The Banality of Hemlock Grove
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When I’m not playing games I’m watching scary movies. Occasionally I’m going to post about them too.
In retrospect Hemlock Grove was doomed in my eyes from the start.
The 13-episode miniseries is the first Netflix Original production to be released after the stunning House of Cards, and although not every production can star Kevin Spacey as a political sociopath (much to my dismay) I was expecting something of a similar calibre. To be fair, that’s an incredibly hard act to follow.
The other reason I was expecting more than Hemlock Grove delivers is not the show’s fault, per se. Last weekend I was in Las Vegas, and across the street from my hotel room window was a gigantic screen that advertised the show every 15 minutes or so. After a weekend of three-story-tall letters shouting at me about the Terrifying! Chilling! Exciting! Hemlock Grove! by Eli Roth! I figured I should at least check it out.
Hemlock Grove has been misleadingly labelled as a horror series, when in fact it’s more of a murder mystery with 3-4 moments of extreme gore.
The show quite obviously wants to be Twin Peaks for the Twilight set, but it has none of David Lynch’s menacing style and characters come off as inconsistent rather than quirky. The acting is awkward, to say the least. There are many scenes where Famke Janssen (as mysterious matriarch Olivia Godfrey) poorly affects a British accent in conversation with Bill Skarsgård (as her son Roman Godfrey) while he poorly affects an American accent. I was left more fascinated by the fate of their vowels than anything the characters were saying.
All this would be excusable if the writing wasn’t utter shit. It’s bad, you guys. Really, really bad. At least twice I noticed sentences with the wrong verb tense, and it wasn’t on purpose. The AV Club review lists some of the worst bits of dialogue, which include “People see Peter as just a flying piece of paper they can put everything they’re afraid of on.”, and the painfully phrased “I believe I’ve accepted I’ve fallen victim to collective hysteria.”. (What?)
Weirdly enough, early on the show does have one of the best human-to-wolf transformation scenes I’ve ever seen. So, um, props to the special effects folks, I guess.
Popular media is already filled to the brim with werewolf/vampire hijinks, and I’m not really sure what Hemlock Grove thought it was bringing to the table. It’s too “kinky” for the teen girl crowd, but falls well short of the over-the-top exploitation of True Blood. At least True Blood is gleeful! Hemlock Grove is painfully unfun, and the actors are stuck gloomily plodding through ludicrous scenes. (At one point Roman Godfrey has to cook a lot of bacon for reasons that were really never properly explained. Moodily. MOODY BACON.)
I’d love to see Netflix invest in some good genre/horror material but despite the 3-story tall advertising campaign Hemlock Grove is not it.