There is no shortage of clues in the place: a mysterious locked room, a dressmaking dummy with a blood-red Victorian dress on it, a series of paintings showing young girls up to something in the woods, not to mention crone-like Miss Skeener’s strange antipathy toward twins. After one of the students goes missing, only to reappear dead and floating in the water like Ophelia, the need to unravel Greenwich’s mystery becomes even stronger.
Chan paces her story deliberately — perhaps a bit too much so at times – and if occasionally the story construction seems a bit rickety (that absent aunt never does reappear: the better to keep our two girls isolated), in omnibus form Chan is able to keep our attention. In visual tone and style, The Dreaming is like one of those black-and-white Old Dark House flicks from the thirties and forties: overly talky in places but confident in its moody setting’s capacity to hold our attention. With her isolated outback school, Chan has the right place, all right: so far away from any civilized lights that “for some reason, moonlight never seems to penetrate the school grounds.” The artist is particularly strong in the silent something’s gonna happen moments.
In an afterward to the first volume, the writer/artist claims to have been partially inspired by Picnic at Hanging Rock, the novel and Peter Weir movie about the disappearance of three Australian schoolgirls, though I also caught a trace of Dario Argento’s Suspiria in places (sans the Italian director’s bloodier giallo moments, of course). Watching Jenny snoop down Greenwich’s dark and sinister corridors, I could almost hear Goblin blaring on the soundtrack of the upcoming 3-D movie. Though that’s probably just some horror fannish dreaming on my part. . .