The Little Girl Who Lives Down The Lane, 1975 ed., Laird Koenig
The problem with writing a novel that deliberately leaves certain details open to interpretation, is that people tend to be really bad at basing their theories about what’s happening on actual textual evidence.
What I’m saying is, don’t read “fan theories” about this book or the film adaptation if you don’t want to be annoyed with nerds.

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In a cemetery, reporter Tom Hewitt is watching some graver-robbers, under the direction of Satanically berobed Sylavan, dig up a corpse. When the local caretaker interrupts them, Sylavan flips a coin with a goat’s head design on it at him, killing the man with a brand to the forehead. Later, at the secret Satanic cult headquarters straight out of central casting, Tom witnesses Syl use the coin to bring the dead body back to life, announcing his plans to resurrect two more great sorcerers in a bid to bring Satan physically to Earth. Meanwhile at the shop, Ryan is sculpting Micki’s bust out of clay while the gang chats about how much they’re looking forward to the day they don’t have to chase after cursed antiques anymore, when the phone rings. It’s Tom, urgently needing to speak with Jack, who is apparently now the local paper’s go to expert on the occult, which means that someone has been paying attention to how much weird shit these three get involved in. Tom asks to meet Jack, and tells him he’s hidden evidence in the train station lockers in case anything happens to him. Which, naturally, immediately does.

At the Satanic lair, we learn that these are not just central casting Satanists, but full on 80s Satanic Panic brand Satanists, as Sylvan explicitly lays out his plot and the sorcerous powers of the dead he plans to resurrect before killing Tom with the coin, as all that exposition was for the audience. Jack and Ryan retrieve the evidence, and after learning about Tom’s death the next day, investigate the taxidermy shop which featured prominently in the materials Tom gathered. Posing as antique dealers they interview the proprietor, Sylvan, noting with interest the complete lack of a large crate that was delivered right before they walked in. In the torch-lit caverns beneath his shop, Sylvan reveals to the already resurrected dead sorcerer that he knows exactly who Jack and Ryan were, and back at the shop Micki’s investigation at the coroner gives Jack the clue he needed to identify the cursed object as the Coin of Ziocles, created by an alchemist who used it to determine whether his enemies lived or died, before Lewis powered it up. Micki and Jack head back to the taxidermy shop and witness the sorcerer Tyriol being resurrected, and as they try to make their escape following their inevitable discovery, Sylvan uses the coin to kill Micki.

As Jack and Ryan deal with the police over Micki’s body, the coven moves ahead with their plans to resurrect Hyberia, Satan’s mistress, who died during the Salem Witch Trials. Ryan and Jack spend some time angsting over Micki before steeling themselves to stop the cult, after some more research into Hyberia, including some not at all pointed observations about the remarkable preservative effects of the clay bog the bodies of Salem witches were tossed into. And are promptly attacked by cultists before leaving the shop. At the coven, Sylvan is surprised by Jack and Ryan, posing as the cultists they defeated during the commercial break, but is able to thwart their plans to retrieve the coin and dispose of Hyberia by the timely arrival of zombie Satanists. The ceremony continues, and when Sylvan places the coin on Hyberia, it’s Micki who sits up, substituted for the other corpse…somehow. This understandably pisses off Satan, who destroys the coven with an earthquake, killing everyone except for our heroes, who lose the coin in the confusion.

Not one of the stronger episodes, to be honest. The coin has a neat visual design, but the “live/die” thing is a bit on the nose, and the tit-for-tat mechanic is pretty standard fare for the show. The Satanic cult is rendered far too cartoonishly to take seriously as an opponent, and the melodrama over the fakeout death of Micki doesn’t help change that overall impression. Even the fact that the heroes lose at the end, with the coin remaining out there, comes off more as a tease for a future sequel (which we get, but thankfully without the cod Satanists) than as a real setback.

