TV-MA, 13 50-min. episodes
Developers: Brian McMcGreevy, Lee Shipman
Directors: Eli Roth, Deran Sarafian, David Semel, David Straiton, T.J. Scott
Writers: Brian McGreevy (also novel), Lee Shipman, Sheila Callaghan, Mark Verheiden, Daniel Paige, Rafe Judkins, Lauren LeFranc
Starring: Famke Janssen, Bill Skarsgård, Landon Liboiron, Penelope Mitchell, Freya Tingley, Dougray Scott, Nicole Boivin, Kandyse McClure, Aaron Douglas, Joel de la Fuente, Lili Taylor
Guest starring: Ted Dykstra, Michael Andreae, Eliana Jones, Emilia McCarthy, Kaniehtiio Horn, Holly Deveaux, Marty Adams, Philip Craig, Emily Piggford, Don Francks
I had a friend who watched this series long before I did. He’s someone who often turns me on to phenomenon shows before they become a full on phenomenon, like “Lost” after only a few episodes. He also tends to only watch television series’ for a couple of years, always complaining that they got “soap opera-y”. I think it has nothing to do with the melodramatic elements of the series, but rather he just gets bored of them. “Hemlock Grove” is good proof for this theory of mine.
My friend binge-watched the Netflix horror series and couldn’t stop talking about it. He told me about the rich family and the “gypsies” who had just moved back to town of Hemlock Grove in a trailer in the woods behind the rich family’s estate. He told me about the series of murders that looked like animal attacks that suddened upon the town when the gypsies arrived. He was careful not to spoil anything by saying that some people seem to think the gypsy boy is a werewolf and that they suspect him of the attacks, despite the fact that while he tries to keep it a secret to the town at large, he reveals to the rich kid rather early in the series that he is indeed a werewolf.
He told me that the rich kid had some strange powers of his own, and was just as cheeky about it as the series is for most of its running time. He told me the two boys formed an uneasy alliance to find and kill the beast, which they thought was a werewolf who’d gone mad after a second attack occurs while they are in each others’ presence. Mostly he told me about the rich kid’s sexy mother, played by Famke Janssen of “X-Men” fame. He really likes Famke Janssen.
So I sit down to watch this series, which I’ve been warned by other friends isn’t as good as it should be. One valued horror connoisseur even suggested that it borders on the ridiculous. But, it seemed a perfect television series for this year’s Horrofest, so I tried it on… and stayed reluctantly for the whole thing.
I was shocked at first because this show is the most soap opera-y, melodramatic thing I’ve seen in a long time, and my friend who hates the unnecessary melodrama of hour-long television liked it? But soon the melodrama was replaced by long boring lulls in the drama and weirdness designed just to jerk the audience around. In fact, I’d say nothing happens to advance the plot along one bit between episode 2 and episode 10. Eight episodes of nothing but distracting drivel. Oh, it all relates to what’s happening in Hemlock Grove with the killings, and includes some other mysterious developments, but none of it actually advances the story. You can’t do that in a 13 episode dramatic series that you want people to take seriously.
Perhaps, that’s just it. Perhaps, it isn’t all intended to be taken seriously. Many people compared it to David Lynch’s “Twin Peaks” in its mood and delivery. Yes, it looks damn good, but the details are completely unimaginative compared to Lynch’s master television series of weirdness. The characters are too serious; they don’t have enough quirks about them to pull off the comical nature that many of Lynch’s characters did. Plus Lynch’s series included so many details that had nothing to do with the murder that set the series off. In “Hemlock Grove”, the killings dominate everyone’s storylines; even the ones that don’t end up relating are set up as if they do.
Red band trailer includes violence, gore and foul language.