Tuesday, October 7, 2014

The Haunting Of Riverdale: Part One

People who have read this blog might have realized that I have a really twisted bizarre fascination with the adventures of Archie Andrews and his friends.  It might be because Archie is a comic book character that probably has just as much name brand recognition as Batman, Superman, or Spider-Man,  Anybody who likes comics who says they never read any of his when they were young is most likely lying through their teeth (or just absent-minded), but considering the comics put out featuring America's favorite red-headed teen have been coming out since 1941 and are stronger and more socially relevant today than ever before, well...

I think it's a safe bet whoever is in charge there knows what they're doing.

But that doesn't mean that every thing's sunshine and roses, though.  Besides the recently printed (and mind-bogglingly dark) Afterlife With Archie, it wasn't unusual for titles to put Archie into other situations involving the bizarre, the macabre, and the occult.

I mean, for Pete's sake, he's on a first name basis with a teenage witch.

Admit it, you all wished you were, too, when that show was on the air.  ...and you were the same age I was.

So it's probably not surprising to know that at one point Archie had his own cartoon series called Archie's Weird Mysteries, stories featuring Archie, Betty, Veronica, Jughead, and the others dealing with massive amounts of weirdness and creepiness that invaded Riverdale.

And they managed to cram some episodes with a particular theme onto a single DVD called The Haunting Of Riverdale.  We're going to go through each one of these episodes and figure out just how you can manage to make (or not make) a story scary when you've got the FCC watching you carefully.

The story opens at Riverdale High School, which, let's face it, looks a lot more like an office complex than a high school.  I mean, my high school was three stories tall, too, but...well, okay, it didn't really look like a high school, either.

Veronica Lodge, millionaire fashion statement and easily the citizen of Riverdale most likely to wind up on TMZ, opens her locker just to find that the standard teenage girl locker supplies (I have no idea what those are, but in Veronica's case they probably aren't "books") have been replaced with bats.  This, of course, is extremely troublesome because they manage to ruin her hairdo when they fly past her.

Trouble manages to get worse when a vampire attacks her in the hallway, and when I say "worse" I mean "she flicks it on the nose and it crumbles to dust."

However, a shadowy figure does emerge from, well, the shadows, and it is enough to scare Veronica.  All we see is a female figure, a lot of leg, and a flash of red, frizzy hair.

Veronica awakens from her nightmare, and we move ahead to the next day, where Betty and Veronica are discussing the events of the night before.  Betty finds it interesting that Veronica isn't afraid of vampires but apparently is afraid of redheads, which might be a nice nod to Cheryl Blossom.  Veronica, however, doesn't even want to talk about it since Archie's nearby.

The conversation once again swings around to vampire talk, with a brief aside showing that Jughead's apparently terrified of the tooth fairy,

The group is interrupted when a new girl, "Scarlet Helsing," who has taken a great interest in Archie's paper article about vampires, has bright red hair, an-aaaaaaaaah!

Ewwww!  That girl looks creepily like Time Marshal January McAndrews, distant descendant of Archie Andrews and the partner of Time Deputy Jughead Jones.  Oh, and apparently also his high school sweetheart/lover.  Just with different hair.

I'm with Betty in that screenshot.  She doesn't even know why her brain is trying to forget the mental image of Archie making out with his future descendant, but some things are just hard-wired into the DNA.

Archie heads off with Scarlet, while Betty and Veronica (mostly Veronica) conspire to learn more about their new competition.  Betty is put on "research her on the computer" duty, while Veronica works on the rest.  However, in a true FCC moment, Veronica momentarily loses control of her car while talking on her cell phone and almost knocks over Dr. Strange.

Scarlet and "Dr. Spooky Whose Name I Can't Be Bothered To Learn" explain to their respective audiences that the "eternal night of the vampires" is coming on Halloween eve (shocker: it's that weekend).  Scarlet is trying to find the one person prophesied to be able to stop it from happening, a girl who wears the "sun stone."

