Dark Shadows: Zombies come to Collinwood

At Collinwood in 1897, governess Rachel Drummond is playing out her own version of Jane Eyre. There’s a madwoman shut up in the tower room, and when Rachel ventures up the stairs to unlock the door, she’s attacked by the black-dressed, tangled-haired woman imprisoned inside. Rachel is soon locked in herself, and the prisoner escapes to roam the house.

Our Bertha Mason stand-in is named Jenny. Now that I get a better look at her face, I can see that she’s played by Marie Wallace, who previously played Adam’s lab-made girlfriend Eve.

As Jenny wanders the darkened hallways of Collinwood, she spies on Edward and his two children, Jameson and Nora. Edward tells the children that their mother is away for an indefinite period; she’s said to be very ill.

Jenny and her babiesWhen the maidservant Beth comes to the rescue yet again, freeing Rachel and returning Jenny to the tower room, Jenny speaks plaintively of her babies. She doesn’t mean the two children downstairs, but the collection of baby-dolls which Beth supplies for her. Jenny is afraid that Judith will take them away from her.

In another part of the house, Quentin Collins remains oblivious to Jenny’s existence. When the gypsy-woman Magda sees a skull superimposed over Quentin’s face (our old friend the creepy, staring skull from the dream curse), she predicts that he’ll be dead in two days, murdered by a woman whose name begins with J.

Quentin thinks this must refer to his sister Judith and laughs it off–Judith would never have the guts to commit murder. He’ll even go and taunt Judith about it later. To show how little he cares, he turns up the volume on his gramophone. Jenny can hear it, and it drives her nuts.

Even more nuts, I mean.

When Jenny next escapes, she gets out of the house and goes running around the grounds. She knows that that tune she heard means that Quentin has returned to Collinwood and it’s him specifically she’s after. She finds him at the cottage, where he was attempting to make an assignation with Beth. It’s been Quentin’s goal since his return home to seduce Beth–or Rachel. Beth isn’t entirely unwilling, but at this particular time she’s out with other servants and members of the Collins family searching for Jenny.

Quentin’s surprised to see that Jenny’s at Collinwood and even shocked at the state she’s in. But a bigger surprise is in store for the viewers. The show’s writers have been having a bit of fun misdirecting us, placing clues to make us think that poor Jenny is Edward’s wife, then throwing in an unexpected twist: Jenny isn’t Edward’s wife–she’s Quentin’s, and she went mad after he abandoned her.

So can we really blame her for stabbing him when she sees him again?

Jenny then flees and leaves Quentin to bleed to death on the cottage floor. Barnabas is one of the people who discovers the body. He’s certain that this isn’t how Quentin is meant to die; Barnabas is here, after all, to witness Quentin’s death and figure out how it connects with ghost-Quentin’s power over David 70 years later. I don’t see his reasoning, since Quentin’s body might just as easily be sealed up in his room now as at a later point in time, but Barnabas takes steps to bring Quentin back to life.

By this time, he’s aware that his witchy ex-wife Angelique is back to torment him again, so he calls upon her and makes a bargain: he will be hers, if she’ll restore Quentin’s life.

He really ought to know better by now, given her duplicity on other similar occasions, but he takes her at her word when she promises that Quentin will “get up and walk.”

Quentin doesn’t get up right away. The other Collinses are soon aware of his murder. Judith tells the police that her brother was stabbed in a quarrel with one of his drunken sailor friends who has almost certainly escaped by getting on a ship and is surely miles away at sea. Jenny is returned to her prison, now in the cellar, and Judith plans Quentin’s funeral.

Young Jameson is devastated by the loss of his favorite uncle. He sits and plays that same song on Quentin’s gramophone over and over, and pleads with Quentin not to be dead… until he becomes possessed by Quentin’s spirit. The boy says enough to Carl and Judith to convince them, including repeating a conversation they had while standing by Quentin’s coffin.

It’s while Quentin’s laid out in the drawing room that Angelique fulfills her promise to Barnabas… sort of. Quentin does get up and walk, but since his soul is elsewhere, what’s left is an empty shell. He’s become a zombie–not the modern, brain-eating type, but the old-fashioned kind that’s a mindless slave to its master’s will.

Since Barnabas visited Martinique about a century earlier, he’s familiar with voodoo rituals and can even tell the Collinses a story about a zombie he saw on his travels, although of course he doesn’t tell them how long ago that was. The family accepts the idea that they have a zombie on their hands as if this sort of thing happens every day in New England. They aid Barnabas in his plans to trap Zombie-Quentin and lure him back into his coffin by burning incense and myrrh.

Zombie QuentinThey also should fill his mouth with salt and sew it shut–I learned that bit of zombie-lore from Carl Kolchak*, but it seems that Barnabas has never heard about this. His idea is to bury Quentin and cover the grave with concrete. But you can’t keep a zombie down that way. Quentin is soon up and shambling again. He carries off Rachel for reasons of his own but she’s rescued by the gypsies anyway, so no harm done.

Barnabas’s next plan is to try and return Quentin’s soul to his body and restore him to life. But it turns out that the soul is happy enough to remain in Jameson’s body. The possessed boy only laughs at Barnabas’s efforts.

* Coincidentally, the same evening I first watched this episode, I also saw Lucio Fulci’s L’aldilĂ  (The Beyond), in which the heroes try to shoot their way out of a hospital full of the living dead. So, a couple of hours after I was advising Barnabas about the salt, I spent 10 or 15 minutes telling these people “Head shots! Head shots, you moron!”–but they never seemed to learn from their own experience and wasted half their bullets. Not that it matters in the end in this particular film. Even though I don’t much care for zombie movies, I do know how to deal with zombies, old style and new.


Author: Kathryn L Ramage

Kathryn L. Ramage has a B.A. and M.A. in English lit and has been writing for as long as she can remember. She lives in Maryland with three calico cats named after the Brontë sisters. In addition to being the author of numerous short stories, reviews, essays, and period mystery novellas, she is also the author of a series of fantasy novels set in a dukedom called the Northlands on an alternate Earth whose history has diverged from ours somewhere during the medieval period.