Monday, September 27, 2010

The Chronicle – The King is Undead – review (TV episode)

Directed by: Krishna Rao

First Aired: 2002

Contains spoilers

I had not really heard of The Chronicle – a series about tabloid reporters whose stories turn out to be rather real and thus owing a debt to Kolchak - and was given this taped episode to watch.

I was struck by the odd, almost surrealist, timbre of the episode and so it came as little surprise to discover it was written by Javier Grillo-Marxuach, the brains behind the Middleman. Let us start at the beginning…

Jon Polito as Donald
Reporter Grace (Rena Sofer) is less than impressed with editor Donald (Jon Polito) as fellow reporters Tucker (Chad Willet) and Wes (Reno Wilson) are being sent on a major undercover assignment whilst she is sent to check out a vampire story. Donald points out that she has experience – but she counters with the fact that she didn’t know *he* was a vampire until the second to last date; the argument is to no avail. Wes and Tucker have to change into especially chosen outfits and Tucker goes over the mission brief. They are looking for someone spotted sporadically over the last 25 years, he appears before his worshippers and imitators at the final ceremony of any given event between 23:00 and midnight. They are dressed as Elvis.

three years old Tucker
They get to the hotel where the Elvis imitator competition is on. Tucker is a fan of Elvis but Wes is not so impressed – though he actually met him, at three years old when his parents took him to see Elvis and dressed him in an Elvis costume. He got Elvis’ scarf. A call to ‘Pig Boy’ (Curtis Armstong) reveals that one fan has booked into a room under one of the aliases that Elvis used to use and the room number is 1835 – Elvis’ birth date.

Meanwhile Grace goes to see the bum who spotted the vampire. She persuades him to take her to the sewers where, the bum says, the vampire lives because of the rats – he uses them as a food source. Tucker and Wes go to the room and see the fan leave, headed away from the ceremony with a steel suitcase. They follow as he heads over the ballroom but he hears them and fires a crossbow at them.

Cushing a cross together 
Having escaped the fan they get a call from Grace. She has found a room with a dead looking Elvis impersonator. She approaches him and he awakens, revealing his fangs. She manages to Cushing a cross together out of a couple of candles and he flees. Wes and Tucker have broken into room 1835 and found some schematics that they fax to Pig Boy. They are for adding chemicals to the sprinkler system. Grace is heading to the hotel and they find one of the devices. Tucker breaks the cylinder but it contains water – the water drips down a grate, alerting the master of ceremonies in the ballroom… you see it is holy water and he is the vampire leader.

chief vampire
The impersonator they have seen is called Jesse Garon (Joe Sagal) and he is a vampire hunter. Incidentally Jesse Garon was the name of Elvis’ twin brother who was stillborn. He set up the sprinklers to release holy water, but the vampires are dismantling the system. Half the attendees are vampires and they intend to feast upon the mortal Elvis fans. It is now up to Jesse and the reporters to stop the slaughter by, shall we say, more hands on means.

burnt by a cross
The vampires have two types of fangs. Some have the traditional side fangs and others have more Nosferatu-like front fangs. There seems no real rhyme or reason to this. Other than that they really do seem your standard vampire. They burn in sunlight, they are burnt by the cross, concentrated garlic essence reduces them to ash and stakes are effective.

shiny suit
A nice touch was using a UV lamp and then shinning it of a sparkly Elvis’ suit that caused shafts of light to fire all over. The vampires like impersonating Elvis because they work at night and get to wear sunglasses without comment. There is a nest of vampires in Los Vegas (we hear) and Jesse learnt kung fu in the Far East. He is a hunter – when the word Slayer is banded around he says that “teenage girls and sci-fi geeks say Slayer”.

dead vampires
The acting worked rather well, Sagal (who also played Elvis’ in Wes’ flashback) has played Elvis several times in various productions and looks to be having a whale of a time, whilst the surrealism of taking vampires out of their comfortable Gothic home and placing them with the King of Rock N Roll, bell bottom jump suits and all, just worked on so many levels.

A strange and bizarre episode but it works as a stand alone and is great fun. 6.5 out of 10.

The episode’s imdb page is here.


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