Just three episodes into the new season of The Boulet Brothers’ Dragula, the competition is already fiercer than ever. Usually, this early on in any reality competition, there are a handful of acts who you still expect to leave the show fairly early. There will be one or two who just don’t have the skill of more seasoned artists they’re up against, or who struggle with the pressure.
This is not the case for the performers in Season Four. The Boulet Brothers have already had to tell their monsters that the tiniest flaw could be what sends them home when they’re up against such immense talent.
The theme of this week’s episode is Weird Wild West, blending the usual horror theme of the series with a Western and sci-fi mash-up. Although coined by DC’s Weird Western Tales in the early 1970s, the pulp genre clash has its roots in the folklore of the American frontier. The diversity of the competitors means that this theme promises some creative and innovative approaches.
As tension ramps up in the competition, there is conflict blooming in the boudoir. With the pressure building, some competitors start to get into their own heads, while others prove expert at getting into the heads of their rivals. It’s not quite clear who is going to crumble and who is going to power through just yet, but the show teases some intoxicating drama in the coming episodes.
The challenge for the week was to create a look inspire by the Weird Wild West theme, while also selling the story of the character they’ve created in the floor show. With no dialogue, every detail is crucial to this task. Props, clothes, swagger, facial expressions – everything needs to be treated as a tool in this event to deliver their story, as well as their look, with panache.
This episode spends a fair bit of time in the boudoir, as the performers are putting together their looks. The insight that we get into their creative processes is fascinating. These segments properly showcase the skill and effort that goes into everything these artists do, in a way that even a mind-blowing floor show can’t. It’s absorbing watching the intense looks on their faces as they daub the exact right shade of paint onto a fabric, patiently distress leather so that it accurately reflects the effect of desert weather, or lightly singe the edges of a feather.
These scenes offer more insight into their histories and personalities. It’s heart-warming to see the contestants bonding, with some willing to be vulnerable under the pressure of the show. It’s also reassuring to see them looking after each in those difficult moments, rather than attacking each other in the way that other reality TV shows encourage.
It is no surprise that the artists who performed the best were the ones that drew on very personal experiences and channelled that into their work on this episode. The different relationships that a diverse line-up of artists will have with the history of the Wild West – even a fantastical, fictional version of it – informed a lot of the creations, and it really paid off.
For a while during the boudoir interviews, you would be forgiven for expecting a deluge of brothel madams. On any other drag show, that’s probably what you’d get. However, in Dragula, approaches to this challenge ranged from cowboys to bounty hunters and Mexican revolutionaries, and even looks inspired by the desert flora and fauna. The inescapable brothel madams have a fun sci-fi twist to them, too.
The floor show itself was spectacular in every sense. It was beautifully edited to showcase the impression each performer had constructed. Plenty of time is devoted to presenting the characterisation that went into each piece, and this made for incredible viewing. The production team are, quite simply, crushing it.
The various details incorporated into each look were presented in such a way that you couldn’t help but marvel at how much work had gone into every backstory. The way that Dahli swaggered on stage; the smoke pouring out of Koko Caine’s nose; La Zavaleta’s maniacal grin; Hoso Terra Toma’s almost supernatural eeriness… The tightness of the competition is unbelievable. It doesn’t feel like there are any obvious choices for the next to go home. There is so much talent here.
In keeping with their ethos, the judges’ critiques – even when they have different favourites to you – are presented respectfully. It’s refreshing to see artists, both on stage and in confessional clips, react with grace, and to see them wanting to grow from their experiences.
The extermination for this episode was a lot of fun. It must have been a nice break for everyone not to have to worry about being buried alive or bitten by leeches. Instead, everyone got a turn riding a rodeo bull for as long as they could manage, juxtaposed against a perfectly chosen metal soundtrack.
In a move that would feel destined to implode by any other production team, the reveal of the exterminated monster in this episode is easily the best so far. It not only suited the iconic style of the exterminated queen, but was a legitimately horrifying death scene, which still managed to leave us salivating for the next episode.