“NOS4A2” (pronounced Nosferatu) is not your usual vampire story: The “vampires” in the show are infinitely more terrifying because they are actually soulless children. The show came out in early June as a supernatural horror drama based off the novel of the same name by Joe Hill. If you want a different spin on the usual vampire tropes and feel like entering a world where imagination becomes a chilling reality, “NOS4A2” is the show for you.
The show revolves around the protagonist, Victoria, or “Vic” McQueen, who discovers she has the supernatural ability to find lost objects and people. By crossing a bridge that she creates in her mind, but was demolished years ago in reality, she’s able to find whatever she’s looking for. Her main mission becomes finding Charlie Manx, an evil immortal man who kidnaps children and feeds on their souls.
The first episode, called “The Shorter Way,” starts out with a young boy named Danny getting kidnapped from his home. His kidnapper is none other than Charlie Manx, who lures the child into his 1938 Rolls Royce Wraith with presents in the back of it. Manx promises Danny he’s taking him to Christmasland, a magical place where it’s Christmas every day and where unhappiness is against the law.
From the first episode, much of the plot in “NOS4A2” revolves around Christmasland and how it works. Manx created Christmasland as a sort of amusement park in his mind, but he is somehow able to bring children to it in the real world. He kidnaps a child, puts them in the back of his Wraith, sucks out their soul and then dumps what remains of them in his twisted Christmas village.
The children start out fine on the road to Christmasland, but as Manx slowly devours their soul, they become monstrous, both physically and mentally. Their teeth fall out and are replaced by razor sharp fangs and their hair and skin become grey and brittle. They change in personality too, becoming violent and bloodthirsty.
Vic only becomes interested in hunting Manx when he kidnaps her young friend Haley. Vic wants to rescue her from Christmasland and from becoming one of Manx’s creatures, but only the audience can see it’s too late. When Manx stops at a gas station, a woman sees Haley in the back of his Wraith and tries to help her. In return Haley, who is too far gone in her transformation, savagely eats the woman.
“NOS4A2” provides an entirely more sinister and horror-inducing take on vampires, as you automatically want to save these children and believe they’re still good, but at the same time they’re committing gruesome acts. When people picture vampires, images range from the classic bloodsucking demon with fangs to a sparkly, beautiful immortal from “Twilight.” “NOS4A2” gives you soulless vampires in a way you don’t expect: in the form of children.
Manx justifies kidnapping children and turning them into monsters by stating they live in abusive homes, and if he didn’t take them to Christmasland, they would have been ruined by their parents anyway. The real reason he needs the children is so he can stay young and alive.
It’s not only the show’s premise of child vampires that makes it so intriguing, but also the actors, who are a huge part of how frightening “NOS4A2” is. First and foremost, Zachary Quinto plays Charlie Manx and does a fantastic job at it. His portrayal and transformation from a 135-year-old man to a young version of himself after he sucks out children’s souls is unmatched. No one should be surprised though, considering Quinto also played iconic antagonists like Sylar in “Heroes” and Dr. Oliver Thredson in “American Horror Story.”
Vic McQueen is played by Ashleigh Cummings, and she nails Vic as a strong yet vulnerable young woman who struggles to deal with all the hardships concerning not only her family, but also her newfound supernatural abilities. Vic follows a relatively familiar journey, where she’s reluctant to use her abilities at first until someone she cares about is in danger. After that, she becomes an unstoppable force that even Charlie Manx is afraid of.
The relationship between Manx and Vic is important, because while they start out as enemies, Manx actually takes a liking to Vic later in the show and wants her to become the “mother” of his “children,” or the kids he kidnapped and keeps in Christmasland. Manx very creepily asks her to come with him to Christmasland, an offer she understandably refuses.
Another important relationship in “NOS4A2” is between Vic and Maggie. Maggie Leigh is a medium with supernatural abilities of her own that Vic meets through her bridge. Maggie explains that she and Vic are “strong creatives” that have one foot in their imagination and one in the real world. Only strong creatives can bring their imaginary worlds into reality, implying that Manx is one as well.
Maggie is played by Jahkara J. Smith, who does an amazing job playing a character that wants to help everyone, yet can barely get a handle on her own issues. She has a similar struggle as Vic, where her family life and supernatural abilities cause more problems than she can keep up with. Smith is the reason I started watching “NOS4A2” in the first place because she was a YouTuber I admired for a while, and when she left YouTube to be on a show, I figured her show must be worth seeing.
Overall, “NOS4A2” is a unique story that grips you and keeps you intrigued from the very first few scenes. There are ten episodes and only one season out, so it’s quite easy to binge-watch as each cliffhanger at the end of an episode leaves you needing more. If the incredible talent of the actors or unusual storyline doesn’t convince you, consider that “NOS4A2” is based off a novel by Joe Hill, Stephen King’s son.
Hill was around for some of the show’s shooting and has said that when he stepped onto the set of “NOS4A2,” it was like stepping into his own imagination. He called the script for the first episode terrific. Even Stephen King himself has commented on the show, saying it’s “balls to the wall scary” and that “they’re not playing games.” Obviously King might be a tad biased, but he is also known as the king of horror, so take his comment as you will.
“NOS4A2” is on AMC, the home of “The Walking Dead,” “Breaking Bad” and many others. They’ve already renewed the show for a second season, so those who have watched it can rest assured the story does not end in the Season 1 finale. “NOS4A2,” with its surreal visuals and talented actors, is well worth the watch. The show is captivating given how the kidnapped children’s innocence is morphed and Christmas is turned into a sinister weapon.
The plot leaves you on the edge of your seat; at times I even found myself hiding behind my hands. If you want a new twist on a vampire story and dreamlike imagery with talented actors, watch “NOS4A2.”