Friday, May 24, 2013

Hemlock Grove – season 1 – review

Director: Various

First aired: 2013

Contains spoilers

Hemlock Grove, produced by Eli Roth (who directed an episode), is unusal in the fact that it was a series developed for and broadcast via online provider Netflix and might be a herald of a new way of producing interesting series.

It had a cast that included well-known actors, effects that worked rather well and has been likened to Twin Peaks. In that it is set in a small town and is focused on the murder of a young woman then maybe it is. However at its heart it is a new and interesting twist on the monster mash.

Landon Liboiron as Peter
The murder (only the first) takes place on a full moon and is brutal. Attracted to the death are two very different young men. Peter Rumancek (Landon Liboiron) is a young man of gypsy extraction. He and his mother, Lynda (Lili Taylor, the Addiction), have just moved to a deceased uncle’s trailer. Early on a young, inquisitive girl called Christina (Freya Tingley), suggests that (because of his finger length) he is a werewolf and actually spreads that rumour through the school.

The thing is, he is actually a werewolf and I was impressed with the idea around the change. His human eyes fall out, he sloughs his skin and becomes a quadruped wolf (that eats his human body remains). He is also not the killer. There is an insane werewolf out there and he decides he wants to find it, especially when a werewolf hunter, Dr Clementine Chasseur (Kandyse McClure), comes to town. Possing as a federal wildlife agent, she is an agent for the church who is initiated into the Order of the Dragon.

Shelley is the Frankenstein Monster 
The other inquisitive youth is Roman Godfrey (Bill Skarsgård), heir-apparent to the Godfrey estate and son of Olivia (Famke Janssen). His father, JR (Paul Popowich, Vlad & Vampires Anonymous), committed suicide when he was a child. The Godfrey institute is a bio-tech institute that his uncle Norman (Dougray Scott, Perfect Creature) and Olivia have joint interest in. Now I said this was a monster mash and his sister Shelley (Nicole Boivin) died as a baby and was resurrected through a phosphorus treatment by mad scientist and Godfrey employee Dr Johann Pryce (Joel de la Fuente). This has left her deformed, a lumbering giant who cannot speak (bar through a voice program on her smartphone) but is gentle-hearted and intelligent. She is Frankenstein’s Monster essentially; her name is a give-away, of course.

born with a caul
That just leaves the vampire and that is Roman. Peter immediately recognises him as an upyr but also recognises that the rich boy doesn’t know what he is. The word vampire is not used but we get clues. The fact he was born with a caul is mentioned and he discovers that he can make people do his will (his nose bleeds afterwards). His mother is an upyr, she is addicted to a liquid that you take as an eyedrop and is produced by the gypsies. It takes the edge off the hunger.

using mojo
We do later see the end results of a feed, the victim flayed of her skin, the neck broken but still alive. Olivia uses Johann to cover up her tracks. Roman’s confused/repressed identity comes out in a need to cut himself during sex, fascinated with the blood on his fingers. At one point he slashes his chest open when receiving fellatio. However it is only in the very last episode that the vampirism is actually revealed to him and (fully to) the audience.

fangs revealed
We hear Olivia’s backstory, her pregnancy with a gypsy slave, the disgrace she brought on her family, her eloping and subsequent suicide. We discover the numerous attempts over the years to have a child, all of them dying or being killed as the upyr aspect had not appeared until Roman. We also discover that to truly become upyr they must take their own lives. Other lore includes the principle that a full upyr heals quickly (Olivia is shot with little impact) and they can walk in sunlight. Interestingly (and unconnected to Clementine) Roman suggests that he and Peter are the Order of the Dragon too.

Bill Skarsgård as Roman
I really enjoyed the series, it was interesting, had some varied subplots, such as Roman’s cousin Leitha (Penelope Mitchell) falling pregnant to, she claims, an angel and the mysterious Ouroboros project. The acting was strong – the two main lads took a little bit of time to find their feet but eventually developed a good chemistry between them. Can the standard be maintained in a further series? I hope so as it was stronger than some of the main TV produced series. 7 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.


Unknown said...

vampire-werewolf series that different compare to any series that I have seen... this is series such a mysteries and makes me keep wondering what will happens next

Taliesin_ttlg said...

Hi Fairuza, thanks for the comment. It certainly was a strength of this series that they did unusual things with the lore