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Comic Book / The Bad Bad Place

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A 2019 graphic novel created by David Hine and Mark Stafford, The Bad Bad Place is set in the small town of Faraway Hills, a relatively new community built on the site of a much older village, the long-abandoned Crouch Heath. By all accounts, it's a great place to live: a low crime rate, excellent schools and even a reputation for great shops.

Alas, it seems as if Faraway Hills has gone the same way as its predecessor, for when main character Jenny arrives on the scene, she finds it completely deserted... except for the elderly town crier, Ned Trench. From what little the old crier is willing to tell her, the trouble started on the day the long-vanished Castavette Estate reappeared in Faraway Hills - years after its apparent demolition. A plague of disappearances and bizarre supernatural activity followed it into town, along with a number of mysterious residents that eagerly invited people inside the Estate but never once left it.

And as the conversation goes on, it soon becomes clear that both Ned and Jenny are more entwined with the Castavette Estate than they'd like to admit...

The Bad Bad Place provides examples of:

  • Absurdly Dedicated Worker: During the backstory, Griffin is lured into the Estate with the offer of guitar lessons, hoping to be able to impress a prospective girlfriend with his newfound skills; once inside, he is so ensnared by the need to practice that he continues playing even after the strings have flayed his fingers to the bone. He forgets the need to eat, drink or rest, and eventually the very reason why he started learning guitar in the first place. Presumably, he's still playing by the start of the story.
  • All of the Other Reindeer: The people of Crouch Heath did not treat Aleister Castavette well, mocking him at every opportunity and even attacking him once or twice; this came to a head when a gang of teenagers buried him up to his neck in the local graveyard, right in the middle of a nest of deadly coffin worms. Worse still, the town doctor refused to treat him, resulting in the poor kid finally dying.
  • And I Must Scream: All who are ensnared by the Castavette Estate are condemned to a waking mishmash of fantasies and nightmares. Plus, the residents of the house are immortal as long as they stay on the grounds, so there is no escape for any of them, even when Malise is forced to leave the world behind for good.
  • Big Bad: Lady Malise Castavette. Determined to destroy Crouch Heath and Faraway Hills, her deeds guide the course of the entire narrative.
  • Big Brother Instinct: Back in the 19th century, Ned was the unofficial protector of young Aleister Castavette and did his best to protect him from being bullied by the people of Crouch Heath, even though it usually got him beaten up in his place. Unfortunately, Aleister happens to sneak away while Ned is distracted by romancing Serena, resulting in the poor kid getting buried up to his neck in the grave yard - and suffering fatal injuries in the process.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Ned is able to save Jenny and Jon from the Castavette Estate, fulfilling the terms of his vow: as a result, the house vanishes from reality and is bound never to harm anyone else, allowing Jenny, Jon and one of the children from the house to stride off into the sunset. Unfortunately, Ned is now trapped in the Estate forever along with Serena, Malise has essentially gone unpunished for her crimes, and the people ensnared by the house will remain there for all eternity.
  • Cassandra Truth: Nobody believes Ned's warnings about the house until it's too late.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: The teenage boy who keeps photographing the Estate throughout the present-day flashbacks. It turns out he's actually Jenny's missing boyfriend, Jon.
  • Cutting Back to Reality: Often, the illusory narratives taking place within the Estate cut back to reveal what's actually happening to the newest "guests." In one instance, the postman's visit to his fantasy breakfast is undermined by a panel revealing the tendrils draping over his shoulders; in another, a flashback to the 1940s features a passing band of soldiers being lured into what appears to a brothel by beautiful women - but a cut inside the mansion reveals that they're enjoying the romantic night of their lives courtesy of a horde of tentacle-studded Lovecraftian monstrosities.
  • Cruel Mercy: As Ned observes, the owners of the Castavette house don't kill their victims, instead opting to keep them alive for all eternity while they torture them with their innermost fears and lusts. The one exception to this rule were the original inhabitants of Crouch Heath, who were all slaughtered by Malise's children.
  • Dark Is Not Evil: Aleister Castavette, despite being a rather weird-looking child born from black magic and intercourse with a Lovecraftian horror, never committed a single unkind act during his short lifespan - one of the many reasons why Malise went off the deep end in the wake of his death.
  • Domestic Abuse: Franklyn Phelps, Faraway Hills' postman, is secretly abusive towards his wife for failing to live up to his perfectionist standards; even something as simple as mildly burnt toast is enough to send him flying into a rage. He ends up brutally murdering the poor woman before taking up permanent residence at the Castavette Estate.
