Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Toss the bathwater, Frankenstein the baby: lessons from Hemlock Grove series 1

Netflix's Hemlock Grove is such a mixed bag it's hard to even say it's "good" or "bad." Let's break it down, +/- style.

Spoilers for Hemlock Grove ahead.

+ The story. There's a compelling supernatural drama/soap going on in Hemlock Grove. There are characters that diverge from cookiecutter tropes that horror gravitates towards. The story goes to some interesting places. Particularly enjoyable is Dr. Price's journey from arch villain to sympathetic counter-programmer.

- The production. Writing and editing muddle the good parts of the story. Twists and revelations that should have made you say "I can't believe that happened" instead prompt "what just happened?" too often.

A tragic example of this: in the church confrontation, I had to rewind and deduce why Sheriff Sworn shot Shelley. I've come to the conclusion that Sworn must have only seen the end, Shelley holding the dead vargulf in human form, and fired thinking her the killer. This shouldn't be a conclusion the viewers have to reach alone, though; we should have been shown. It would have been just a few quick cuts of Sworn arriving.

Also at the very end I think we're supposed to infer that Roman either can't help raping people, hypnotized himself to forget, or was hypnotized by his mother to do it. Without clarification, it's impossible for the viewer to forgive the character, so that's a pretty important missing piece.

+ The whole gypsy clan. The Rumanceks and the actors that played them were the best part of the series. More of them, please.

- The dialect coaches for the Godfreys. It was hard to take anyone but Shelley seriously in dramatic moments when their accents were so bad.

+ The humor. Who knew a horror show could be so funny without camp? Even though the Wire-style "shiiiiiiiit" was overused, it offered much needed relief more often than not.

Favorite moment: "Do you want to have sex with me?" "Well, here we are."

- The horror. Expectations always should be tempered when it comes to effects, because we all know that budgets exist. But 1.2 transformations over an entire season of a show that's billed about being a werewolf show... underwhelming. There were fewer effects than any supernatural BBC show, and those shows are Hemlock Grove's main competition.

Overall, there was more potential than product in Hemlock Grove. Here's hoping it gets a second series and a bit of course-correct so that it can deliver on its promise.

1 comment:

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