Netflix has delivered another original series, this time directed by the bringer of torture porn, Eli Roth (Hostel, Cabin Fever). Hemlock Grove is a mystery/horror show, complete with thirteen episodes of sex, violence, gore, secrets, and a head-scratching murder mystery that introduces another world of the supernatural.
Hemlock Grove has something intriguing about it, and I honestly cannot tell you what that is. The horror is more gore-filled than frightening, with minimal actual scares, and the characters are odd and somewhat disjointed. And maybe that is the way it is supposed to be. It tries desperately to be eerie and smart, but with so many different suspects that each carry different secrets… things become a bit jumbled and confusing.
The story ultimately begins with a murder. On the full moon, a woman is brutally ripped apart and “eaten” by some sort of animal. And while the town desperately tries to find the animal or “person” responsible for the murders, everyone’s secrets come into the light, and it is so easy to point fingers and scream, “That one did it!” This is where Hemlock Grove either shines or just plain confuses… I’m not sure which one yet. One thing it does do, though, is make you think and search for clues that may be present throughout the scenes.
Peter Rumancek (Landon Liboiron) and Roman Godfrey (Bill Skarsgard) form an attractive and odd duo that is fun to watch, especially as their own secrets become revealed, and it becomes obvious that these two beings should naturally be enemies. The bond that is formed between Peter and Roman becomes palpable, and it only gets better as other characters such as Letha and Shelley become involved.
Shelley, Roman’s giant disfigured sister, is a mystery all on its own. While she cannot physically speak, her monologues and occasional close ups really flesh out the character. It perfectly exemplifies the beauty inside of a figure that is obviously feared by so many, and I would have loved to have learned more about her as the story progressed.
Olivia Godfrey (Famke Janssen) is Roman and Shelley’s love-to-hate mother that is hooked on some kind of eye drops and loves to bang her dead husband’s brother Norman (Dougray Scott). It’s obvious that she is not human… she just has that evil thing down pat (even if her accent is laughable), and it’s nice to see the tension formed between her and Roman because of her less-than-honorable tendencies.
While the characters try their best to drive the show, they remain bland inside of the drama of the murder mystery, even with the intrigue of their secrets. Sometimes the dialogue is choppy and stilted, almost as if the actors weren’t sure how they should be delivered, and while this is often odd, there are moments where it just works. These characters aren’t normal.
The show works when it focuses on the murder, but the sex and gore that is relentlessly shoved into your face feels like a desperate attempt to remind you that this isn’t cable television. The drama feels like a narrative from a CW television show, and there are moments when I wondered if the writers even knew what direction they were moving. Even though the mystery is solved by the end of the thirteen episodes, I hope that a new season can successfully flesh out these characters and broaden the view inside of this alluring world.
There are undeniably a few hits and misses, but if you are a fan of the supernatural and you have a craving for a mystery, Hemlock Grove is a show you should definitely check out.
Score: 5.5 out of 10