The thrilling kick off to the fourth season of The Boulet Brothers’ Dragula set the bar for the rest of competition tantalisingly high. Both the show in general and each competitor individually have burst into the new season with the kind of debut that will be difficult follow. While the performers will grow and fumble in equal measures during future challenges, the show itself has made sailing forwards with its high stakes and ramped-up tension look effortless.
The second episode begins with another fun, kitschy sketch to introduce the theme of the episode: Nosferatu Beach Party. This one is in a different, but no less iconic, horror sub-genre. Flickering black and white footage of vampires sprawling on a moonlit beach evokes some of the most enduring staples of horror cinema.
As soon as all the competitors are gathered together in the boudoir, the drama begins. Dragula crams a lot of hot topics into just the first ten minutes of the show. A blossoming romance is introduced. The competitors offer their frank opinions of each other’s floor show from the last episode, including some disagreement with the judges’ critiques and compliments. Koko Caine speaks briefly about her reimagining of Morticia Addams as a black performer in the previous episode, and how making a traditionally white character her own was empowering.
Each of these threads could easily have become a focal point for the entire episode and made for an interesting and powerful discussion. Instead, Dragula has opened up each conversation by teasing just enough of it to hook you. None of the points feel rushed or stunted. Instead, they feel as if they’ve been raised, ready to be explored in the depth they deserve throughout the season as a whole.
Before the show gets properly underway, the competitors are thrown one final curve-ball.
As well as Saint appearing in the fourth season after winning Resurrection, another former competitor has also been added to the ranks. The choice of reaction shots that were included following the announcement made for a wonderful sequence. While some accepted the news gracefully, others were far from pleased and were not afraid to make it clear on their faces.
The Fright Feat this week was a food-based challenge. The concept alone is enough to make you gag, but every monster jumped into the task with admirable willingness. The very visceral reactions are incredible to watch – gagging, gasping, retching, and at one point spitting into a bin. Those that managed to hold themselves together were remarkable.
This week’s floor show required the monsters to split off into pairs. This offered a great opportunity to see how well they bounced off each other, how their styles meshed and how they approached a team-based challenge. Some clearly have a quicker and more effective rapport than others. It was interesting to see the balance of performance and aesthetic styles that matched well, as well as those that faced immediate friction.
The entire sequence ahead of the floor show is beautifully constructed. It is edited in a way that teases the ideas that people come up with, without giving away enough of what anyone is planning to spoil the performance. It cuts between sketches, clips of the teams plotting their looks and choreography, and clips of them addressing the camera – both in the boudoir and in the confessionals – about how their ideas are forming. You get a great feel for each individual’s approach to the competition in general and the challenge in particular, without too much being revealed ahead of the main event.
The floor show itself took the form of a group lip-sync number, set at the Nosferatu Beach Party. The monsters were judged based on their look, their lip-syncing skills and their ability to work as a team.
The songs themselves were a lot of fun. This segment begins by introducing each competitor’s look and swiftly moves into a camp beach number. Bar a handful of fumbles, near enough every performer did an incredible job in the lip-sync, which is an impressive enough skill even without big vampire fangs taking up space in your mouth. One or two also wore prosthetics on their face that would have added further to the challenge, and they deserve every commendation for it.
It was clear which teams gelled better than others during the performances. The choreography flopped for a few pairs – some of whom were read for it by the judges, while others seemed to coast through anyway. Some teams didn’t seem to have a long enough dance prepared to last the entire song, but the improv was nonetheless respectable.
The floor show peaked with a sensual, blood-soaked climax. The monsters splashed blood over each other, spilling it into their own faces and mashing it into their partners’. They made no secrets of how messy they were willing to get to win, writhing in the spillage, biting, and kissing and drooling blood.
This floor show definitely put more of the competitors out of their comfort zone than the first episode, and you could tell. The wildly different ways that the performers interpreted the challenge and made it their own, in terms of both aesthetic and movement, made for a complex and captivating spectacle.
Before the judges presented their critiques, The Boulet Brothers held a discussion that explored the thought process behind their comments. They went into a lot of detail, thoroughly examining the context and background of each competitor, and thinking critically about how various factors from their life and experience had impacted their work on the show.
Yet again, the extermination brought all the tension bubbling to the surface. The contrast between competitors who remain stoic about their place in the bottom and those who panic is clear and profound. These scenes before the challenge show you a lot, not only about those who stand to leave the competition, but also those who attempt to comfort them and help ease them through it. Or not, as the case may be.
The extermination challenge this week didn’t have the claustrophobic fear factor of the first episode, but it was undeniably inventive and well constructed. Logically, you know the bottom two contestants will both be fine, and that there are rules about what production companies are allowed to do with their acts. Nonetheless, it’s hard to ignore the legitimate discomfort on both of their faces. Combined with clever cuts and soundbites splashed over the top, this all makes for an evocative finale that encapsulates the passion the monsters have for this competition.
The end scene this time round book-ended the episode by returning to the moonlit beach introduced at the opening. The vampires that were lounging beneath the stars earlier spotted the exterminated monster and hunted her down.
The fact that only one of the competitors appeared in the scene at all made the revelation quicker than in the first episode. The scene was long enough that it almost felt like it was teasing a bait-and-switch that might have seen the other bottom performer appear. But they didn’t. Regardless, it was a fun end to the show that made the episode as whole feel nicely wrapped up. And – for the second time – it showed that, for all the tears and drama that happened just moments ago as the extermination approached, even the performers that have to leave the competition do so as total stars.
After an explosive and gripping opening episode, The Boulet Brothers’ Dragula has continued to surprise and enthrall us. They’ve made it clear that there’s no such thing as safety in this competition. They’ve thrown in twists that lend a sense of unpredictability to the season to come. And they’ve allowed the tension to surge in a way that is getting only more delicious and more palpable with each new installment.