The Lesser Dead Review: A Proper Horror Drama Podcast at Last!
The Lesser Dead is a podcast series about vampires in a grimy and gritty 1970s New York City that truly embraces its horror potential.
The Lesser Dead is the latest drama podcast series to stake a claim in the horror genre. There have been crime thrillers, Science Fiction, and dramas – some that dip their toes into Horror, but The Lesser Dead is a vampire story that takes no prisoners and makes sure the listener knows that this is real horror, not a light bit of escapism with jump scares but a deep dive into tragedy, loss, and despair.
The Vampires of "The Lesser Dead" are Not Cool
Echoverse Studios was right to adapt Christopher Buehlman's novel about vampires in 1978 New York City. "The Lesser Dead" is not an elite clan of vampires who live in mansions but outsiders and outcasts scraping a "living" under the noses of normal people in the gritty, grimy chaos of 1970s Manhattan, a time of rampant crime, drugs, sleazy clubs, and sleazier deals while living in the tunnels under the city. Joey Peacock (Jack Kilmer) is the protagonist and narrator, eternally nineteen years old since he was turned in the 1930s who steals bites from targets in clubs and bars and a small network of willing volunteers in thrall to the cult of vampirism. He has a complicated relationship with the matriarch of his clan, Margaret (Minnie Driver), who's fiercely protective of their small found family in the tunnels. They live at the leisure of the more powerful vampire clans who live in the expensive mansions and penthouses of New York City with all the money and power, chief among them The Hessian (Danny Huston), who rules over all the vampires with a cold ruthlessness and easy sadism. When Joey comes across three children who are vampires, the decision to protect them sets in motion a war with The Hessian as Margaret's outrage over who turned them threatens their safety and even their lives for the first time.
The Lesser Dead is not a vampire tale about sexy, glamourous vampires that you might want to be or fall in love with. Joey would be the first to admit he's a piece of shit just surviving and having fun to forget about the wrongs he committed when he was human, especially to Margaret. Their decision to take a stand isn't a noble battle but a reckoning with their own moral failings in the past. The cast is top notch with Jack Kilmer giving it all in his first leading role as a sympathetic and flawed lead trying to bring himself to finally do the right thing. Minnie Driver has an equally complex character to play, fierce, equally flawed, and wounded by past tragedy and loss. Saul Rubinek is fun as the fatherly but slippery vampire who may be more devious than he lets on, and Danny Huston effortlessly exudes evil just by whispering his lines in the calmest manner possible.
Horror is Not About Happy Endings
Vampires are not glamourous or good people. Joey Peacock knows this, and so do all his fellow vampires, even as he dreams of atonement, but he doesn't deserve a happy ending, and you shouldn't expect one. The horror and tragedy are how unhappy and terrible his and his found family's ending is going be, and you listen hopelessly as it unfolds like a trap that they were always in, that finally closes on them now from an unexpected but unsurprisingly source. To listen to The Lesser Dead is to have a movie play in your head that's a refreshing throwback to proper horror stories that don't pull punches, where tragedy and helplessness unfold in that delicious way that horror is supposed to do. It doesn't comfort you. It unsettles and disturbs, and unlike most audio dramas, it leaves a lingering disquiet.
The Lesser Dead is now available on the usual podcast platforms.