A Very Robey 80s



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The Companions of Doctor Who: K-9 and Company, 1987, Terence Dudley
How the story of a young female journalist and her robot dog fighting Satanists in rural England didn’t get picked up for a full series, I will never know…

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In a high-security Not-Canada mental hospital, Dr. Finch is attempting to cure murderous psychopaths by forcing them to confront the things they are afraid of because socialized medicine. Actually, he’s making some progress, which means he’s a challenge to the super-star status of Dr. Carter (played by Kate Trotter, who we last saw as quilt-murderer Effie Stokes), who is the resident “miracle cures of dangerous sociopaths” doctor around here, thank you. So, as any good doctor would, she takes an antique radio out of her safe and places it in the room of Dr. Finch’s latest patient, who killed because of her fear of snakes (just go with it). The radio broadcasts a news report that the hospital has been over-run with snakes, which causes the patient to die of a heart attack, and then broadcasts a message that Dr. Carter is about to perform another miracle cure of a serial killer, which she does. The next day, at the shop, Micki and Ryan receive a letter from a lawyer, telling them that the antique radio they sold to his client was with him when he was committed to…a mental hospital.

At the hospital, a helpful nurse points out to Micki and Ryan that Dr. Finch’s patients keep dying, while Dr. Carter is having unprecedented successes and is probably going to take over the hospital, and our pair immediately come to the conclusion that…Finch is using the radio somehow because deaths with no benefit is totally how all the other antiques they found worked. Ryan makes plans to come back at night, break in to the high security mental hospital, and search for the radio, and John Gibson, a violent serial rapist, threatens to blackmail Dr. Carter unless she makes him her next miracle cure. And then Ryan gets electrocuted when he tries to break in, because without Jack there these two really make piss poor decisions. Rather than take Ryan to the emergency room, Dr. Carter treats him, and Ryan and Micki decide that she would make the perfect ally in finding out how Finch is using the radio. As Micki prepares to go undercover as a journalist, Finch interrupts his treatment of a murderer afraid of fire to argue with Carter about how her cures make no medical or scientific sense, as she never actually publishes any details of the treatments she performs. Micki fails to have much luck, other than catching Gibson’s eye and encountering the “incurable” brute on the ward, but Carter’s murder of another patient backfires when Finch discovers the radio still in the room.

Carter gets the radio back, and is told that she’ll get her miracle cure of Gibson if two more people die, just as Dr. Finch confronts her. So she knocks him out, straps him to a gurney, and puts him in the brute’s cell. Which is when Micki’s business card falls out of Finch’s pocket, alerting Carter to the fact that those kids who keep coming around are after the radio. Which prompts her to have Gibson call Micki, impersonating Carter and claiming to have found the radio, to get rid of her by, basically, letting Gibson rape and kill Micki. Since our heroes are still carrying the idiot stick this week, Micki sees nothing wrong with meeting someone in the basement of an abandoned building on the grounds of a high security mental hospital, and Ryan breaks in again (with rubber gloves this time).
Okay, so look, Micki is attacked by a rapist, and the scene kind of goes on just a little longer than is comfortable, and yes, she gets away by herself but is clearly far more affected by this than any of the supernatural perils she’s dealt with in the last year. So, props to Robey for the way she plays this, but the scene really stands out as different in tone than anything we’ve dealt with before, and we’ve dealt with some fucked up shit on this show.

Ryan eventually shows up, after Micki gets away, and is knocked out by Dr. Carter, who has Gibson take him up to the hospital because now she’s going to use Ryan as her third death for the radio. Micki sees them carrying Ryan to the electro-shock therapy room and follows, as Carter sets up the radio in preparation for curing Gibson. Micki cuts the building’s breaker, giving her just enough time to get to Ryan, which leads to Carter accidentally electrocuting Gibson instead. The radio begins broadcasting again, announcing the death of Dr. Carter as a consequence of her inability to fulfill her contract, and she is electrocuted herself when she grabs the radio to argue with it. So our heroes head home, with the radio offering a method of “safely acquiring cursed objects” as a last-ditch effort to avoid the Vault.

So…yeah…this is actually one of the better realized antiques. That it’s one of the few with a personality helps, since it’s “power” is one of the stranger ones. That it’s intelligent enough to actually try to sell out the other cursed objects is a nice touch too. The only thing that stops this from being one of the better episodes is, well, that scene. It’s not so much that the scene is bad, or inappropriate, but up to now the show has straddled the camp and horror lines, and the moment marks a step in a darker direction for the series (and hoo-boy, do we get some dark episodes further on). The scene is handled as responsibly as it could be, and never feels intentionally exploitative really, but there’s enough of a creep factor in certain elements of horror fandom that I’m not sure there can be such a thing as a tonally appropriate and non-exploitative rape scene.

