Hemlock Grove: Season One

Hemlock Grove: Season One
Hemlock Grove is a big mess of a show, but it desperately wants to be a hot mess of a show — it doesn't get there. It tries its best to throw together bits of Twin Peaks, Twilight, American Horror Story and everything else Eli Roth (one of the show's producers) has previously touched, and they really do expect it to hold together in a glorious amalgam, but it doesn't, and when lots and lots of stuff is thrown against a wall, not everything is going to stick. Such is the case with Hemlock Grove.

It starts off with the murder of a high school student who has been hooking up with her teacher. Naturally, the fingers start pointing towards a fellow student, Peter Rumancek (played by Landon Liboiron), who is rumoured to be a werewolf. That particular rumour turns out to be true — yes, he is a werewolf — but he's innocent of that and subsequent murders, so he has to team up with the local rich kid (played by Bill Skarsgård, brother of True Blood's Alexander) to solve the crimes. A bunch of other stuff happens too, but it really doesn't matter.

The main problem is that Hemlock Grove can't decide if it wants to play it straight, go for full campiness or be just plain weird, and that kind of indecision is never going to make a cohesive show. By the time the season finale comes along, it is hard to care about any of the characters, and any attempt to tie up all the loose ends is an afterthought. Plus, it adds a whole bunch of plot right at the very end, which would have made a lot more sense to scatter throughout the 13 episodes because it would have helped to explain some of the nonsensical storylines. The disappointment of it all is that there are some decent actors in the cast; Famke Janssen and Lili Taylor do their best with the mediocre script, and even Skarsgård nobly tries to rise above it.

It makes the most of the freedom that comes with being on Netflix by including as much bad language and nudity as possible, but that doesn't help. The only saving grace is that there are a few genuine jump scares, plenty of gore, and a rather spectacular transformation sequence when the werewolf first appears. It's hard to imagine why Netflix has kept it around for a second season, let alone renewed it for a third, but it has. This can only be recommended for those who happily consume each and every horror movie that makes it into theatres, because there's not much here at all. There isn't much in the way of extras either, but that might be a merciful thing. The commentary track by Roth and Lorenza Izzo (the first murdered schoolgirl) on the first episode is informative enough, although the sextet of other featurettes are much less essential. (Shout! Factory)