Eerie quiet.

This Dracula is fine for a book or a movie or a short story. Or a night of Call of Cthulhu. And a very good GM can manage to make one work in D&D.

But more often in serial fiction, when you have to stretch it and do it again and again and provide variety and detach the character from the tale they were designed to live in, this Dracula starts to go cheesy: Ravenloft and Hammer Horror films and Marvel's Tomb of Dracula comics all spin Dracula out with as much extra gothic as they could stuff in--werewolves and zombies and revenants and chains and floating armor and set-pieces and…

…and it loses something. Because one is the Gothest number. The Count loses his loneliness--and his story isn't about him any more--it's about the next thing you put in the frame with him. It can be fun, but its a series of moments that work or don't, and make you forget yourself or don't, rather than the long terrible dream of the true unified gothic.

But there's another Dracula who is quite at home with the genre addict's voracious need for novelty, with video games' need for 500 foes, with the gore movies' need for endless weird new deaths, with the comic book that just keeps going and going until it gets cancelled and the RPGs' need to fill weird places with even weirder places.

And that Dracula is Psychedelic Panic Dracula.

In Castle Regular Dracula you might find, like, an eyeball in a teacup. But it'll be in black and white and won't do anything and you'll look away right away and go back to being scared. In Castle Psychedelic Panic Dracula there's like a whole eyeball-in-teacups-wing and each one induces a different kind of fever.

The House of Psychedelic Panic Dracula is lurid: vivid, harsh, lacking utterly in taste and above all artificial. This is a Dracula detached from the mottled soil. Folklore can just fuck right off: there is no organic connection between the gnarled trees and superstitious peasants and the tenor of the horrors within. Count Dracula is just sort of a signifier floating over and classing up a funhouse, lending it some kind of evil legitimacy and a flexible layer of content.

The horrors surrounding Regular Gothic Dracula are intimations that He is coming--foreshadowings of him, a clue that his personal drama and wickedness is coming, whereas every fucked magical thing in the House of Psychedelic Panic Dracula is just evidence of how much madness Dracula is lord of. He's a figurehead and they are his only real content.

Castlevania is very Psychedelic Panic Dracula, as is Barovania, this guy is definitely a Psychedelic Panic Dracula, Psychedelic Panic Dracula's interiors have fewer obvious antiques than Proper Dracula's--he shops less--couches and pointed arches comfort him less, the key is a kind of timeless abstraction. Less wolves, less woods, less of the earth, more of the mind.

There's no suspense in Psychedelic Panic Dracula's House. It's just freaking out all the time. When you get to Regular Dracula's tomb he's asleep or else smug as a fuck, drinking from his stupid chalice. When you finally meet Psychedelic Panic Dracula he's not drinking wine, he's just laughing at how emotionally drained you are after knowing all the things you believed in were eaten by nested recursing nth-dimensional echoes of themselves while you watched and drowned in insect milk.

In Red & Pleasant Land, there's a little of the creepy-literary and a little of the total abstract freak out. Like Lewis Carroll.


Unknown said...

Toshio Saeki rules.

Matt Halton said...

lotta japanese stuff going on here

did you ever watch Hausu

Hausu is Psychedelic Panic Dracula at its finest

Pierce said...

Castlevania rocks hard. I think the monsters are all just manifestations of the Count's twisted mind. Also in the "Portrait of Ruin" game there is an evil vampire painter, he makes magical paintings the player has to go inside to find and defeat the boss.

Justin said...

Damn it, Zak, now there's another blog I have to read. Oh well could be worse.

amy said...

Lair of the White Worm MUST get a look in too!