  • Eldritch Abomination: Whatever's living in the tunnels under the Estate; we never get a good look at it, but it's apparently what gives Malise her powers.
  • Eldritch Location: The Castavette Estate; on top of being able to appear and disappear at will, it has the ability to ensnare its inhabitants in illusory dreamworlds, somehow has enough space to encompass a huge number of guests including the population of an entire town plus all Malise's children despite being only a four-story house, and sports a vast array of impossibly-deep tunnels beneath it - tunnels that look suspiciously like burrows. Also, Google Maps can't get a clear shot of it without dissolving into pixels.
  • Eldritch Transformation: Lady Malise Castavette, after communing with the things beneath the house, gradually begins to metamorphose into a Lovecraftian monster; initially only sporting a nightmarish grin after emerging from the tunnels for the first time, by her second visit she's gained a lot of weight and can now only amble about on crutches; her clothes are eventually revealed to be hiding multiple breasts and tentacles - as part of her new role as a Mother of a Thousand Young. She also gains greater magical powers, enough to imbue the Estate with its most horrifying traits. Over time, she grows progressively less human: when she finally re-emerges in the 21st century, she has transformed into a bloblike mass of teats and tendrils, a minor Eldritch Abomination in her own right.
  • Eye Scream: After his wife returned to occult studies, Sir Walter Castavette was found sitting alone in the tunnels beneath the Estate - and missing both eyes. It's heavily implied from his remarks that he actually did this to himself, having seen what Malise was up to down there.
  • Ghost Town: The fate of both Crouch Heath and Faraway Hills. The first case is due to Malise and her children butchering the inhabitants en mass; the second case is due to the entire town being lured inside the Estate, where they remain to this day.
  • Hell Is War: Lieutenant Colonel Archibald Peel-Corbin finds one such example of this waiting for him inside the Estate. Except the twist is that this is what he always wanted, having spent forty years in the army without ever seeing a single day in action; as a result, he is trapped in a fantasy of being a Sociopathic Soldier.
  • Humanoid Abomination: Lady Malise... initially. After selling her soul for new children and the chance for revenge. she begins to take on Lovecraftian traits as she becomes progressively less human; initially, she looks like a morbidly-obese woman held upright with crutches, up until her magical powers and multiple breasts are revealed. By the end of the comic, Malise has abandoned all pretence of humanity and now exists as a full-blown Lovecraftian horror.
  • I Just Shot Marvin in the Face: In the climax, Ned attempts to talk Jenny out of trying to shoot her way into the Castavette Estate, even trying to wrestle the gun out of her hands - only for Jenny to accidentally shoot him in the chest.
  • Immortality Field: Residents of the Castavette Estate can neither age or die thanks to Malise's magic. During the standoff with Jenny, Serena is shot in the chest and doesn't even notice it until she steps off the front porch of the Estate, forcing her to retreat back inside. Also, it's revealed that Ned Trench spent much of the early 20th century as a resident of the Estate and only left in disgust following World War II, hence why he's aged into an old man. In the finale, when Jenny accidentally shoots Ned as well, Serena brings him onto the Estate so that he can be saved.
  • Interrogation by Vandalism: In an effort to get Ned to talk, Jenny goes so far as to shoot the bugle he uses over the course of his duties. This actually works.
  • Ironic Hell: The ultimate fate of several Faraway Hills residents after being lured into the Estate:
    • Franklyn Phelps finally gets the perfect breakfast he always wanted, complete with a wife more to his liking only to find out too late that the wife is clearly not human and not about to make the breakfast pleasant for him...
    • Bradley Clamp, the perpetually-grumpy Angry White Man finds himself in a diverse melting pot society where all ethnicities and gender identities are accepted; for good measure, this world even accepts Bradley with open arms and love - driving him to scream in horror.
    • Rajitka Sharma, the Stepford Smiler head of the town council ends up in a world based on both her ambitions and her disillusionment: she always wanted to make the world a better place, so paradise can be found right behind wherever she stands in the dreamworld... but experience has taught her to expect disappointment, so whenever she turns to look at the utopia she always wanted, it's immediately rendered down into misery and ugliness.
  • Like a Son to Me: Malise admits that she sees Ned this way (he's her son-in-law) hence why she still doesn't harm him despite his efforts to stop her.
