When I first sat down to watch this direct to Netflix show, I must admit, I was more than a little bit leery. First, it’s produced by Eli Roth, a filmmaker with a very spotty record as far as I’m concerned. Second, it was coming out from Netflix, and that’s like if the late, not-so-great Blockbuster Video started releasing movies: not exactly something to jump up and down apart. Third, I heard it was about a werewolf and a vampire and the woman they both loved, and that just reeked of so much Twilight B.S. to me. So it was with a fair share of reluctance that I watched this show. Was my apprehension warranted, or was I politely surprised? Read on and find out.
First, I was happy to see that the show was far more focused on the lycanthrope than the bloodsucker. In almost every other pairing of those two classic monsters, it’s the other way around, as werewolves just never get the same respect of the cape and fanged crowd. Second, there was more to the story than the love lives of the two hunky leads. While there was a bit too much supernatural romance for my taste, there was enough other things to keep that from hogging the spotlight for far too long. First, there was the weird little town of Hemlock Grove itself, which owed more than a nod of appreciation to the likes of Twin Peaks. It was quaint, quirky, and packed with oddball and memorable characters, so much so, that it soon became apparent that Hemlock Grove was far more an ensemble show, and I really liked that. Third, the acting by all involved was competent to very good, something that most ensemble shows can’t honestly say. Forth, there was lots of blood and nudity in the show, the benefit of being released directly through Netflix, and that’s sure something Twilight never had. In addition to all that, easily, the best thing about this show was the story. The series is based off of a novel by Brian McGreevy, which I’ve never read, so I don’t know how closely the plot of the TV show follows that of the novel. So fan of that book might be upset or pleased with this rendition of it, but the TV series can stand on its own legs, as that’s how I judged it.
As for that story, it wasn’t anything amazing or anything, but it was very well done, with enough twists and turns, not to mention all those colorful characters, to always keep things interesting. That’s something else many other TV shows fail to do. It’s about a werewolf killing young girls in the town of Hemlock Grove and the mystery of who is the four-legged fiend. We know from the start it’s not the brooding, modern day Gypsy pretty boy named Peter, even though he is a shape shifter himself. Nor is it the local rich kid pretty boy named Roman, who happens to be a vampire, nor his deadly and sexy mommy, more than ably played by Famke Janssen, who is also a vampire. It’s not even Roman’s huge, hulking, freaky looking yet gentle and deeply emotional little sister, Shelly. As for everyone else in the town, they are all likely suspects, as well as fair game for the hungry, hairy beast. So yeah, it’s a “who’s the werewolf story” at its heart, but it is a good one, and again; it’s the weirdness and the sexy that kicks this show up a notch or two.
On to the extras and goodies for this new Blu-ray set from Scream Factory. There is a commentary track with producer Eli Roth, but only for the first episode of the series. Why just one episode out of thirteen? Who knows, and I really would have liked more than just that, so this single effort was a bit of a letdown. In addition, there are a handful of featurettes (6 of them) that are rather on the short side (all combined, they total just 38 minutes in length) and a small collection of trailers and TV spots. So while this disc isn’t bare bones, it’s not exactly overstuffed with extras, either.
Hemlock Grove surprised me, as I ended up liking it much more than I thought I would. If you’ve been avoiding it because of your own preconceived ideas about it, I say give it a chance, and it might end up pleasantly surprising you, too. I give Hemlock Grove Season One a recommendation.