A teenage girl is brutally murdered, sparking a hunt for her killer. But in a town where everyone hides a secret, will they find the monster among them?
I know what this synopsis reminds me of, and if you’re anything like me, you kept an eye open for a young Federal agent that really liked coffee and pie. Much like Twin Peaks, the dying steel town of Hemlock Grove, PA, has suffered the death of a 17-year-old girl and the town is crushed as they move into a nervous state of high alert. While Lynch had an armada of quirky and weird characters, even with a touch of the supernatural thrown in for good measure, the people of Hemlock Grove (both good and bad) have the trump card when it comes to polarizing characters. Lynch still wins when it comes to charm, but if anything, it was a welcome nod to the sleepy timber town that hooked me back in the 90s.
As you guessed, the “animal attack” that killed the girl was barbaric in nature. Two teenagers, Roman Godfrey (Bill Skarsgard) and Peter Rumancek (Landon Liboiron) find themselves as the self-appointed investigators hunting the killer, searching for a way to put an end to the attacks. It’s that very basic and direct approach that broke the seal for a litany of horror archetypes, providing this motivated series a wealth of iconic characters and liberal doses of old school horror mentality. Peter is obviously the gypsy werewolf, a hyper-aware kid with his lycanthropic heart in the right place. Roman is a mysterious guy with some obvious powers of his own, but do these powers necessarily prove his nocturnal proclivities? I spent the entire series guessing and looking for the most subtle of giveaways. You won’t find out until the season ends, so I hope patience is a virtue in this sometimes slowly paced horror smorgasbord.
The show revolves around Peter and Roman and their ever evolving friendship. Roman is wealthy beyond imagination; the heir to the mega-rich Godfreys, and Peter is literally a nomadic gypsy with nothing but the clothes on his back. That’s the perfect mix for what’s really a horror movie erupting from within a campy soap opera. This show is rightfully getting comparisons to True Blood – with all the gore, nudity, and bad acting; it shares the same vibe at times. The difference is that I watch True Blood out of obligation. It’s a bloody, naked horror romp and I pay for HBO – I feel like I have to watch. When it comes to Hemlock Grove – I want to watch.
In line with the soap opera angle are secret societies, dream sequences, affairs, murders, and more secrets than you can shake a copy of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein at. Speaking of Shelley, Roman has a sister with the same name, and maybe the same origins if we look at the big picture. Kudos to the show and actresses Amazon Eve (the towering 6’8″ Shelley) and the face of Shelley, Nicole Boivin. The creative camerawork and editing made for a convincing kindhearted, but deformed sister to Roman. I think everyone I’ve talked to so far places Shelley high in the lists of characters they want more of next season. That crazy eye and glowing blue skin helped make this show. Great acting for someone who has to “act” with half of their real face and can’t speak.
My only real complaint was the meandering middle episodes that stepped away from the death of poor Brooke Bluebell (great name). The show lost its way for a while, touching on secret labs and extended coma-induced dream sequences. And, yes, there was some great overacting involved, terrible dialogue, and camp camp camp. Call me a sucker, but sometimes things like that can have an endearing effect, and for me it worked. I understand the complaint, there was just so much more to concentrate on. The visual appeal of this series deserves an A+. The title sequence is perfectly haunting and evil and it readies you for the waiting trauma.
The foggy landscapes, stylized camerawork, and overwhelming love of horror sets drew me in. Every shadow, every color, each piece of set dressing was perfect. The helicopter shots of Hemlock Grove were amazing. Fans of horror devoted time and work to getting the ominous town to look just right. I appreciate that dedication and then some. To the people saying the real wolves were inspired by Twilight – I find it very hard to believe that the author was inspired by the overwhelming mediocrity of Twilight. Real wolves have played a huge role in werewolf lore for centuries. I prefer real wolves to slumbering hybrids that offer no real visual perks and often times just comes across as hokey. I don’t think anyone can say the first transformation was anything other than amazing.
There’s so many interesting characters and subplots in Hemlock Grove – it would take a 20k review to mention them all. To those of you that might not be finished yet – the last two episodes are telling and confirm or deny your hunches about Olivia and Roman with much certainty. Overall, I would give Hemlock Grove a solid B+. Beware the moon, lads.