Hemlock Grove - Series Review




It's amazing how fast technology and information sharing changes. Netflix, which began as a direct service DVD provider roughly a decade, has seen their entire business model change over the last couple of years. The innovation of the streaming video service certainly did not start with Netflix, but from a purely business point of view you have to call them the leaders n the industry. The ability to host films and charge monthly for their broadcast keeps the actual physical overhead low and profits high.Netflix biggest issue has always been content. They own none of their own. Usually leasing libraries from film or television studios meant that the content provided by Netfilx was always going to be volatile.Once Netflix began to prove that their streaming business model worked, the studios they leased from realized they can provide the same service with the content they already own. Netflix, seeking to sew up the one (very) leaky sieve in their business model - content. They premiered their first original series "House Of Cards," starring Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright, to a tremendous response from viewers and critics alike.

So what is next on the Netflix original programming agenda? That would be "Hemlock Grove" a thirteen episode series based on the book by Brian McGreevy and executive produced by genre fave Eli Roth. Roth also adapted the book for the screen and directed a couple of episodes. So far so good, since Roth is a talented guy who really knows what buttons to push to get the visceral reactions that horror fans look for.

Hemlock Grove is a town somewhere in, I think western, Pennsylvania, that is essentially owned and operated by the Godfrey family. They made their bones when they owned the local steel mill, but opened "the institute" when the steel industry went gay (keep reaching for that rainbow boys!). The Institute is part research facility, part hospital, and all obtrusive against the Hemlock Grove skyline. Olivia Godfrey, the matriarch of the family started fucking her brother in law shortly before her husband killed himself. For his part, Norman - the brother in law, has just found out his 16 year old daughter is pregnant. He suspects hanky panky. She claims and angel fucked her. Her cousin Roman, Olivia's son, has the ability to influence others actions strictly with his thoughts. Into this odd situation comes Peter Rumancek and his mother Lily Taylor, two gypsies who set up shop on the edge of the Godfrey's Downton Abbey-like estate. Roman and Peter become fast friends. As do Peter and Romans pregnant cousin Letha. They become "very good" friends. Then young girls start to die. It looks like an animal. But in Hemlock Grove that means a werewolf. Sounds intriguing right? Well, sometimes shit sounds a lot better than it looks.

Hemlock Groves main issue is that it's essentially Twilight, or tween if  that's to specific for you, dressed up with some sex and gore so those involved can say "But look at the Sex and Gore!" It's a showcase for the same warmed over, tired teen angst that we've seen permeate the genre for the last 5 years or so. It barely manages to keep it's head above water and that's only because of the performance of Bill Skarsgard. If Hemlock Grove gave us nothing, and quite frankly I can think of nothing else it does, at least it introduced the world to him. 

Like the old song says "Jack of all trades. Master of none." Hemlock Grove tries to be everything to everyone. Pretty, depressed teens for the Twilight fans. Gore and Sex to appeal to the more hardened viewers. More (attempted) twists than a bag of Rold Gold Pretzels for those who think they've seen everything. Unfortunately, it really doesn't do any of these things well. The efforts to appeal to everyone, seem to have left the most important thing behind - the story.

So many story lines and characters are introduced that none of them are given time to breathe and realize their potential. Fish and Wildlife expert, Dr. Chaussers involvement essentially adds up to nothing. The Order of The Dragon...was nothing. Romans inheriting of the institute as a source of friction - nothing. Aura Boros...barely anything. So much time is spent with Norman and Olivia's affair - and it means nothing to the overall storyline. It's just wasted time. All of this leaves the main story - Romans journey from asshole kid to seemingly something greater, dying on the vine.

Kudos to Netflix for throwing their hat in the horror ring and trying something new. Kudos to those involved for having their heart in the right place. Kudos to Bill Skarsgard for carrying the show on his back the last half of the season. That being said lets hope this is the last trip anyone has to make to Hemlock Grove.

** stars out of ***** for Hemlock Grove the Series.

Read individual show reviews starting here.

As always, thanks for reading. "Enjoy every sandwich"

Start reading about season 2 here.

4 comments:

  1. This is an awful review. Its obvious you didn't get into the series.

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  2. Thanks for the pointed, constructive, feedback! All reviews are subject to the opinion of the reviewer. You are correct I did not "get in to it." There wasn't much to "get in to." If you feel differently write a dissenting opinion. Thanks for reading!

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  3. While I wouldn't say this is an awful review I do dissent... To say the Hemlock Grove is "essentially Twilight" is, I think, unfair and inaccurate. They both have werewolves and pretty people, but there the resemblance ends.
    Hemlock Grove is a well acted, well written low-key gothic melodrama that weaves a number of characters and plots into the overall story that is more about mood and setting than slamming home plot points. To say that Norman and Olivia's affair "meant nothing" is like saying the bass adds nothing to the band because it's not playing the melody...
    I won't belabor the point, just wanted to suggest that anyone reading this review not be put off by the "Twilight" comparison and give Hemlock Grove a look.

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  4. Thanks for the feedback...Unfortunately we live in the "post-Twilight" world....and those pieces of shit have tarnished the way people look at pretty dudes just sitting around with their shirts off...it's not just the "pretty people" though, 'Lost Boys' had pretty boys too...the show feels like a 'Twilight' film, especially the first few episodes. I think I even make the comment in my first review that some of the shots could be 'Twilight' B-Roll. Now, to be fair, most of this feeling was shed by the end of the show, which is a compliment to progression....As far as the narrative, this is where I have the biggest issue with "Hemlock Grove." Most of this stems from expanding one book, into a 10 hour show. We learn in the final episode that the story is ultimately Romans. It's his journey. If you go back and watch the show for a second time, focus on Roman and watch his character arc. Then ask yourself how his character is affected by things like Norman and Olivia affair. Could you remove that subplot and still get Roman to where he needs to be? Absolutely. There are too many things like Olivia and Norman or Aura Bauros or Dr. Price and his super strength that really go nowhere or mean nothing to the overall narrative. That was my main issue with the Grove...but your point is essentially correct - you can enjoy it and hate 'Twilight' at the same time

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