Monday, July 11, 2011

The Gothicism of American Gothic: "Meet the Beetles"

[For the previous entry, click here.]

The Gothicism of this episode is evident right from the opening, as Caleb and his friend Boone visit the ruins of the Temple house one foggy evening.  When Caleb falls through a rotted floorboard, his foot gets caught inside the ribcage of a skeleton that seems to clutch at him as he thrashes.

"Meet the Beetles" also features several graveyard scenes.  Caleb is perplexed by the discovery of a tombstone bearing his name (he dreams of digging up the grave, only to have his own undead self leap out at him).  What's actually buried here, though, is $30,000--a cash offering from Sheriff Buck to help get the orphaned Caleb started in life.  Buck further tempts Caleb with the vision of building a "big old estate home" where the Temples' house once stood (Buck now owns the land).  The picture the sheriff paints--of luxuriating in a hammock while being weighed on by servants--calls to mind Thomas Sutpen's obsession in the classic Faulkner novel Absalom, Absalom!.

A good old Southern Gothic murder mystery forms the dark heart of the episode.  Married men with rumored connections to Selena keep ending up dead, their corpses (though only days old) curiously stripped of skin and flesh.  When  the investigating Lt. Jack Drey (guest star Bruce Campbell) finds himself chained inside a makeshift coffin and covered with carnivorous beetles, his 
gruesome predicament firmly establishes "Meet the Beetles" as the most horrifying of American Gothic's first seven installments.

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