Friday, October 10, 2014

The Haunting Of Riverdale: Part Four

So far on this DVD we've had plenty of vampires, but I wouldn't really call vampires a "haunting."  Unless you go looser on the definition of "haunting" and assume it refers to Medlock sticking around the old farmhouse he was buried under for centuries.  However, that's stretching it, even for me.

Fortunately, this time we actually get at least one genuine ghost, so I'm going to skip the lengthy preamble and simply point out that Archie Comics just announced a new crossover:

Archie Meets The Predator.

This is a real thing that will be happening in 2015.

I can't wait.

At Riverdale High School, we find Jughead standing watch while Archie has (somehow) managed to lock himself in his own locker.  With an actual dial combination lock.  I think we found our first really "weird" mystery in the show so far.

It appears that Archie is trying to avoid Reggie, but unfortunately the dark-haired frenemy (guys have those, too, right?) appears to dig on the latest article Archie wrote for the school paper.  It appears things have been "normal" in Riverdale for several months now, leaving Archie with nothing to write about.

We cut from the middle of the day to Pop's stand at night, as Pop Tate closes up shop.  He starts making his way home (still wearing the dorky little paper hat) when something comes up at him from behind, casting a large shadow over him.  We also get the standard "" from Pop as he sees it, so it could be anything from some terrible creature to the city's kitchen inspector.

The next day at school, Archie hears of what happened to Pop Tate and decid- wait, no, that's not it.  That's not it at all.

Archie wanders the halls (during class?) and runs in to Mr. Weatherbee leading a ... decidedly different Reggie down the hallway.

Apparently Reggie was found wandering around in the gym, sans pants, in a total state of shock from some great fright.  Mr. Weatherbee helpfully explains that there were eleven other cases of something similar happening last night alone, and Reggie tells Archie that "Quiet Violet" is coming back and asks him to watch after his late library book notice he's holding. appears that the scene with Pop Tate was completely pointless.

The whole thing excites Archie to no end since it gives him a mystery to work on.  He heads to the library (after being ditched by Jughead) to try to look into any similar events happening.  He then spends the next few hours opening books, turning one page, and then concluding that what he needs isn't there with a "nope."

Stack after stack, book after book he goes through, turning one page, closing it, getting another book.  And he's not even looking into the table of contents, as it clearly shows him opening up the book somewhere in the middle.  Archie decides to call it a day, and as he leaves the library, the books he left behind pick themselves up and float over to a shelf, putting themselves away.

Obviously you know what we're dealing with here.

That's right, a Class IV Semi-Anchored Entity ghost.

Archie bumps into Betty, who brings back the whole Pop Tate business by describing him staring into space, saying "Quiet Violet" and holding an overdue library book card.  Archie, being the master detective that he is, takes a whole four seconds to realize she said "overdue library book card," leading him to conclude there must be a connection between the library and what happened to the people around town.

Leaving Betty behind (because ... ?), he goes back to the library.  There, the librarian is more than happy to share that lots of weird things have been happening (and yet, after all this time, she never felt the need to tell the guy who's had to deal with aliens, monsters, and vampires).  Books shelving themselves, cold winds blowing when no windows are open, overdue library book notices disappearing, and other things all lead the librarian and Archie to conclude that something is attempting to "help" the library, "but doesn't realize how spooky it all is."

Or maybe it doesn't care, guys.  Ever think about that?

Archie spends several hours wandering around the library looking for any poltergeists.  He checks all of the usual hiding places, such as tucked between books on a shelf, looking around shelving units, and peeking under tables (poltergeists have many similarities to chewed gum).  He isn't willing to look up, though, because Archie, and I'm not making this up, figures poltergeists are probably like car keys and will be "in the last place you look."

If only he could get some kind of clue to help him along.

That ought to do it.

Archie attempts to establish contact with the ghost, but is a bit too eager and gets "shushed" by the ghost.  And by "shushed" I mean she uses her power over books to have a group attempt to "bite" Archie and then simply flings him around the building and smacks him into things.

Needless to say, this is enough to scare everybody out of the library (the exact opposite of what the current librarian asked Archie to do), but Archie spots the ghost fade into a portrait on the wall.

It's a tribute painting (or picture, hard to tell in a cartoon, really) of the former librarian who has since passed away.  If you guessed that her name was Violet, give yourself an extra point.

At Archie's house, he and Betty scour through books trying to figure out how to banish ghosts (sadly, portable nuclear reactors aren't available yet in Riverdale, so they can't just "bust" her).  Jughead arrives again, and relates a story about how "Quiet Violet" terrorized him at the library.  She wouldn't let him play with a globe, read a book from the regular section, banished him to the children's section, and then yelled at him for laughing.  Jughead was so scared of her, he actually fled the library while still holding a book.

