Honestly, I was SO excited about this show before it premiered on Netflix (Also let me know I LOVE the idea of premiering a whole series on Netflix). It was supposed to be gristly, horrifying and all together creepy. I was honestly picturing something along the lines of “American Horror Story.” Not to mention it was adapted by Eli Roth a horror movie man himself. But damn, was I disappointed in the long run.
“Hemlock Grove” follows the small Pennsylvania town after several murders of young high school girls. Two young men decide to find the killer themselves but find themselves in something much deeper and much bigger. The series is based on the Horror/Thriller novel of the same name written by Brian McGreevy. It was initially released on March 27, 2012. The show premiered all 13 episodes on Netflix on April 19, 2013.
While I went into the series knowing ahead of time that it dealt with formerly YA novel material such as werewolves and vampires, I still had hope about the series because it involved Roth. Not to mention the cast had a bit going for it with Famke Janssen and Lili Taylor as relatively major characters.
:::: WARNING: SERIES SPOILERS BELOW ::::
The rest of the cast, though, was disappointing. Roman Godfrey, a petulant and entitled douche bag comes from a family who basically owns the entire town of Hemlock Grove and worst punishment amounts to a slap on the wrist from mommy. The character is believable at first but is constantly made worse by the poor acting which I can only attribute to the poor material the character receives. Nothing against Bill Skarsgård, but I get the feeling that the constant brooding and pursed lip stare that is so prevalent for Roman is the result of poor characterization. How to play a vampire? Brooding and sulky seems to be the only answer. Unfortunately the character of Roman became more of a joke as the series furthered. When I just thought he couldn’t get more ridiculous and predictable, he would do something so pathetically cliche that it would make me laugh out loud and cringe.
While Roman’s love and protection of his sister Shelley was both sweet and endearing, his obsession with his pregnant cousin (later revealed to be sister) Letha was uncomfortable and weird. It is even weirder when you find out he is the one who raped and impregnated her. Though it is not surprising given his penchant for raping and his desire to fuck Letha throughout the series.
The other main character, Peter Rumancek, played by Landon Liboiron, is actually one of the best in the series. While he is technically a werewolf gypsy, he at least acts accordingly to what is most believable for kids in high school. Because he is always an outsider he treats other outsiders with respect however if a hot girl asks to have sex with him? He goes for it. Believable. While his friendship with Roman went through a typically roller coaster of emotions through out the series. One episode they are BFF’s, the next they aren’t, then they are BFF’s again, next he is fucking Roman’s cousin. Ups and downs.
Unless you fuck their hot, pregnant cousin/sister. Then all bets are off.
Letha, cousin to Roman, is pregnant (by an “Angel” no less) goes from prudish girl who tells everyone how virginal she is, to jumping the bones of Peter days (or maybe weeks since time frame is hardly ever discussed) without any kind of hesitation. Granted this could be explained away by an attitude of “I’m already pregnant, may as well get it on with the hot werewolf guy,” though I feel like that is a leap considering she showed no interest in sex or Peter until all of a sudden, she is offering herself to him after they get frozen yogurt. Also the only thing they ever seem to talk about it Roman and the Godfrey’s, before/after and sometimes even during sex.
Also, is there NO adult supervision of these kids? While a bunch of shit seemingly often goes down within the high school, there never seems to be any adults around. Granted, Roman gets away with a lot because his family owns the town, but there are several occasions where adults let him drink at bars knowing full well that he is only 18. Yet, the moment he is on property owned by his family he is immediately arrested. It feels like adults (other than the main characters family) are only present when they are needed to further the plot. At one point, Peter is jumped and beat up brutally RIGHT IN FRONT OF THE SCHOOL. DURING SCHOOL HOURS. WITH EVERYONE WATCHING. Yet, not one teacher/ bus driver/ security guard/ or any adult seems to be present. Also how the hell did Chasseur get SO many pictures of these kids without them knowing? What a creeper.
The most frustrating issue that “Hemlock Grove” faces is its million story lines, most of which you won’t care about. Between each of the minor characters having their own back story plus current story, and each main characters struggling through several story lines themselves, the episodes feel cramped and stressed. (Coincidentally, this is my same issue with another supernatural drama, “True Blood.”) Each episode you is jammed packed with so many different characters each dealing with their own things that occasionally overlap, that it takes several episodes before something may get resolved or revealed. Most of which I found myself getting suffering through to get to back to the main issues at hand. Even more infuriating is the lack of tying up all the loose ends. By the end of the series, half of the questions and mysteries of the series had not been answered. What the fuck is Shelley? I get it, she like glows and is possibly a cyborg, but WHY and HOW? Also, what was the drug that Olivia took that only gypsies could give her? What really happened to JR and Olivia? What THE FUCK is Ouroboros really?
I found the motivations of the characters unrealistic and frustrating. Letha constantly puts herself in danger despite being pregnant and told repeatedly to go away so she doesn’t get hurt. The mother’s of the two main characters never seem to be around or care where their children are at any given moment. Dr. Chasseur stupidly alienates everyone in Hemlock Grove and also puts herself in danger when she should know better given her line of work. Officer Sworn was given ONE thing to do, watch his daughters, and instead goes outside to investigate noise (on a rainy stormy night) and leaves the doors unlocked allowing his daughters to be killed. Norman Godfrey, leaves his pregnant wife (which is only mentioned once so I am not sure if she was still pregnant by the end of the show) for Olivia despite his daughter dying and his wife grieving. Peter leaves without so much as a goodbye to his supposed best friend (who mind you is also grieving the death of Letha.)The only character with realistic motivations and ideas is Shelley and maybe even Christina whose desire for an experience makes her into the vargulf. Though the fact that she apparently has the habit of kissing dead/sleeping people is a bit strange.
I am not sure if the bad acting, terrible characterization, and poor plot management are a result of the adapting process to television or if the source material is already mismanaged by the author. But frankly, I don’t even want to read the book to find out.
All in all, “Hemlock Grove” is less twisted and terrifying than it is just another supernatural teen drama with more sex, drugs, nudity, and disemboweled corpses.
4/10 would not watch again.