***RELEASE DAY REVIEW***
The Lesser Dead review
Production company – Echoverse
I know, another weird day for a post. I couldn’t pass on another opportunity for an early listen of a new podcast though (despite my misgivings). So here we are. It’s a Friday and you’ve just noticed the little icon on your browser, or had your phone make a noise. Maybe you forgot it was Friday, and thought it was Sunday. Maybe not.
I mentioned I had misgivings with this show, and that’s because it’s about vampires. I’m sorry, but vampires make me cringe. They aren’t scary (not since Max Schreck anyway), and the current penchant for sparkly, emo, monobrowed heartthrobs (or was that the werewolf?) grinds my gears. But here we are. I’m reviewing a podcast about vampires. So is it any good? Well read on and I’ll tell you.
So what’s it about?
The Lesser Dead is set in 1978, a year dear to my heart. You see, that was the year I left the warm sanctuary of my mother’s womb and arrived kicking, screaming, and hairy into this cruel world. It’s also set in New York. This is not dear to my heart, seeing as I’ve never been there, but I digress.
Joseph “Joey” Peacock is a 19 year old vampire. As part of the community of vampires called The Family, living in “The Loops”, an area of unlit tunnels off the main subway. He gets tasked somewhat reluctantly by Margaret, The Mayor of The Loops, to find someone who has been “peeling” people (vampire slang for killing victims). You may think that vampires are supposed to kill people. In this universe, they use people more like drink dispensers. I guess there’s less hassle if you keep your victims alive.
As Joseph and his friends start searching for the killer, he also discovers that someone has been turning children into vampires, an unspoken rule that should never be broken (Vampire children are always creepy). So with his friends, he sets off to uncover just who is doing these unspeakable things.
Is it any good?
Surprisingly, yes. I enjoyed it way more than I thought I would. There is none of the usual clichés that are so beloved of this particular branch of horror recently.
Jack Kilmer as Joseph is somewhere between a young Henry Hill in Goodfellas, and Leonardo DiCaprio as Frank Abagnale in Catch Me If You Can. He has that youthful charm and exuberance that verges on being cocky, yet stays just the right side of annoying. You know that every word that comes out of his mouth is delivered with a smirk.
Minnie Driver as Margaret is also well played, and a perfect “Yang” to Joseph’s “Yin”. Her no bullshit, foul mouthed Irish firebrand attitude seems like quite the departure from her usual oeuvre (not that I’m really up on her body of work). But she rules The Family with an iron fist, or to be pedantic, an iron spade. She is all too aware of the trouble that this rogue “peeler” will bring to The Family, so is keen to end this mess and return to anonymity asap.
The supporting characters are very good too, from the older and wiser Cvetko played by Saul Rubinek, to Margaret’s spooky henchmen Oldboy and Ruth. Mysterious kingpin The Hessian, played by Danny Huston is also a good brooding presence in the few episodes he appears in.
I can’t really pick holes in this series at all. The acting is top notch, the sound design is great, and the story is brilliantly written and engaging. And not to go too far along and spoil anything, but the series ends EXACTLY how I like.
I love the music too, from the weird reimagining of “Rapture” by Blondie at the end of episode 1, to the timeless Disco Inferno by The Trammps in Studio 54. There’s also a melody that reminds me of Hushabye Mountain from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang in parts that adds to the dreamy atmosphere of the vampire’s night world. I’m surprised though, that there is so little music in the series. For it to be set in New York in 1978, disco and punk at their height, and the birth of hip hop, I feel that there could have been a bit more made of this without detracting from the scene setting.
If you’re a fan of modern vampire fiction then you’ll absolutely love this. Vampire stories tend to be very trope led, which is why I don’t like them, however this is a nice change. It’s part gangland thriller, and part murder mystery. Even if you are somewhat cynical of the genre, then I’d still encourage you to give it a go. It really is a brilliant show.
Has this changed my opinion on vampire stories? No, not really. Although it has made me think about not being quite so judgemental about new podcasts, so there is that. I was going to give it a four out of five rating, just because of the vampire aspect, but I can’t. It’s a five brain podcast all day (or rather, all night) long, and one of my favourite fiction podcasts of the last 12 months. I never thought I’d say that.
You can get The Lesser Dead here:
Or wherever you get your podcasts.