According to Netflix, House of Cards was a rousing success, though we have zero data to support that assertion (we just have to trust them). But can the streaming-video service continue its self-proclaimed roll? Next up on the company's original programming slate is the oh-so-scary Hemlock Grove, which debuts this Friday. But is it the genre-busting noirish masterpiece it purports to be, or is it just a monster mash? I've seen the first two episodes and I'll try to answer that question as soon as I figure out what I just saw in another edition of "Tell Me What to Watch, TV.com!"
What is Hemlock Grove?
Hemlock Grove is essentially a 13-hour ghost story set in a town full of weirdos and monsters, I think. I'm not spoiling anything when I re-hash the pilot, because it's all in the logline. A young woman is viciously murdered in Hemlock Grove, a smallish steel town in Pennsylvania, and authorities are bewildered as to who or what could have committed such a terrible thing. Landon Liboiron (Terra Nova) plays Peter, a gypsy boy who might be a werewolf, and Bill Skarsgard (Alexander's little brother) plays Roman Godfrey, the young spoiled heir to Hemlock Grove's big steel company. Both end up becoming suspects in the murder and decide to find the killer themselves.
Who's behind the show?
Slasher film buff Eli Roth (Hostel, Cabin Fever) is the big name attached to the series, and he directed the pilot and has an executive producer credit. Author Brian McGreevy wrote the book it's based on, and he's adapting it for Netflix with his pal Lee Shipman.
When does Hemlock Grove debut?
The craziness comes to Netflix this Friday, April 19 at 12am Pacific time. In keeping with the company's distribution model, all 13 episodes of the first season will be released at once.
What audience is Hemlock Grove targeting?
Fans of horror obviously, but more specifically, fans of the horror subgenre that likes to mix film noir with blood spatters and weirdness. It's not just monster-slashings; there's small-town drama and high-school angst thrown in as well.
What's good about Hemlock Grove?
Visually, Hemlock Grove is a treat, as there are some truly stunning shots of mossy, foggy forests, industrial-city backdrops, and the unnecessarily spooky Godfrey estate. There are also some nods to Twin Peaks, with unexplained kookiness rampant in the town; those sorts of puzzle that're open to interpretation are almost always welcome on television. And though the pilot doesn't have too much action, trailers have shown that some of the visual effects—particularly a gory werewolf transformation—are top-notch and designed to make your dinner want to escape your body via your throat.
Okay, but what isn't so good about Hemlock Grove?
Sometimes calling a show weird is a euphemism for it not being all that right. But there's no euphemism for this next statement: Some of the writing is atrocious. Duds are more common than not, and that spreads to every other aspect of the show. Several scenes are aimless, and there are times when the actors look as though they'd rather be at the dentist. Given their thin, underdeveloped characters, I'm not sure I blame them.
Well, should I watch it or not?
Hemlock Grove wants to be American Horror Story, but dare I say it doesn't have as much focus as the FX horror series? Yes, I do: It's even more scattered than AHS can seem at times. It also lacks the magic of AHS. There's still something oddly compelling about it, and it might be perfect for the Netflix model of binge-watching a bunch of episodes in one sitting. But based on an early sampling, I don't think it's worth finding out. This is an amateurish effort that's all over the place.
Can I see a trailer?
Okay. But be warned, the trailer makes the show seem better than it is.
What's a good drink to have while watching Hemlock Grove?
Lots and lots of absinthe. Maybe the green fairy will be able to explain this one to you.
Hemlock Grove premieres on Friday, April 19 at 12am Pacific on Netflix's streaming service.