It’s week three of Dragula, the search for a Drag Super-Monster who is equally gifted in the areas of glamour, horror, and filth.
This episode is a little creaky, showing off not only the show’s lower-than-TV budget but also their somewhat remedial editing decisions.
We see a runway and performance obviously out of the order in which they were shot. And, the rock performances are both unedited full versions of a single song – so we have to listen to the whole thing twice! – rather than a slimmed down edit or a cross-cut version showing the two teams facing off.
Reader beware: I’m not only coming at critiquing this episode from my drag fandom, but as a semi-professional rocker who has played a lot of stage shows. Granted, none of them have been as a shock rock band, but I might be a little extra brutal on some areas of this challenge compared to one that’s more horror-based.
Enough talk – watch Dragula’s third episode, and then see if you agree with how I’ve ranked the queens below.
(Was 2, 3; Average rank of 2)
Dahli (Instagram / Twitter / Facebook) nails the hell out of this challenge, but did we ever have any doubts? She’s been near the top of of the heap for the first two weeks and she is an actual former rock star.
Yes, she’s wearing her trademark leather chest harness again in her individual floor show look, but this week it’s tied in with the rest of her theme much better than it was in her Shaman look … and she’s wearing breasts!
She also is sporting an inventive metal skeleton of wings with a matching mohawk of metal spikes. Her clean-lined make-up is a skeletal take on KISS that’s more glam than scary, but that’s fine for this challenge.
If anything, Dahli is missing an element of filth in her ultra-polished look, just as she was last week. That does nothing to dissuade my opinion that it feels like she’s wearing costumes rather than inhabiting characters. It’s just that it’s pretty darn easy to buy her in a rocker costume.
Dahli’s performance in her band, P.M.S., was super solid. She clearly knows her way around a bass, and even sells the lazy roots-only bass playing inherent to this genre by constantly thumb-strumming rather than plucking with fingers.
She also might have the best look out of both bands in the performance – a sort of dilapidated glam rocker that looks like Slash becoming a zombie and auditioning for Gwar by covering Alice Cooper.
Dahli has precarious momentum heading into next week with three high placements and no win. If she wins next week, I think she solidifies herself as the queen that must be beaten in order to win the season. However, if doesn’t win next week I think it will be hard for her to recover – she’ll be pinned with an “always the bridesmaid” sort of narrative with three or four other girls who have bested her already even if she doesn’t face execution.
2. Biqtch Puddin
(Was 5, 6; Average rank of 4.33)
Biqtch Puddin (Instagram / Twitter / Facebook) makes a major comeback in this episode, not only garnering a nod from the Boulet Brothers for the win, but objectively destroying the entire competition in both halves of the challenge.
Biqtch’s individual rocker look wasn’t the most stunning, but it really nailed the theme of being a campy, slutty, big-haired rock monster. After all, how much were the looks of hair metal bands really all that cohesive? Just like Biqtch, they were about mashing up a bunch of disparate elements to create a special, trashy brand of mystique. Biqtch nails that aesthetic here and wears some massive hair while she’s doing it.
In the performance challenge, Biqtch is without compare. It’s one thing to hit the lyrics of a lip sync really hard. It something totally else to sell that you are really performing the vocals. That’s part of what’s hard about shooting a music video. You can’t only use your lips. You need to be pantomiming the vocals from your diaphragm on up, because if you were really singing you would be engaging all of those muscles.
Biqtch gets it. Her performance is revelatory – it feels scary, filthy, and real. She’s smart to handhold the mic the entire time, but also takes the time to choreograph her opposite hand into a series of twists and pulls on the cord to really connect her body movement to her performance.
It isn’t totally perfect, but for the majority of the time she’s on the mic she is selling herself as the actual performer really damn hard – hard enough I suspended my disbelief about her mic management and other little quibbles that could detract from the realism of her performance.
That the other girls in her band always jump in with her on the union gang vocals was a really nice touch.