  • Lotus-Eater Machine: Anyone entering the Castavette Estate is immediately ensnared in a dreamworld based on their desires, fears and obsessions. Among other things, an abusive perfectionist is trapped in his ideal house at breakfast, a narcissist is given radical plastic surgery and allowed to admire herself in a roomful of mirrors, and a man who wanted to learn how to play the guitar becomes so consumed by his practice that he forgets everything other than the music. Once you're consumed by the illusion, it's impossible to escape it.
  • Magic Music: Serena, the public face of the Estate, can often be seen playing a flute that lures in potential visitors to the house, warping their perceptions of reality until they're too deep in the house to escape the aforementioned Lotus-Eater Machine.
  • Mother of a Thousand Young: After the death of her son Aleister, Lady Malise uses Lovecraftian magic to transform herself into one of these, producing vast litters of monstrous creatures with which she can take revenge on Crouch Heath.
  • Needle in a Stack of Needles: One early victim is lured in by the illusion of a getting a winning lottery ticket - only to have it whisked out of his hands by the breeze. Following the ticket into the Estate, he finds that it's landed in a whole roomful of lottery tickets - all of them losing. Months later, the poor man is still trapped inside and searching for his lost ticket.
  • No-Sell: Ned remains utterly stone-faced when Jenny holds him at gunpoint in her attempts to get answers out of him. On the other hand, when Jenny points a gun at his trusty bugle...
  • Pet the Dog: Malise has several.
    • The postman's daughter is made as comfortable as possible inside the Estate, and is given all her fantasies with none of the unpleasant caveats that afflict other guests.
    • When the servants realized that their mistress was going insane and opted to leave, Malise didn't stand in their way - only warned them not to stay in Crouch Heath.
    • She also allowed one of her servants to stay behind at his own request, and even gave him her blessing to marry her daughter, a stunningly progressive move by the standards of the time period.
    • Malise leaves Ned unharmed throughout her rampage, even tolerating his efforts to stop her. It's because he's the aforementioned son-in-law.
    • In the finale, she opts to let Jenny and Jon leave the Estate alive. This ultimately proves to be her downfall, though she takes it in stride. She even lets the postman's daughter and the stray dog out along with them!
  • Posthuman Nudism: During the backstory, Lady Malise Castavette grew increasingly detached from her clothing as her humanity dwindled; by the modern era, she's transformed into a stark-naked Lovecraftian horror distinguished by her tentacles and multiple breasts.
  • The Promise: In the final flashback sequence, Malise vows that if Ned ever manages to save a single soul from the Estate, she will put an end to the kidnappings for good. Under the terms of their agreement, the house will vanish forever, taking everyone inside along with it. So far, Ned hasn't had much success. However, the comic ends with Ned managing to trick Malise into letting Jenny and Jon leave the Estate unharmed, thanks to a little persuasion from Serena; satisfied with her vengeance so far, Malise indulges them... only to realize her mistake a moment later. Despite her clear annoyance, she fulfils the terms of the bargain and the house immediately vanishes without a trace.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: Lady Malise's motivation. After her only son was murdered by a gang of local hooligans, she sold her soul to the eldritch monstrosities underneath the Estate, both for new children and for the power to take revenge on all of Crouch Heath. As a result, she was transformed into a hideously-mutated creature capable of giving birth to equally monstrous offspring, all of whom were eventually unleashed upon the town in a massacre that claimed the lives of everyone in Crouch Heath; eventually, Malise extended her revenge to anyone who dared trespass on the site of the town - and then to the new town of Faraway Hills.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here: During the 19th century, the original Castavette servants left the Estate once they realized that the lady of the house was going insane. Only one of them remained behind: Ned Trench.
  • Stepford Smiler:
    • Franklyn Phelps, the postman; his outwardly pleasant demeanour hides an abusive perfectionist with no love for his wife or daughter.
    • Rajitka Sharma's smiling professionalism is just a mask for how disillusioned and jaded she's become.
  • Torches and Pitchforks: After it was belatedly realized that the Castavette Estate has been cutting off Faraway Hills from outside help, the entire town converges on the house as an angry mob with the council and the police in the lead. It ends about as well as you'd expect.
  • Tragic Keepsake: Ned's bugle. It used to belong to Malise Castavette's son, Aleister. After his horrific death, Malise bequeathed it to Ned in one of the last truly human gestures of her increasingly monstrous life. As such, Ned is left devastated when Jenny puts a bullet through it.
  • Wandering Walk of Madness: After Malise has finished communing with the eldritch creatures under the house, the eyeless Sir Walter Castavette wanders off into the darkness in a traumatized daze, claiming that something out there is summoning him. He is never seen again.