"Hemlock Grove": A Destination For the Dull
Published on May 6, 2013 by guest author: J.K. Eisen

After viewing the first episode of Netflix’s “House of Cards,” I found myself facing a dilemma. As I looked at the 12 remaining episodes, I had to decide if I would give in to instant gratification and do some binge viewing or take things at a slower pace and savor the episodes.


Ultimately, I took the middle ground, sometimes watching a single episode and other times jumping into another episode when I absolutely had to find out the fate of Congressman Frank Underwood, the deliciously devious character portrayed by Kevin Spacey.


This is part of the experience of watching a Netflix original series. Unlike traditional television, they serve up an entire season’s worth of episodes at once – a viewing experience closer to watching the entire season of a series on DVD.


When Netflix released its latest series, “Hemlock Grove,” though, I found myself facing a different dilemma. After watching the first episode, I was left wondering how many more episodes I should watch before calling it quits.


The answer is two episodes.

After 96 minutes of this horror series produced by Eli Roth, I only found a dreadfully dull story filled with clichés and characters that I simply don’t care to watch. It’s worth noting that I am a horror fan. I did not go into this series expecting a supernatural “House of Cards.”


“Hemlock Grove,” based on the novel by Brian McGreevy, gets off to an intriguing – and gory – start when a teenage girl is murdered by someone or something. Unfortunately, we must wait until almost the end of the episode before it gets back to the murder. Instead, we are introduced to teenager Peter Rumancek (Landon Liboiron) and his mother, Lynda (Lili Taylor). They are modern-day gypsies – yes, you read that correctly, gypsies – who have just moved into the trailer where Peter’s late uncle lived.


The trailer sits in the shadow of the palatial Godfrey estate, which is home to Roman Godfrey (Bill Skarsgard), an aristocratic, sex-hungry teen. Of course, Roman and Peter soon cross paths, giving “Hemlock Grove” a tired cliché to use as a crutch – a story involving two handsome male characters from opposite sides of the tracks. On the one hand you’ve got the cold, wealthy and arrogant Roman. On the other hand, you’ve got Peter, a sensitive guy, who obviously wasn’t born with a silver spoon in his mouth.


But they are harboring some secrets. Shortly after Peter starts attending his new high school, the rumors start to fly that he’s a werewolf. He is a rather hairy guy, after all. In the second episode, Roman demonstrates the ability to perform a sort of Jedi mind trick on a cop. He simply tells the cop what he wants him to say and the cop repeats it. But for some reason, this power causes Roman’s nose to bleed. Somehow, this was never a problem for Obi-Wan.


Obviously, in a town where a girl has been ripped to shreds, these two guys are strange enough for suspicion to fall on them. There’s just not enough about these two guys to make me care to watch the entire series.


There are just multiple problems with “Hemlock Grove.” One problem is that this is the same tired storyline of using teenagers with supernatural abilities as a way of connecting with teen viewers who feel like outsiders because they’re going through their own weird transformation involving body hair – puberty. It feels as if this series is aiming for “Twilight” fans looking for something a little darker, which isn’t what you’d expect from the guy who gave us “Hostel.”


Another problem is the horrendous organization of the first episode. After we see the murder, we jump back in time a few months and then go farther back in time for a flashback. This would be forgivable if it piqued the viewer’s interest. Unfortunately, it only serves to frustrate as we endure cryptic – and boring – dialogue. Viewers endure even more lifeless dialogue in episode two.

Yet this doesn’t mean the series is a failure for Netflix. In fact, it reported that more people viewed this series during its first weekend on the site than “House of Cards.” They also said it was a hit among young adults. Certainly, this series is aiming for a crowd that’s more likely to watch “Twilight” than “Let the Right One In.” And, there’s not anything wrong with aiming for that demographic. But I can’t help but think that better writing and editing in the first two episodes might have created an even larger and more diverse audience for “Hemlock Grove.”

J.K. Eisen writes about entertainment and the world around him. He lives in the Deep South.

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