In this article, I will only review the first season of this remarkable show because I and many other fans see seasons 2 and 3 as bad and ridiculous fanfics. It’s quite a misunderstood work which would keep a good company to “Stranger Things”, “Twin Peaks” and even good old “Carrie”.
Despite the fact that the two main characters are high-schoolers, “Hemlock Grove” is an adult piece of art. Not because of all its ruthless blood and gore (nearly every one of us has watched bloody horror films long before the age of 17) but because of its complexity and symbolism. By the way, rare is the film where the idea "the super-rich = bloodsuckers" is so distinct.
Shot by Netflix in 2013, it stayed unknown to me until 2015, when I ran into a post of some Russian goth guy, who had been fascinated by the series. But only in grey and rainy December 2019 did I actually watch it. What made me more interested, Bill Skarsgård - the mighty Pennywise - had been playing one of the leading roles. Thanks to “Hemlock Grove”, I discovered that he had already been quite a powerful actor even before his star role in “IT”.
One can briefly describe the series with one word: UNUSUAL. It’s even more surprising while its setting is quite trivial for the popular cinema: vampires (called by their Slavic names "Upyrs" on the show), werewolves, a rich family with a dark past, a small town living in the shadow of a sinister biotechnological laboratory. The summary may even look like a “Twilight”-like story: a young vampire and a young werewolf unite in the search of the monster who terrorizes the neighborhood. But don't get easily deceived.
Each of the heroes has numerous skeletons in their closet and dramatic, mysteriously intertwined family histories. The primary advantage of the series is the script. The original novel was written by Brian McGreevey, who later decided to transform it into a screenplay, after watching the series, I desire to read his book. Secondly, the series adopts the best traditions of a detective which surprises you with each series, giving new clues and posing new questions. What lies behind Project Ouroboros? Who are the Godfrey family and what made them switch from metal business to pharma? Can one get pregnant from an angel? Why does the bloodthirsty Wargulf only hunt young women? The creators don't put all the cards on the table themselves: to get the full pleasure from the show, you'll have to think.
Characters and actors
Bill Skarsgård's Roman Godfrey and his deformed sister Shelley just nail the series. The "golden boy" Roman sometimes looks and acts like a psychopath, but his fidelity to the loved ones will more than once melt your heart. If I were 15-16 years old, I would surely attempt to copy his aloof, “I-don’t-care” manners. And his desperate attempts to reject his family's horrid heritage won't leave you indifferent.
The 15-year-old Shelley (Nicole Boivin), the victim of her mother's devastating emotional abuse, is the most innocent and pure person on the show despite her grotesque appearance. She contributes to the full disclosure of Roman's character but also has an interesting character arch of her own.
Landon Liboiron who plays Peter Rumancek looks more like an indie-rocker from a good family than a dangerous werewolf, but I would give him 7 points of 10 for his performance.
The young actress Freya Tingley (Christina), not largely known back in 2013, portrays a deceptively innocent nerd, provoking either sympathy or hate as her story goes on.
Famke Janssen (the "black widow" Olivia Godfrey) not only looks gorgeous but gives us shivers through nearly all her times on the screen. Olivia's confrontation with her own children, the rebellious Roman and the silent Shelley, is one of the best parts of the story. She managed to pull on my personal triggers and scared the hell out of me. My deep gratitude to the actors and the casting people!
The soundtrack contributed pretty much to the atmosphere of the series. The composer Nathan Barr created slow and gloomy music with a very vintage sound. It was occasionally interrupted by nervous and impulsive horror-film music. Besides, I want to thank the costume and location designers who made the picture so stylish and added much to the visual subtext. Pure eyegasm.
P.S. Please, never watch two last seasons. Let's consider Season 1 an accomplished work.
Movie URL: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt2309295/