Love, Death and Robots: Sucker of Souls

sucker1I have yet to come across one of these that hasn’t been based on a short story and it makes me consider how this must have come across in written format.  Sucker of Souls is about an archeological expedition that unleashes something terrifying.  This is right up my alley and has all the hallmarks I love about H. P. Lovecraft’s writing.  To further enhance the story, it’s what they uncover that should even make it better, and make no mistake, there’s a lot about this episode I really appreciated.  However its flaws really bring it down a level and that’s a shame because a good concept is worth its weight!  

The Good

sucker2Whatever we think of the animation, I still have to credit the old-school feel to it.  We’ve seen plenty of episodes lately that are all computer animated so to see one that looks like a cartoon from my childhood was an unexpected treat.  

I love when a writer gets clever too.  There’s a brief moment where a crossword is being filled in and it looked like Salem’s Lot was the answer; an allusion to what’s coming.  That big reveal is Dracula himself, also referred to as The Black Prince and The Impaler (although this latter one gets a bit of comedy when one man asks if that’s not that name of a car.  That’s Impala for those who don’t know!)  And whether intended for comic effect or not, Dracula hates cats and that did make me laugh.  Hundreds of bullets can’t stop him but a cat sets him running!

Speaking of comedy, there are a few mild moments like when Flynn (voiced by Star Trek Lower Decks alum Fred Tatasciore) tells Dr. Wehunt to run, we see Wehunt has already started running long before the word was given.  Flynn also refers to himself as a soldier, not Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  

This Dracula doesn’t speak English either which adds a sense of terror to the story.  The humans can’t reason with him.  I liked that.  Lastly, there’s a Scotsman in this.  The Scots always make things better just by having that accent!  

The Bad

sucker3Sounding a bit like a broken record, the language (not the ancient language of Dracula, but our modern day vulgarities) really takes something away from this.  Yes, the situation is hyper-tense and I’d be the first one spewing expletives in such a situation, but when the very first words of the episode are “Sh*t, sh*t, sh*t, what the f*ck”, I have to question the skill of the writer.  There was no better way to open the story?  I also don’t need crass comedy, especially if you’re creating a story of terror.  Dracula being afraid to “eat a little…” cat, (you do the math) just seems inappropriate.  Ok, I admit it, I giggled but felt like it was a cheap way to get a smile.  And I certainly didn’t need a brief image of cats mating!  This is animated for goodness sake; it could have been avoided.  

A bigger complaint than all of that is in Dracula himself.  Instead of a hulking human who eats people, we have this big dragon-like monster.  Since when was that Dracula?  And when other vampires are found, they are drawn the same way.  I would have preferred it if the vampires were more like the aforementioned Salem’s Lot vampires.  They are outstanding in their creep-factor!  

The Ugly

sucker4I suppose the message is: keep more cats around.  We’ve domesticated them and should keep them around in case vampires show up.  No, that can’t be right.  Wait a sec: maybe it’s anyone who doesn’t like cats, can’t be a decent person.  Maybe they are secretly bloodsuckers?  

No, I’m being silly.  There are two messages I took from this.  The first is the age old: don’t mess with things we don’t understand.  Like Secret War, it’s a common message in horror fiction but there’s a point at which I think we’ve heard it before and don’t need another story about it.  Then I remembered a calendar I had once; you know the page-a-day format ones?  It was a bunch of laws.  I came across Voltaire’s Law and never forgot it.  There is nothing more respectable than an ancient evil.  Why would this be Voltaire’s law?  No clue.  But it did strike a chord after I completed the episode.  Maybe people just need to respect the ancient evils of our world and leave them alone so we can live happier lives.   (And not need to have cats as house pets!  Mine destroys everything he touches!)

The Game

We get a cat face, an X and a skull with a line down the middle.  Clearly the cat is a reference to the one hope we have in this episode.  The X might be a warning to avoid exploring the dark corners of our world; respect Voltaire’s Law for goodness sake.  The skull with the line is a direct reference to a scene where one of the junior archeologists is killed by Dracula and we see him cut perfectly down the center before layer by layer peels away and an almost-comedy blood fountain coats our remaining protagonists.  If nothing more, it is a memorable scene and I suppose at the end of the day, that’s what this game gives us: a way of remembering what happened in each episode for those not so good at titles.  Rather than “the one where…” you can say “cat, warning, evisceration!”  Or not… no, don’t do that; just remember the titles!

The Verdict:

I like this episode mostly because I like the subject matter.  I think I’d like to read the actual story more than seeing this again.  I want to know how closely it compares to the visual approach.  But if you’re looking for a deeper message, I recommend looking elsewhere.  ML

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1 Response to Love, Death and Robots: Sucker of Souls

  1. scifimike70 says:

    Leaving ancient evils alone is a common lesson throughout our sci-fi & fantasy & horror. It’s a good thing that the powers that be can still find the best story use out of it, even if it may get all the more controversial these days. Thank you, ML.

    Liked by 1 person

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