body horror

[Netflix Review] Hemlock Grove Season 1 (2013) ★★★★☆

Peter and Roman in Hemlock Grove season 1

Hemlock Grove reimagines gothic horror with mystery, gore and monsters.


Hemlock Grove is a supernatural, fantasy, science fiction, gothic horror Netflix Original series that is very original, imaginative and has a great storyline that brings gothic Victorian monsters back to life in a fresh tale. It’s a dark gothic fairytale about family, destiny, friendship, love, betrayal and power. It has some great visuals and a lot of nudity, sex, gore, and gruesome scenes. With a slow pace the story is build and the mystery is set up to be solved by two unlikely friends who are both coming of age and are trying to find their way in the world. It’s an exceptional story that will appeal to those who seek something fresh with a unique voice. 

This first season consists of 13 episodes with each a duration of 45-58 minutes. It’s a continuous storyline that unravels the mystery of the murders as well of the secrets of both families. 


Plot

Peter Rumancek moves with his mother Lynda to Hemlock Grove after their uncle died and left them his trailer. They are Roma people, but Peter is even more special being a werewolf. But soon after their arrival some gruesome murders take place which look like wild animal attacks. 

Peter meets Roman Godfrey the youngest son of a wealthy family who owns the Godfrey company in the White Tower as it is called. But Roman does not only stem from a rich family but is also an Upir, a kind of vampire. And werewolves and Upirs are natural enemies. Peter en Roman defy that even after discovering who they really are. Together  they try to find the real killer, while they are searching for their own place in the world.


Why you should watch it

Hemlock Grove is a well-crafted gothic mystery that not only unravels the mystery of the murders, but also the family secrets and with it the lore behind werewolves and Upirs. This structure explores the mysteries but also the characters in a great way. 

It is shot with a dreamlike vibe, full of riddles and mystery, surreal shots and creates an elusive vibe. Accompanied with great music by Nathan Barr, the gothic vibe with mystery and poetic surrealism is a fact. 

The characters each represent a gothic Victorian figure. While Peter is the werewolf and Roman the vampire, Roman’s deformed sister Shelley is a ‘monster’ created and saved by Dr Johann Pryce (who serves as a Dr Frankenstein). Roman’s mother Olivia functions as the evil landlord, the powerful baron who keeps the protagonist imprisoned and is controlling people by means of manipulation and supernatural and scientific powers. Peter’s cousin Destiny is a medium/witch who with unconventional witchcraft can see the past and future. 

Their relationships are cause for a lot of drama, love, friendship, betrayal, loyalty, adultery and feels a bit soapy, but just in the right way. None of them stays shallow for long and each one of them has his or her own story to tell. The most gripping story is that of Shelley, who is a tragic figure, who looks like a monster but is the most beautiful person inside. While she is hated by her mother she is very much loved by Roman. 

Each character has his or her faults and shortcomings, making them human, in spite of their supernatural existence. That makes them interesting. But each one of them is looking for love and a deep connection. 

It combines their human ordeals, with supernatural turmoils and mysterious murders, while sneakily the plot is expanding to something much more. The murder mystery is what first binds Peter and Roman and acts like the big story arc that pushes the story forwards, while other occurrences, that all refer to the Dragon or Ouroboros, play a much more import part in the whole scheme of things. That’s what makes this series original and enthralling. 

The nudity and sex and gore are richly represented. The transformation into a werewolf is gross but very original. The kills and murders are brutal. There’s lots of blood, vomit and all kinds of gory stuff, but it doesn’t feel like it’s put in for shock value. It’s the natural way of how this universe works and doesn’t affect the intriguing storyline. It also adds to the elusiveness of the story, that explains itself not that easily, but you’ll have to read between the lines. It’s based on a very visceral level, while Peter and Roman form the grounded foundation of the story and both families.


My favorite part

I really loved Shelley. Although she’s only 14 years old, she’s very tall and big. She has a big fake black eye, a blue glowing skin like phosphoresce and she can’t speak and has to use a special device. She is maltreated by her mother who despises her, but the way Roman cares for her and loves her is so endearing. Shelley is picked on at school, but she’s a very sensitive person. She writes poetry and is eloquent and philosophically smart and has great insights about herself and others which she shares with her uncle Norman who’s a psychiatrist and helps and loves her very much. She also has a strange relationship with Johann Pryce who saved her as a baby but also created her into a monster, while not on purpose, it was a side effect. While she is his creation, he loves her very much, but more like a father loves his child and cares for her. While Peter and Roman might be the core of the series, Shelley is definitely the heart. 


Ratings

Rating: ★★★★☆

Gore factor: ★★★★☆

Surreal factor: ★★★☆☆

Gruesome factor: ★★★★☆

Originality factor: ★★★★☆

Entertainment factor: ★★★★★


Read more about Hemlock Grove:


Cast and crew

Hemlock Grove is based on the novel of the same name written by Brian McGreevy. The series is also created by Brian McGreevy and Lee Shipman. It stars Famke Janssen (Olivia Godfrey), Bill Skarsgård (Roman Godfrey) Landon Liboiron (Peter Rumancek),  Madeleine Martin (Shelly Godfrey), Penelope Mitchell (Letha Godfrey), Lili Taylor (Lynda Rumancek), Freya Tingley (Christina Wendelll), Dougray Scott (Norman Godfrey), Kaniehtiio Horn (Destiny Rumancek), Joel de la Fuente (Johann Pryce) and Kandyse McClure (Clementine Chasseur).

Music: Nathan Barr. Cinematography: Fernando Argüelles. Production company: Gaumont International Television, Mad Hatter Entertainment, ShineBox SMC. Original network: Netflix.


Check the trailer below