Of course, this happens to be the amulet that Dr. Spooky gives to Veronica with the idea that "if she dreamed about it, she must be destined to wear it and fight back against the vampires."  Veronica protests that she isn't the "occult" kind of girl, but Dr. Spooky leaves her and heads out of town before Halloween arrives.

This...huh.  This is actually a pretty interesting scene.  Veronica keeps insisting that he has the wrong girl because her brain isn't wired to think about things like werewolves and vampires.  She honestly sounds rather depressed about it.  I mean, this is a pretty major part of Archie's life in this show, and it could be that Veronica knows that her inability to either "believe" (a'la Dana Scully) or even just follow such things are a barrier between her and the guy she has a twisted fixation on.

Veronica meets up with Archie to tell him what happened, but while she's insisting that vampires still aren't real, two guys who look like they fell off the weakest death metal album cover ever (see: the guy at the beginning for an example) show up, float menacingly, and then chase the two teenagers.  Archie and Veronica manage to spot a fire escape, and when Archie lifts Veronica up to grab hold of the ladder, she leans forward, Archie's arms drop slightly so he's no longer looking at her legs just above her knees, and this happens:

That can't have been accidental.

I do love the fact that even when being chased by vampires, Veronica essentially sticks her fingers in her ears and goes "LA LA LA LA THIS ISN'T HAPPENING!"

Veronica and Archie manage to hide momentarily where Veronica, in all her teenage wisdom, hands over the amulet to Archie and tells him to find another "chosen one."  The two are chased again, but saved when Scarlet shows up and beats up the two vampires (off-panel, remember, the FCC doesn't like a lot of violence, but the picture above was fine).  Veronica sighs, states that Archie must have found the right "chosen one" and heads home.

At stately Lodge mansion, Betty calls with news that there was a "Scarlet Helsing" back at the town she stated to come from, but it was over two hundred years ago.  I know, we're all stunned by this revelation.

Veronica suddenly realizes the truth of what's going on, and she announces that they have to save Archie...who's currently at home.  Alone.  With Scarlet.  At night.

Archie might be getting lucky twice in one night!  ...by Riverdale standards, anyway.  Let's check in on him.

So, necking's like, what, third base in their world?

But yeah, it turns out that Scarlet is a vampire attempting to kill the "chosen one" so that her "master" can rise and bring about the eternal night.  And before you ask how she could be out in the sunshine, she clearly makes a point to say that while her master can't be out in daylight (because he's too powerful?), lesser vampires can as long as they remain "in human form" and "wear lots of sunscreen."

...yeah, it's stupid, but it's still better than Twilight.

Right when Scarlet is about to feast on Archie, that's when the cavalry arrives and Jughead stops her in mid-bite by shoving a burger into her mouth.  Because Jughead always has one with him, I guess.

Archie gets the sun stone back to Veronica, who happens to remember a phrase uttered by Dr. Spooky that turns it into a solar death ray (weakness: only works on vampires).  The two lesser vampire minions are quickly turned into crumbling...crumbly...things once blasted by the sun stone's rays.

When Scarlet flies out to attack Veronica, it only takes one blast of solar ray- ...of sun stone's energ- ....of the beam she's shooting from her hand to turn Scarlet into a cloud of reddish (one might say "scarlet" if they didn't know what color scarlet actually was) mist.  I'm sure we'll never see her again.

Everybody cheers Veronica for having saved the city from the vampire menace, she gets a huge boost to her ego for not being useless in a weird mystery, and the sun rises once again on Riverdale.

So that's one episode down, only three left!

So, I'm going to save the good, bad, and overall for the end, but I'm going to say right now...my god, these voices.  I can't tell if they improved as the episode went on or I just got numb, but Veronica, Archie, and Jughead sound like the voice cast was told to do the most annoying impression of a stereotype they could think of.  Veronica falls in and out of an accent so often you'd expect her to skin her knees.

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