Above all else, “Hemlock Grove” is a disappointment. After Netflix’s spectacular-on-all-levels release of their first original series, “House of Cards,” viewers got their hopes up. Visions of masterful works of television, with whole seasons available at once, danced in their heads — and the advertising for “Hemlock Grove” did nothing to dispel the hype. The artwork was fantastic, images of ouroboros and werewolves and yes, lots of dead bodies, danced across computer screens, and hopes were high. Hopes of Eli Roth revolutionizing horror forever — and they were dashed.
The first 10 minutes of the series are baffling; a bizarre sex scene designed to introduce us to extremely affluent, ludicrously self-indulgent main character Roman Godfrey (portrayed by Bill Skarsgård, lackluster brother of Alexander) and a brutal murder designed to introduce us to the apparent theme of the series: pretty, dead girls.
Yes, it’s a real shame that Netflix’s latest original series brings nothing new to the horror scene. What could have been a step in the direction of true and horrifying art merely denigrated the genre to its usual cadre of cheap tricks, unnecessary gore and the endless overuse of tropes: dead chicks, werewolves and lots of blood. And don’t mistake this for the complaints of someone who doesn’t appreciate horror, because this particular writer subsides on things that go “bump” in the night. This series is just plain lame.
Particularly the acting. Skarsgård stars alongside Landon Liboiron for an entire series of awkward pauses and dispassionate dialogue with reasonable handsomeness. Liboiron plays gypsy werewolf Peter Rumancek, who, alongside Skarsgård’s character Roman (who can perform the Jedi mind-trick while giving himself a nosebleed), decide to solve the series of bestial murders afflicting the town of Hemlock Grove. The murder victims are all, you guessed it, pretty girls. Famke Janssen costars as Roman’s mother Olivia Godfrey, who is apparently some oversexed witch with an atrocious British accent.
And if those details piqued your curiosity somewhat, allow me to stop you right here: none of your questions are going to get answered. “Hemlock Grove” follows the “Lost” model to the T, and keeps you guessing the entire season only to throw you one or two little tidbits of information, all of which only lead to more questions, none of which are actually explored or answered, even with the assistance of Janssen’s clumsy voiceover narrations.
To be fair, the series had its moments. If gore doesn’t bother you, it certainly has a splatterpunk appeal. Sometimes, Skarsgård’s Swedish sense of irony actually allows him to fire off the believably funny quip or two. And there was one particularly beautiful scene where Liboiron’s character bared it all and transformed in front of Skarsgård’s, a well-acted, intimate scene among two characters who didn’t show much depth beforehand. Or for the more squeamish among you, there are some actually interesting characters, like the hyperstrong Dr. Johann Pryce or the Vatican-employed-werewolf-hunting Dr. Clementine Chausser. In fact, excluding Janssen, the supporting cast was full of fairly strong, interesting characters who could’ve made for a very powerful story … if the writers had given them the time of day.
Overall, the series had potential, and is at times entertaining, but this writer doesn’t see it making much headway. With its clunky acting, hit-or-miss story and reliance on old tropes, it’s a good thing the show is available for free on Netflix, or it wouldn’t be worth watching at all.
Only recommended if you’re a fan of “True Blood” or can stomach being disappointed with many unanswered questions.