Hemlock Grove, an original Netflix series, is one weird-ass creative splash, and I loved every minute of it. Let me rephrase that: Hemlock Grove, an original Netflix series, is an acquired taste and a bit of a disappointment.
Sigh. I hate reviewing shows like this one.
The plot: Based on a novel by Brian McGreevy, Grove tells the tale of two high school boys, one a werewolf and the other a … something, who team up to hunt down a “vargulf,” a renegade lycanthrope (werewolf) that is killing young girls in the titular burg, which is located somewhere in Pennsylvania. During the course of the Hardy Boys from Hell investigation, we meet strange townsfolk and strange, to put it mildly, relatives of the two boys (Bill Skarsgard and Landon Liboiron).
What I Liked:
1) The 13-episode series has a great look. It was filmed in Ontario but reeks of rust-belt America … except when it doesn’t, such as the presence of a glass skyscraper, the “White Tower,” that looms incongruously over everything else in the otherwise smallish town.
2) Some of the performances are a hoot. Famke Janssen, as the mother of one of the intrepid boy heroes, overacts in a role that cries out for overacting. As Olivia Godfrey, Janssen slinks, drinks, and purrs like an aristocratic Morticia Addams, manipulating everyone in her orbit with an accent that sounds part British and part, oh, I don’t know — Transylvanian? Also mugging shamelessly is wild-eyed Joel de la Fuente as the town’s resident mad scientist.
3) The plot keeps you guessing. One problem with monster mythology is that it often leaves the screenwriter with two unappealing options: Bore the audience by explaining everything (e.g., lycanthropes, upirs, and vargulfs), or leave the weirdness unexplained and risk putting the viewer into a head-scratching funk. Hemlock Grove leaves a lot unexplained, which is sometimes frustrating, but more often just a tease.
4) There are lots of random, what-the-hell moments. The female representative of law and order is not the usual cop or FBI agent; she hails from Fish & Wildlife Services, of all places. And then there is that ominous skyscraper, home of biotech shenanigans as it towers over the high school, a country store, and beer joints, looking as out of place as a nuclear reactor in Mayberry.
What You Might Not Like:
If you go into Hemlock Grove expecting logic, you won’t make it past episode two. Perhaps all of the supernatural mumbo jumbo is better explained in McGreevy’s novel, but for series viewing, I advise switching off one segment of your brain and just soaking it all in. Or not. I hate reviewing shows like this one. Grade: B
Cast: Famke Janssen, Lili Taylor, Bill Skarsgard, Landon Liboiron, Penelope Mitchell, Freya Tingley, Dougray Scott, Joel de la Fuente, Aaron Douglas, Nicole Boivin, Kandyse McClure, Emily Piggford, Kaniehtiio Horn Premiere: 2013
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