A pleasing terror, a devilfish delight
Between them, The League of Gentlemen have all bases covered in the BBC Christmas TV supernatural horror schedule, with Inside No. 9‘s Steve Pemberton and Reece Sheersmith exhuming ‘The Bones of Saint Nicholas’, and Mark Gatiss, also of Doctor Who and Sherlock fame, now firmly in charge of the revival of A Ghost Story for Christmas. Last year’s version of ‘The Mezzotint’ on Christmas Eve boasted the excellent Rory Kinnear, and this year we have an adaptation of ‘Count Magnus’, with Jason Watkins and Myanna Buring, to look forward to on December 23rd at 10pm, BBC2.
I hope Gatiss does justice to this, perhaps one of M.R. James’s most terrifying tales. When it comes to fictional Counts, Magnus de la Gardie outdoes Dracula by a country mile: a cruel feudal tyrant who brought back a hideous cloaked familiar, whose main distinguishing feature was “the tentacle of a devil-fish”, from a black pilgrimage to Chorazin. And this is what happens to a couple of peasants who cross him:
“Hans Thorbjorn was standing with his back against a tree, and all the time he was pushing with his hands — pushing something away from which was not there. So he was not dead. And they led him away, and took him to the house at Nykjoping, and he died before the winter; but he went on pushing with his hands. Also Anders Bjornsen was there; but he was dead. And I tell you this about Anders Bjornsen, that he was once a beautiful man, but now his face was not there, because the flesh of it was sucked away off the bones.”
Count Dracula just sucks your blood. Count Magnus sucks the flesh clean off your face!
If you can’t wait for the TV version and you’re in Preston, it’s possible there might still be tickets left for this:
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