A Very Robey 80s

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Micki and Ryan are raring to go to the “Solstice Carnival” happening on their street, but Jack demures, claiming that he’s waiting for an old friend, a legba, to come visit him, before giving the kids a surprisingly non-Hollywood breakdown of the major features of Afro-Caribbean religions. It turns out that the four voodoo guardians of the elements, of whom Jack’s friend Hadley is one, are gathering in Not Canada for a special ritual. When he arrives, Ryan immediately begins making goo-goo eyes at his grand-daughter Stacy, who is being ordained a priestess as part of the Carnival.

In another party of the city, spoiled rich-boy Carl is storming out of his lawyer’s office after being told that he’s spent his entire fortune, including the coffee plantations in Haiti, and everything that was left has been sold to creditors. At his home, he meets the real estate agent who has already changed the locks and is demanding Carl vacate within the hour because the eviction notice was served at an unspecified time in the past, so, well, that’s a hinky lawyer straight up stealing the house of a dick client. In any case, Carl finds a crate in the basement leaking glowing yellow ooze, and inside a voodoo snake mask. When he puts it on, a snake comes out of the mask’s mouth and rips out the real estate agent’s throat, which we just learned is where the soul resides in voodoo. And then the mask starts talking to Carl, because it houses the soul of Laotia, a murdered voodoo priestess out for revenge. Laotia was the one who made the plantation prosper, and she tells Carl he will become wealthy again if he uses the mask to kill the four legba in town.

At the first part of Stacy’s initiation, Carl appears and kills the wind priestess with the mask. Hadley relates a legend of the god of death returning a soul to life in exchange for four others, and Stacy reveals that Laotia was a powerful priestess who claimed to have the ability to steal souls and used her powers to benefit the plantation owner, in addition to killing her parents. And Jack immediately finds the record of the mask and its being sold to the plantation owner in the Manifest. Micki and Ryan go to the address listed and find the real estate agent’s body. Carl sees them leave, but Laotia teaches him to use the mask’s power to create a bird to follow them, and makes a cryptic reference to the price she will ask of Carl once he kills the three remaining legbas. Once everyone catches up, Hadley reveals that Laotia created the mask, and he killed her, with Jack revealing that Lewis Vendredi released Laotia’s spirit and sent the mask to the plantation to make sure it would eventually be used. And then Carl kills another legba, making Laotia more “real” with each kill, and Ryan is attacked by the magic bird Carl created because he hasn’t done much so far this episode.

Back at the shop, Hadley reveals that the glowing yellow ooze is the residue of a spirit returning to the world, and that Laotia was his wife, and that her ultimate goal is to possess Stacy. Ryan arrives to catch everyone up that it’s Carl, the plantation owner’s son, who has the mask, just as an earthquake hits, and Carl and Laotia arrive to kill the third legba and kidnap Stacy. Now almost fully incarnate, Laotia has Carl take Stacy to the mansion. Once there, she uses the mask to kill Carl, because of course she does. Micki and Jack are incapacitated by Laotia’s clever “wait until someone shows up and stop them” trap, but Hadley soon arrives and goads her into anger by telling her how good it felt to kill her, giving Ryan a chance to knock the mask out of her hand just as the snake emerges, so that it kills Laotia instead.

This is one of the better episodes, though oddly it’s one of the weaker antiques. It has an interesting mechanism, to be sure, and visually the snakes coming out of the mask are striking. But the story behind it makes Lewis out to be micro-managing for Satan, taking a particular item and putting it in a particular place, rather than just let evil out to fester as it will. The rest of the story is quite good, though, and it’s nice to see a fairly accurate (at least comparably speaking) portrayal of voodoo in which the voodoo priests are not the bad guy, and it’s unequivocally the white guy exploiting the religion for his own ends that sets everything off.

A Very Robey 80s

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