Archie points out that ghosts tend to stick around only if they have unfinished business, which makes Jughead realize it might be the book he's been holding on to for years since that day.  That night, with a heavy rain falling on Riverdale, Jughead dons his best film noir trench coat and hat and sneaks to the library to return the book he took.

With the book returned, it would appear that the whole business is at an end...that is, until the ghost shows up and chases Jughead across the city.

The next day, Archie and Betty return to the library to find it abandoned except for the current librarian.  They try to learn more about Violet, and fortunately the former librarian wrote a memoir of her time at the library.  Archie and Betty read through it and realize what her unfinished business is...and it still involves Jughead.

It turns out that Violet was waiting for Jughead's return for years and didn't recognize him when he showed up to return the book.  They manage to talk down the ghost, and she explains the following:

a) the globe was loose and almost fell on Jughead, she was just trying to get him to be careful.
b) the book he found had pages about to fall out, so she took it from him and...
c) walked him over to the children's section and gave him the other book he liked
d) when he started laughing so loud that some people studying nearby were making frowny faces, she tried to have him quiet down a bit.

...somehow I suspect we're going to have less action in this one than I hoped.

Jughead and Violet make their peace, and Violet agrees to leave the library to the current librarian.  She had no idea she was scaring people with how she was trying to help out, which I find kind of doubtful about considering at one point she looked like this:

So, yeah, Violet disappears into the ether forever to get her eternal rest, and Jughead is finally no longer afraid of the library and starts checking out books again.

And...that's about it.  Oh, and Archie gets his article.  I'm sure we were all worried about that.

So, let's break down this DVD.

The Good:

Considering this was still when Archie and his friends had a pretty squeaky clean image going on, I'm impressed in general that they were able to do stories like this, much less ones that might have things that could actually scare kids (like when that vampire's eyes popped out of his head as he died).  The twist at the end of the whole vampire storyline was rather neat, considering it took a weird phrase read aloud in the first episode, twisted it around for the obvious reveal there, and then twisted it around AGAIN for the last big reveal.

The animation is pretty clean and crisp, and the mouths might not sync up exactly, but they're pretty close.  

However, the big thing for me were the really great little character moments.  Veronica's moment of self doubt as she realized that she was so different from Archie, Betty, and the others when it came to their interests and capabilities was great.  Jughead's initial attempt to do the right thing despite being terrified of the ghost, even if it didn't work, shows a lot of courage in that character.  Honestly, the two characters who came off weakest were Archie and Betty.  Archie came across as a doofus a lot, and Betty was usually just playing the straight man to everybody else's wackiness.

The Bad:

Oh my god, the voices.  I would completely start casting over if I had to redub this series.  I mean, sure, it's made by DiC who were so great at dubbing voices that Sailor Moon often looked like an entirely different script was being read sometimes when it came to syncing voices to mouth movements, but this is ridiculous.  Veronica can't settle on if she has a posh accent or not, Jughead sounds screechy (I kept hearing the rooster from the first Sonic The Hedgehog cartoon), Archie sounds pathetic...the only good voices were Betty, Reggie, and the secondary characters like Scarlet and Violet.  Even Medlock was voiced better, and he had the most painfully stereotypical Transylvanian vampire voice I've heard in a long time.

Plus, the show really needs to settle on a tone.  I get it's for kids, the FCC won't let you have anybody die or even make reference to people dying (I mean seriously, "befriend?"), but you can't have vampire eyeballs one minute and then not even be able to show vampires biting people.  Scooby-Doo was able to show vampire bite marks on a young woman's neck, I'm pretty sure you could.  


Well, it wasn't really "weird," and they were really only "mysteries" if you consider the fact that the main character could never figure out what was going on.  But was it "Archie?"  In its own way, yes, I think so.  The characters were pretty true to their standard archetypes, the setting remained mostly unchanged, and the stories managed to be both intense at moments as well as soft.  kind ones.  

Now, granted, I would have opened with the ghost story instead of ending on it.  You don't follow up a battle between vampires and humans where the humans almost lose except for a deus ex machina (or: the power of friendship!) and then follow it up with a wacky misunderstanding that traumatized a six year old boy.  

That's be like building up a huge alien invasion film and then ending it with "oh, but they can't be around water."  

Yeah, exactly like that.

So next week we'll try to get into some stuff that's actually scary and a bit insane.  I may or may not be able to promise that it will all involve young Asian women fighting the undead in clothing ridiculously inappropriate for such an activity.

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