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"Night Work," "Séance," "Resurrection," "Demimonde," "Closer Than Sisters," "What Death Can Join Together," "Possession," "Grand Guignol"
by Bryant Frazer One of the hallmarks of contemporary remix culture is derivative artistic ventures that seek shortcuts to the id, making a playful, self-aware succotash of genre tropes in lieu of inventing new cosmologies. Cleverly done, the approach can yield brainy ruminations on form and content along the lines of Alan Moore's Watchmen or alternate-universe joyrides like Quentin Tarantino's Pulp Fiction and Inglourious Basterds. When the endeavour is shabby and commercial, executed with no love, you end up with smug mediocrities like The Cabin in the Woods or smarmy trash like Dracula Untold. (Nobody--not George Lucas, not Ridley Scott--seems to grok less about what made the original properties they're trying to exploit great in the first place than the fools charged with revitalizing the monster franchises at Universal.) Somewhere in the middle, you get a project like "Penny Dreadful", a monster mash-up set in late-Victorian London that earns no originality points for series creator John Logan, best known for his screenwriting credits on Hugo, Skyfall, and Rango. Named after the pulpy serial publications that sold in old London for a penny each, his show is even more specifically derivative of latter-day pastiches like Moore's The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and Kim Newman's Anno Dracula than it is of their own 19th-century sources. Still, at its best, his knock-off has an engaging flamboyance that makes it, if not must-see TV, at least agreeable popcorn drama.