Also, her look is damned great. I cannot stop looking at it. Her exaggerated, uneven unibrow gives her chalky white face an unsettlingly demonic cast that’s accentuated by her greasy highlighter-yellow hair. I’m not even mad about her massive pom-pom shoulder pads, because they just further her as a mangy glam demon.
We’ve now seen for two episodes in a row that Bitqch could very well be the best performer in this cast. Now the question is – can she step up her horror to match her performance skills? If so, It think this episode proves she could credibly walk away with the title.
(Was 3, 8; Average rank of 4.66)
Disasterina (Instagram / Twitter / Facebook) is back in disaster mode for her rocker look. It’s a messy, cartoonish amalgam of devil horns, ripped up tights, and crooked glam make-up.
You know what? It works. There’s something inherently rock about Disasterina’s messiness that feels really at home in this challenge. Also, she’s apparently got her own history as a rocker, so this wasn’t going to be the week to trip her up.
In the band performance, Disasterina might actually be playing the song on guitar? Like, in every shot we get of her hands it seems like she might have actually figured out the chords to the song. Why mime it if you can actually play it?
Her geometric face paint is a little less successful than the other girls on her team, as it doesn’t really read as unsettling as theirs. However, I’m loving her distressed and pin-festooned denim jacket with football shoulder pads on top of garters. Hell, now I want to wear that look to a show!
After her chilling performance last week and solid outing this week, it’s getting harder to think of Disasterina as cannon fodder. If she delivers again next week and avoids her stilted Week One presentation, she might be locking up a trip to the finals.
4. Victoria Elizabeth Black
(Was 1, 1; Average rank of 2)
Victoria Elizabeth Black (Instagram / Facebook) seems to have realized she hit a ceiling of sorts after two impossibly well-detailed looks, so instead of moving laterally from there she dials back.
Way, way, way back.
Her individual rock look is a great nod to androgynous 80s hair-metal frontmen, but she’s gone way too subtle on the details. She’s wearing just a vest with tails, a top hat, leather pants, and dash of metallic blush.
It’s glamorously plain, but there’s no horror or filth there. If she wanted to go this simple, she could have made it really filthy and pushed it into a sort of depraved sexpot place like James did with her Cenobite in week one.
Victoria’s performance look – and her performance – are complete misses. Vinyl pants and a sketch of a skeleton chest do not a rockstar make, even if you’re whipping around a massive mane of red hair. Add to that her soft lip sync and bad mic technique, and Victoria never once really sold the illusion of herself as a lead singer. She was more focused on dance moves than credibly fronting the band.
Even if she was definitely one of the worst two performers of the night, she’s still sitting pretty in the middle of the rankings. That’s not just because of her prior two weeks of performance, but because she takes her critique and extermination with little fuss.
If Victoria has learned her lesson not to go too underwhelming or low-concept, then the one chink in her armor is already filled in.
However, if we see her execution go a bit sideways next week, this performance will have turned out to be a sad portent of a precipitous drop in the ranks while other queens like Disasterina and Biqtch Puddin’ are ascendant.
5. Erika Klash
(Was 8, 9; Average rank of 7.33)
Erika Klash (Instagram / Twitter / Facebook) served it this week and the Boulet Brothers completely missed the chance to eat her up.
Erika’s individual look was by far the best and most complete rocker look of the bunch. She effortlessly fused elements of KISS, AC/DC, and Babymetal with a touch of Harley Quinn and finally paid close attention to every detail of her outfit.
The only slight ding is her bringing yet another stuffed animal to the stage with her. Someone send this girl a memo: STUFFED. ANIMALS. AREN’T. SCARY.
That said, I can manage to forgive the choice here, as it helped to push her look into a sort of cartoon version of shock rock that I think totally worked. If we were grading on individual looks alone, she’d be my winner of the week.
Honestly, she’s very nearly my winner even with the performance challenge taken into account. Erika gives a terrific illusion of actually playing the drums – maybe the best illusion of all six girls playing instruments, even when compared to amazing miming from Dahli and Disasterina. She keeps a foot anchored at the kick and has a decisively percussive crossover from left to right on the big snare hits. It’s obvious that she’s played a little bit of drums at some point in her life, even if it was just in Rock Band.
