After kicking off with a series of grim and spooky themes, episode four of the new season of The Boulet Brothers’ Dragula embraces the fun and performative side of the genre. The opening skit is set in a strip club, with burly men in tiny shorts writhing around poles, prepared at any moment to choke an intruder to death with their thighs.
The theme this week was Monsters of Rock. As well as a floor show displaying a heavy metal look, the eight competitors were split into two teams of four to lip-sync as a metal band to Poppy’s Bite Your Teeth, in front of Poppy herself as a judge. The challenge incorporated teamwork, aesthetic and performance. The winning prize this week was a feature in Heavy Metal Magazine.
As soon as this is announced, it’s obvious which of the artists are most excited about it. While everyone can benefit equally from a gift voucher to an accessory shop, this is a prize that definitely resonated more with some competitors than others.
The Boulet Brothers chose who would make up each team and who would be the lead singer – and, by extension, the group leader. The looks on the faces of certain queens when the band line-ups were announced were fantastically expressive. Almost instantly, you can see some elements of friction promising to play out across the episode.
The sense of tension in this episode is very well paced. Despite the obvious discord in one team, there are moments where it seems as though their opposing team might be lulled into a false sense of security. There are also times when it feels like the underdog will find the strength at the last moment to snatch the win. The whole show is laid out in such a way that you still don’t really know how it will swing by the time the judges offer their verdict.
In the boudoir, it’s heart-warming to see the performers working together and collaborating on their group performance. Even the team that bickered more than anything else had moments when they came together to help each other out.
This episode, more than any other so far, starts to expose vulnerabilities in some of the artists, even those that have been consistently among the judges’ favourites. It is setting a precedent for the rest of the season. No one is safe. Every new day is a blank slate as far as the judges are concerned. If they can’t get out of their own heads, they’re going to burn out long before the finale.
There were a number of huge emotional moments in this episode, where different artists felt comfortable enough to talk about their personal issues, ranging from their histories of addiction to gender identity. This is something that Dragula handles incredibly well. Whenever sensitive subject matter crops up, it always feels like the person sharing their story is given the space and support to speak on their own terms.
There are moments when the show is edited in a way that could be interpreted as shady, but that’s never targeted at anyone feeling vulnerable and is done in good fun. For instance, when someone in a confessional says “I would never do that”, they cut to a clip of them doing exactly that. It doesn’t feel malicious, so much as presenting the viewer with all the facts.
It will come as no surprise to anyone who has seen the first three episodes of this season that the floor show is absolutely stunning. A lot of personality comes through in the different approaches that the performers have put into their looks. While the overarching theme is heavy metal, it’s fun to see the genre mashed up with different musical influences. There are some folkloric looks, and one outfit is inspired by both Marie Antoinette and KISS. Some blend K-Pop and country into their performances, as well the more iconic classic rock homages.
The heavy metal lip sync is a lot of fun. If you play an instrument, it is painfully obvious that almost none of the artists actually know how to handle the instruments they’re holding. Still, it’s admirable how every single one of them throws themselves as effectively as they can into the mime.
Given the conflict on one of the teams throughout the planning stages, the actual competition is surprisingly tight. Everyone delivers with passion, and it is ultimately the finer points of detail that sway the judges one way or another.
This far into the season, you can see which artists have taken on board the critiques they’ve been given and incorporated them into their next steps. The growth on display is genuinely enjoyable to see.
Further tension is introduced after the judges have delivered their critiques, as The Boulet Brothers invite their monsters to say who they think should go home. As is custom on Dragula, everyone seems like they’re trying to be as diplomatic as possible. They all try to deliver an answer that will come as no surprise after some of the chaos in the boudoir.
The follow-up conversation backstage, however, sees those tensions broil. Some views that have clearly been suppressed in the season up until now are finally aired. It’s going to be interesting to see how those are revisited in the boudoir next episode, after they’ve all had a chance to sleep on the situation and let their emotions settle.
Finally, all four of the artists in the losing band face extermination. Some of them really embrace what they’re up against. The resilience in some of these artists is truly commendable.
With each episode, you can see the competition getting tougher, the performers getting stronger and the show overall becoming a tighter and fiercer production. We’re looking forward to the next instalment already.