The show begins with a gruesome murder and it descends into a whodunit amongst the crazy and kooky inhabitants of Hemlock Grove. Conspiracies, creatures, mad scientists, gypsies and werewolves are all thrown into the mix to give the show an offbeat (yet strangely po-faced) feel. It’s not successful in what it sets out to achieve, but it has enough of an anarchic appeal to make it something of a guilty pleasure.
Famke Janssen and Dougray Scott lead the cast of and they both appear to take things very seriously – although to be fair, Janssen does play it with certain kitsch Adams Family-style zeal. There’s a ‘50s B-movie vibe about their plot-line that makes it fun to watch, but elsewhere, things are less successful. The show’s younger characters are left to plod around an A-typical High School setting, with nothing to offer but pouts and teen angst. That’s not to say that they give bad performances – they’re just given bad material to work with.
This Eli Roth produced show is based on a series of novels by Brian McGreevey and it really does feel like an adaptation of a much larger piece. Something like Game Of Thrones can handle multi-character arcs and make the writing feel strong, but this show lacks narrative focus and punchy dialogue. Hemlock Grove is one of Netflix’s first stabs at creating a television series and oddly, it feels very old fashioned and formulaic – which is not something you would expect from a maverick like Roth and a game-changer like Netflix. It’s as if they didn’t have the creative courage to stick their necks out to really go wild and crazy. Maybe they’re saving that for Season 2.
Teen audiences brought up on Twilight and other assorted Young Adult fiction will no doubt go wild and crazy for Hemlock Grove. Its teen melodrama and supernatural elements will make it appealing for those wanting a quick fix until the next horror fad comes along. Others may not be so forgiving – however at least we get to see Dougray Scott and Famke Janssen share the screen for the first time. Scott was set to star as Wolverine in Bryan Singer’s X-Men (2000), until the shooting of Mission: Impossible II overran, leading to Hugh Jackman winning the role – the rest, as they say, is history.
Hemlock Grove won’t change the world, it won’t even change the shape of television – but there are shows out there which are much worse. It’s also better than Twilight – and that’s a major tick in the plus column.