Sunday, November 13, 2011

Honourable Mention: Blood and Bone China

There are times when something appears online that is both astounding, beautiful and free. Kudos to director Chris Stone who, over 2011, brought the Victorian Gothic back to the vampire genre in the sublime Blood and Bone China. Now that all 12 episodes are available online (with a completely re-shot episode 1) I felt it time for an honourable mention.

Richard in trouble
The series is set in Stoke-on-Trent in the year 1897 (yes, the year that Bram Stoker first published Dracula) and Stone manages to recreate that Victorian setting incredibly well. It begins with Stoke doctor Richard Howell (Simon Hooson). He writes to someone, telling them of disturbing discoveries he has made. He fears that his letters are being intercepted and so begs his correspondent to meet him at the place they first met. He stands in a street when a woman approaches him, later revealed to be Victoria (Lara de-Leuw). At first she solicits him and then, when the tactic fails, she eye mojos him. He manages to break free from her spell as she tries to bite him.

blood at mouth
He runs, pursued, until he passes through a tunnel and sees, ahead, a figure. He shouts a warning but the figure is another vampire (Ryan Callaghan) and Richard is trapped. Over in rural Buxton, Richard’s brother Newlyn (Anthony Miles) is a vet, and not a particularly good one. When we meet him he is pitting his wits against a rather tenacious border terrier, and coming off second best. He is approached by a man, later revealed to be Alexander Pyre (John James Woodward), who has come to tell him of Richard’s death.

John James Woodward as Pyre
When details are offered, Pyre cannot say that Richard is dead – for certain – as no body has ever been found. He is one of many in Stoke who has disappeared without a trace. Newlyn agrees to go to Stoke but to find his brother, not investigate his death. When they reach Richard’s home, the door is ajar. They go in and explore the property and Newlyn is accosted by a large book judiciously applied to his head. His assailant is Anna Fitzgerald (Rachel Shenton), who is a reporter for the Sentinel (she writes under a male pseudonym). It was to her that Richard had written.

Hemlock and Anna
Pyre shows her a package containing a bone china tea set, the thing that was recovered from Richard’s attack. Some of the set is broken and much blood-stained, but Anna recognises it as Hemlock China. It is a particularly fine and cheap china made by recluse Linus Hemlock (David Lemberg, who was also in the video for Moonlight by Lesbian Bed Death). He has a weekly gathering of the Stoke elite and Newlyn is encouraged to attend as the “new doctor” with Anna accompanying him as his wife.

bathing in blood
Of course we have already seen that there are vampires about and they are, indeed, associated with Hemlock China. Victoria is revealed to be Hemlock’s lover. We also see her bathing in blood in the first episode and she attacks Anna and Newlyn – causing Pyre to reveal himself as both Newlyn’s long lost uncle and a professional vampire hunter. Tracking vampire activity along the canals brought him to Stoke.

vampire attack
The vampires are controlled by their creator – unless the creator happens to set them free and, when controlling them, their eyes become entirely black. Sunlight, presumably, has an effect but we do not see it in action. Silver (in the form of a plated stick sword and silver bullets) are effective against the undead. There is some suggestion of crosses warding the undead but the absolute effectiveness is not revealed. Not every victim who is turned (rather than disposed of) survives the turning process.

strange death
Of course, a stake through the heart will kill a vampire and there is an incorporation of an actual true story, about a man dying due to his anti-vampire precautions.

Blood and Bone China is the best vampire orientated web serial that I have seen. I have no hesitation in saying that. Professionally shot, edited, costumed and performed, my only question to Chris Stone is when is he going to make it available to buy on DVD, cut into a feature?

The imdb page is here and the homepage is here.

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