I have seen the dragon. – Shelley
When I first learned about Hemlock Grove I was ecstatic. I was and still am a big fan of Eli Roth. His movies haven’t been perfect but he has always seemed to air towards heavy practical effects, light use of CGI and a love of all things horror. Sometimes directors seem to not really like the genre they are working in and I never got that from Roth.
With over a month to go until it was released to Netflix, I read that it had been adapted from a novel which was trangressive, bizarre and offered a fresh take on what has become a stale genre in the post Twilight haze. I picked up the book and I will admit I really enjoyed it. It was like Chuck Palahniuk had written his own take on Buffy The Vampire Slayer. OK maybe not THAT great cause that would be mind blowing. More like if he had done his take on Teen Wolf/Vampire Diaries. It had sex, blood, mystery and it did in fact offer a fresh take on the genre. The werewolf was completely at peace with his hairier tendencies. The vampire (referred to as an upyr) was completely oblivious to his nature. It had heavy amounts of gay subtext and a Frankenstien meets The Elephant Man Girl. I read it cover to cover in a few days and happily placed it on my book shelf.
The last Friday, I had the day off and sat down on the couch ready to plow through the series like I had done with Netflix & David Fincher‘s epic House Of Cards. I watched the Pilot and I had to say I was under whelmed. Shelley who in the book was essentially John Merrick in David Lynch’s Elephant Man. She is so big, she rides in a trailer that her brother Roman has to tow behind his car because she doesn’t fit inside cars or the cabs of trucks. She is hideously deformed. In the series she is just really tall, dumpy and has a giant eye. Only when she ditches her wig does she look ANYTHING like what she does in the books. But I was willing to over look that along with a somewhat dull episode.
On to Episode 2, featuring the werewolf transformation. I had avoided the video that they released prior to the show going up. I had read an article in which the producers including Roth essentially said they were trying to avoid any and all CGI. I was so excited because the transformation was so brutal and seemed perfect for entering the Practical Werewolf Effects Hall Of Fame along with classics like American Werewolf In London, Ginger Snaps, The Howling, Being Human UK etc. I had heard they had used some CGI and I hoped against my better judgement that they had simply used a light touch like a lot of the CGI in Hostel 2, or pretty much everything David Fincher has ever done using CGI. What I got was a brief shot of some hot man butt, and a terrible disappointment. I will only make an exception to the use of wolves as werewolves when they are played by Joe Man-jello!
What followed after the second episode was some bad acting, and a mystery I already knew the ending to. It is hard to be invested in who the vargulf is, when you already know the character who has been eating their way through local girls. But the show had a great amount of style which I must admit I enjoyed. And the upyr mythos was actually kind of awesome. Never using the word vampire, walking in the sun etc reminded me a lot of Tony Scott’s The Hunger. Olivia was also given more to do, becoming a drug addict of sorts using a gypsy potion of sorts to stave off her insatiable hunger for raw flesh/blood. But like I said, why do I care if I know what is going to happen.
Cut to the last few episodes, and you should stop reading now if you haven’t finished. Olivia mutilating Clementine in such a bold and gory way was a genius move. I had otherwise been going through the motions by the time it rolled around. I assumed we would get her implied demise after she wakes up in the cage. This is how I remember the book going. Instead we are treated to an incredibly gory set piece of the skinned hunter who has been left to die slowly. Shown mercy by the evil head of The Godfrey Institute.
The ending was also a nice surprise. Bonus points for them keeping in the gay subtext. In fact I would go so far as to say they came a hair short of out and out stating that Roman was conflicted over his bisexuality and was in love with Peter. They also made the first victim a lesbian, and Clementine was also made a lesbian while neither of them were fleshed out in this way in the books. Dr. Pryce was cast as gay AND Asian which was a nice change.
All in all the show failed to meet my admittedly high expectations but none the less was an enjoyable addition to the long list of supernatural dramas that have proliferated in the wake of Buffy The Vampire Slayer. It is no where near as good as American Horror Story, Hannibal or even lesser shows like Bates Motel, The Vampire Diaries or Teen Wolf. Bonus points for faggotry but major deductions for use of real wolves and lack luster Quasimodos.