Saturday, April 29, 2017

But I Digress... Howling for Hemlock

By Cat

Name/Year: Hemlock Grove (2013-2015)
Tagline: The monster is within.
Genre: Horror, Mystery, Thriller
Length: 3 Seasons, 33 Episodes total, 46 min. each
Rating: TV-MA
Production Companies: Gaumont International Television, Mad Hatter Entertainment, ShineBox SMC
Creators/Developers: Brian McGreevy, Lee Shipman
Producers: Brian McGreevy, Lee Shipman, Eli Roth, Michael A. Connolly, Elisa Todd Ellis, Eric Newman, Katie O'Connell,  Peter Blake, Charles H. Eglee, Peter Friedlander
Directors: David Straiton, Deran Sarafian, Russell Lee Fine, T.J. Scott, David Semel, Peter Cornwell, Eli Roth, Billy Gierhart, Sanaa Hamri, Vincenzo Natali, David Petrarca, Floria Sigismondi, Spencer Susser, Jon Amiel, Coky Giedroyc, Marc Jobst, Jim O'Hanlon, Carl Tibbetts
Writers: Brian McGreevy, Lee Shipman, Travis Jackson, David Paul Francis, Peter Blake, Evan Dunsky, Charles H. Eglee, Jennifer Haley, Daniel Paige, Mark Verheiden, Sheila Callaghan, Rafe Judkins, Lauren LeFranc, Ned Navidi, Lorna Clarke Osunsanmi
Actors: Famke Janssen, Bill Skarsgård, Landon Liboiron, Joel de la Fuente, Dougray Scott, Kaniehtiio Horn, Madeline Martin
Stunt Coordinators/Doubles: Tom Farr, Matt Birman, Patrick Mark, Dana Jones, Jack Birman, Riley Jones, Michael Andreae, Angelica Lisk-Hann, Bernadette Couture, Jamie Jones, Nicole Dickinson, Jennifer Murray, Steve 'Shack' Shackleton, Nicole Lissner, Al Vrkljan, Aaron Douglas, Mike Chute, Tig Fong, Brayden Jones, Ciara Jones, Devon Slack, Susan Horton, Christopher Cordell, Brent Jones, Robert C. Shannon,Thomas Luccioni, Geoff Meech, Susana Baker, Layton Morrison, Derek Barnes, Goran Stjepanovic

Blurb: A teenage girl is brutally murdered, sparking a hunt for her killer. But in a town where everyone hides a secret, will they find the monster among them?

Now that I have been absolutely freaked out by the relatively freshly released trailer for the new remake of Stephen King’s (The Stand, The Shining, Christine) It (2017), set to release in September; it had me reminiscing. The actor that is stepping into the clown shoes of the sinister Pennywise is none other than Hemlock Grove’s own Bill Skarsgård (Anna Karenina, Allegiant, Atomic Blonde). He’s no stranger to the odd and supernatural. I got all nostalgic for a bit – that might have something to do with trying to think of things OTHER than what I’d just watched. 

But I digress…

With the Netflix Original series freshly on my brain, I realized that it’s been two years since I last visited Hemlock Grove. It’s certainly not a place I’d like to go in person, but the residents of that fictional town endeared themselves to me. So in honor of Bill’s continued career success and the streaming service that gives us so many movies to review for you, I figured that going back to the Grove seemed fitting.

Hemlock Grove was the first Netflix Original series that didn’t have some sort of other incarnation prior to its exclusive release by the media streaming mogul. There were only two prior – one of which was adapted from a BBC show and the other began overseas before Netflix was even the name of the company. In my book, those don’t count. 

Grove was groundbreaking in so many ways. It helped pave the way for the plethora of other series and movies that Netflix boasts as exclusive content. The format also helped it push boundaries with stunning and horrific visuals that wouldn’t be allowed on network television and might be a hard sell even on cable. Of course, these days, what’s allowed and what isn’t is a line that continuously gets blurred and redrawn. 

This 3-season series is based on the book authored by writer/producer Brian McGreevy (The Son). It’s said he originally intended to write a trilogy, but he later stated in a public Reddit interview that he’d decided to focus on the series instead. I have yet to read the book, but it is on my ever growing reading list. I am highly curious how well the story meshes up and if there might be any answers within the pages that the screen couldn’t provide. 

This has to be the most amazing, albeit disgustingly visceral, werewolf transformation that I have ever seen on the screen. It is both crazy and makes so much sense. The cinematography and the visual effects employed by the show just pull you in and give the story depth and plausibility, even though there are some areas of the overall story arc that are downright odd. There’s enough good content to make up for some of the weirdness, however.  I couldn’t help but root for the scruffy Peter Rumancek, played by Landon Liboiron (The Howling: Reborn, Burning Bodhi, Frontier). There was such strength, vulnerability, and humor in his character. 

The key players among the cast are recognizable and well versed in their craft – including Bond-girl and crimson-haired mutant Famke Janssen (X-Men, Taken, How to Get Away With Murder); and Dougray Scott (Mission Impossible II, Hitman, The Rezort), an actor that you either love to love or love to hate as he plays both villain and hero so well. 

The thing about Hemlock Grove is that the lines between hero and villain get blurry in a few places. This is definitely not a black-hat / white-hat scenario where good and evil are cut and dry. 

Now to those that think that the supernatural aspects of this series are odd, please keep in mind that this isn’t following along with the standard tropes for the creatures represented. Greevy pulled from folklore in making his monsters – specifically that of the Slavic areas of the world around Russia, Romania, Poland, and the like. If you don’t mind spoilers for yourself, feel free to look it up on a wiki or a search for Hemlock Grove and it should begin to point you in the right direction. Since we don’t like spoilers here at Trust the Dice, this is something I leave in your hands alone to explore – hopefully on-screen through the series. I don’t claim to be an expert on this particular branch of folklore and mythology by any means; but from what I did find in my research, the portrayal seems fairly accurate when you take creative license into account. I enjoyed puzzling things out as the series went along. 

When all is said and done, I’m sad that the Primetime Emmy nominated series only had three seasons; but I’m happy that they got to end it on their own terms rather than some sort of abrupt cliffhanger because a plug was pulled too soon. If you enjoy supernatural thrillers with a liberal dose of mystery and a dash of romance, check this series out!



Speech Available: English, Spanish
Subtitles Available: English, Spanish

Average Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score* – 38%
Average Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score* – 70%
Metascore - 45/100
Metacritic User Score – 7.6/10
IMDB Score – 7.3/10

Trust the Dice: Cat’s Rating – 5/5

Trust-the-Dice’s Parental Advisory Rating: R

*Rotten Tomatoes averaged the ratings for the 3 seasons of the show.

Season 1 Trailer: 

But I Digress... is a weekly column for that can't be pinned down to just one thing. It's Cat's celebration of tangents, random references, and general fan geekdom that both intertwines with, revolves around, and diverges from our movie-review core. In homage to the beloved Brit comedians, we want to bring you something completely different!

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