Thursday, June 6, 2013

In Which I Kvetch About Hemlock Grove



I actually really liked Hemlock Grove.  I know it's a series that's polarized a lot of critics, but I enjoyed it a lot.  Then again, I am not super critical of gory shows with eye candy leads, so, there's that (Horrordork and all).  It is exactly what it's genre suggests: a kinda ridiculous, sexy, weird, taboo-laden splatterfest.  I suspect a large part of the challenges this series has faced (besides the actual issues with writing) are:
  • it's a show about teen-agers but marketed to an (young) adult audience.  This is dicey, just because the world is already saturated with teen-agers-become-monsters stories, some amazing, some amusing, and young adults are usually into one (often in novel form) or the other.
  • it's a horror serial, which honestly is not a great bet for insane popularity
  • it's only available via one format 
  • the subplots (yes, there are like a majillion by the end) are not wholly original (but so what, critics?  Anyway)
  • the creators are the producers are the whatever, which can get incestuous and lead to the above problem, and
  • Eli Roth.
I don't mind Eli Roth, per se.  But even as an avowed dork'o'horror he's not my fave.  And this is a big reach for him, in a lot of ways; he's a bit of a slash 'em type of dude.  Expectations for that would be high, I'd imagine, and this series is a bit more of a Twin Peaksy, cerebral, family drama focused slow burn.  A dragging burn, even, in some instances; like most things, I think it would have held a lot more punch in like, 8 episodes.  But you know me.

Personal most hated flaw?  The scene with the Sheriff and the twins (I think it's episode 10).  Standard horror fare, I know; at a point of high tension, a character wanders towards a banging door/snapping curtain/dark hallway that we all know is a bad idea, and then dies.  The problem here is that we know the killer doesn't target burly dudes.  We know he's going to kill the charming mirror prancing minors upstairs, and we're confirmed in our suspicions by the POV shots from the killer's perspective.

So who, with any brains at all, wouldn't just fucking camp out in front of the girls' bedroom door with their shotgun/missiles/zombiepacalypse accoutrement?  Who the fuck would wander off in the goddamn backyard like a total dipshit?

Short answer: not the fucking chief.  Long answer: total break with the suspension of disbelief.  Of course, we all knew those sassy little prostitots were gonna get it.  Any one who's ever seen a horror film knew it--or anyone who ever just heard The Rules from Scream, or understood the genre-mocking meta-commentary from Cabin in the Woods knew it.  Unfortunately, it is the trope that will not die: sassy, promiscuous and/or wanna-be promiscuous women are usually blood splatter by the time the film splits.  There are always interesting exceptions, but generally it's a rule you can bank on, and Eli Roth would definitely know this (not to mention the scads of horror alumni associated with Hemlock Grove).  So, you know, yawn on that front.  But, dude, if you're going to use the standards, use them.  Surprise us and kill the chief, even.  Way better.

The sheriff would have been a good candidate for a moral conundrum interfering with his saving his own daughters, or maybe being simply over-powered and forced to watch them die.  But this bumbling assclown shens was just...  I don't know.  Weak.  Definitely a false note in a decent series, especially since we're arcing towards the end.  And definitely a mis-use of Aaron Douglas, who is no stranger to playing tragic, lovable leaders; something about him just screams competent, reliable, dedicated.  Smart.  Not the guy you want to cast as a moron, which you would have to do if you wanted me to believe a Moron-Sheriff-Dedicated-Father would wander off to nail-gun a door shut while his daughters vogued for a vicious killer.  Insert copious eye-rolls here.

This series is not bad.  It's hella crowded, with a lurching, tangential plot, and Famke Janssen is more compelling when her characters are more conflicted; she does a great "I want to be good/I want to be bad" heroine (a la Jean Grey/Dark Phoenix).  Wasted.  But still, hot Canuks, South African-Canuks, Danes, and Swedes abound, replete with boob and butt shots, so nary a horror trope is wasted.  I can totally see why this was panned by some critics; there's no Jessica Lange stand-out to push this horror series into the main stream, no matter how much pandering one might do to Vampire Diary addicts.

I have trouble thinking of main stream horror.  Supernatural?  Sure, but it's kinda ditched it's roots a bit, and it's always been a heavy family drama.  Also: hilarious.  Also also: holy shit have you ever seen such menfolk in your life?  And there's American Horror Story, which is a bit of an anomaly.  There have been many mysterious, spooky, quirky or jumper shows over the years, but horror is different.  Horror horrifies.  That's the point.  The only other show I can think of that's aiming for real horror is Hannibal, and I truly don't know how long that will stay on air (because it actually horrifies).

So that's that. I gave it a B - and will def check out the next season, assuming there is one.