Her band look isn’t quite as memorable as those of her bandmates, but it’s still strong. She goes for a pretty literal interpretation of KISS, though I do love her damaged, frizzy hair. There are clearly some details we’re losing behind the drum set, like what looks like a black and yellow tutu of some kind. She didn’t have to go to all that trouble as the drummer, but I love that she did.
This gives Erika a touch of momentum, but without a shower of praise from the Boulets it still feels like she’s the major underdog in this line-up. She’s going to have to destroy next week’s challenge to rise in the rankings.
6. James Majesty
(Was 7, 2; Average rank of 5)
James Majesty (Instagram / Twitter (NSFW!) / Facebook) misses wide in the performance aspect of this challenge, but scores a solid enough hit in the individual floor show that she’s not at risk for Execution.
At least, that seems to be what the Boulet’s think. I’m really not getting any kind of rock from her bondage-inpired solo look aside from the big hair and the deconstructed disco ball elements on her shoulder. She’s just giving me stripper.
Yet, unlike her lackluster showing last week, here she sells the filth aspect a little bit more with a sultry strut and by putting out her cigarette on her tongue (ouch).
(I guess she was hoping her chainsaw would bring a horror aspect, but her clumsy dissection of a styrofoam-filled disco ball was way more comedic than scary.)
James’s band look wasn’t anything to write home about, but it at least looked inspired by 80s hair metal – which is more than I can say for her mimed drum playing.
Look, drumming is not easy and I am terrible at it, but her performance was so bad. I’d compare her to a sort of sad Muppet version of drumming except for Animal is an amazing mimer of drum playing and I would never diminish him by comparison.
James Majesty’s version of playing drums is… sort of bouncing up and down right in front of a cymbal? And occasionally waving in the direction of a snare? It’s not just that it doesn’t look like playing the drums, but that there is no weight to her rhythm. There’s no impact. She’s just bobbing and weaving.
Despite two week showings in a row, I’m not willing to count James Majesty out of the competition. It’s clear she has a lot more resources at her disposal than some of the other girls, and she seems tied as the best make-up artist with Victoria. If any of those girls at the top slip or if we get another week that’s way more focused on visuals than performance, James is going to slip right back into the top three.
(Was 4, 4; Average rank of 5)
As of this week I am totally over Abhora (Instagram / Twitter / Facebook).
Everything she brought to the individual challenge was straight up Marylin Mason, from the stilts to the make-up to the body movements. There was nothing especially rock or horror about it unless you know that she’s referencing Manson.
Compare that to Erika Klash, who synthesized several different rock influences into an original look that obviously read as rock (except for if you are a Boulet Brother).
Abhora’s performance outfit showed the first range we’ve seen from her, with a sort of neon vinyl fantasy aspect to it. I’m actually totally here for a neon glam take on Abhora’s aesthetic, but she’s hamstrung by being a walking circus-tent stuck on her stilts the entire time. Beneath her tent skirt she seemed to be simply rocking a very tall trash bag as a sheath dress.
Credit where it’s due – her mimed guitar playing actually syncs up decently to the track from what I can see. Yet, overall she was trying to sell some sort of puppet-master high-concept vibe, but between the neon and the stilts and the guitar playing it’s totally lost in the mix.
(Do you know what would have totally sold that? Playing keyboards. She could have used the same creepy extended fingers from her individual look, stayed up on the stilts, and given an illustion that she was actually puppeteering the entire band the entire time.)
And the dearly departed…
Kendra Onixxx (Instagram) is a high-quality drag queen who unfortunately seemed to be ever-so-slightly out of her element on Dragula.
She’s definitely a drag outsider, but her version of horror is a little too Halloween and not quite filthy enough for this particular competition. Still, I’ve come away as a fan – even if she never got quite scary enough, she showed a solid taste level and proved herself to be a tough-but-kind competitor. It’s a pity we never saw a performance where she could really turn it out all on her own.