‘Hemlock Grove’ Season Premiere Review – Not Worth A Netflix Binge Watch

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Famke Janssen Bill Skarsgard Hemlock Grove ‘Hemlock Grove’ Season Premiere Review – Not Worth A Netflix Binge Watch

Thanks to Netflix original programming, not only are there more production opportunities, but when a Netflix show is finally ready for public viewing, we’re not forced to wait a week for the next installment and can watch every single episode in a single shot. A nice bonus for folks with little patience – but in the case of the Eli Roth-produced Hemlock Grove, the show might have benefited from the standard release format.

Rather than earn longer legs by enticing audiences to hang on just one more week, a viewer can decide to turn this one off completely after just one two and a half hour viewing – but likely less.

The Roth-directed first episode opens with an introduction to Bill Skarsgård’s Roman Godfrey, by showing off an odd sexual fetish during a quickie in his car. From there, we jump to episode one’s main victim, Brooke Bluebell (Lorenza Izzo), a student at Hemlock Grove High who’s enjoying a little fling with a female teacher. They’re set to meet one night, but before Brooke can get there, she’s viciously attacked and literally torn apart by a mysterious predator.

From the moment Hemlock Grove begins, there’s red flags all over the place. On the technical front, the coloring often doesn’t match, the shot composition isn’t particularly appealing, and the action coverage is entirely disorienting. But, even worse, the first ten minutes are devastatingly poorly formatted. Why open with that strange sexual display that ultimately amounts to nothing, when you could kick things off with more of a bang? Brooke’s death isn’t particularly frightening or original, but her portion of the episode is one of few segments that actually has a somewhat compelling build.

Bill Skarsgard Landon Liboiron Hemlock Grove ‘Hemlock Grove’ Season Premiere Review – Not Worth A Netflix Binge Watch

Once poor Brooke’s insides are on the outside, Hemlock Grove falls almost entirely flat in an effort to deliver the basics of the show’s main players. Perhaps it’s just that Skarsgård charm, but Roman Godfrey is intriguing enough. He very clearly has inner demons, but also a curious allure and kindness that sets him up as a winning protagonist early on.

The same goes for the show’s other leading man, Landon Liboiron (Terra Nova). His character, Peter Rumancek (the poor guy who goes through that vicious werewolf transformation), first moves to town with his mother to live in the grungy trailer his deceased uncle left behind. With an assist from a notably appealing and real performance from Lili Taylor (The Conjuring) as his mother, Liboiron easily establishes Peter as a good guy with values – but also someone who’s in touch with his darker side. Ultimately, we end up with two leads harboring a unique combination of good and evil, and that’s intriguing enough to want to learn more.

However, beyond Roman and Peter, few characters make much of an impact by the end of the episode. The biggest letdown is Famke Janssen’s (X-Men) Olivia Godfrey. She’s very clearly pinned as one of the show’s main sources of mystery, but the elements of her character that are revealed in round one are either too cryptic to understand, or entirely uninteresting.

Back at school we’ve got Christina Wendall played by Freya Tingley. There’s nothing wrong with Tingley’s performance, but her introductory scene is full of terribly odd banter with Peter. She goes from outright accusing Peter of being a werewolf to judging him for using the word retard. We’ve also got Roman’s sister Shelley stalking the halls of Hemlock High. She’s a ceiling-high specimen with bandaged hands and hair that covers her face – the exact character you’d hope for from a show like Hemlock Grove. Her backstory isn’t particularly well woven into the main narrative, but her sub-plot is the first thing that piques interest in a manner the entire show should.

Bill Skarsgard Penelope Mitchell Hemlock Grove ‘Hemlock Grove’ Season Premiere Review – Not Worth A Netflix Binge Watch

Olivia, Roman, and Shelley’s extended family also make an appearance in the inaugural episode – but, yet again, their big moment amounts to nothing. The scene wastes time pointing out that Roman’s cousin, Letha (Penelope Mitchell), is nixing sushi in her effort to avoid mercury, when it could be building her character before hurling her into what should have been one of the episode’s more impressive set pieces: a night when Roman and Letha get to enjoy an entire amusement park to themselves. Regardless, the girl’s name is still Letha, so if you can keep yourself from giggling every time a character says her name (it sounds more like Lisa with a lisp), you might get more out of her than us less mature viewers.

It’s only episode one, so all of this thin character development could have been passable had the episode actually had a through line. Remember Brooke Bluebell? We don’t hear another word about her until the tail-end of the episode. And that teacher she was hooking up with? She disappears entirely. Whereas that opening massacre could have functioned as a developing scenario to push the episode forward while introducing the show’s leads, it’s entirely abandoned and what we’re left with is a set of disjointed moments desperately trying to convey the basics, while still being cryptic.

Lili Taylor Landon Liboiron Hemlock Grove ‘Hemlock Grove’ Season Premiere Review – Not Worth A Netflix Binge Watch

The end result is a dull and dreary display that barely scratches the surface of true horror and mystery. In fact, minus the hunk of organs that was Brooke Bluebell, the first episode of Hemlock Grove doesn’t really qualify as horror material at all. It’s more of a deliberately dark soap opera comprised of ominous staring and conversations that never really amount to much. For example, after first meeting Shelley, we get this great opportunity to see what life with the Godfrey family is really like when the trio sits down for dinner. However, in just about three lines of dialogue, Roman announces that there’s a new gypsy kid in town, Olivia throws her fork and calls them filth, and the scene comes to an abrupt end, cutting off before getting to what could, and should have been the most interesting part of the conversation.

Fortunately, throughout episodes two and three, the material does become more engaging – but more so because you’ve been in the world for nearly two and a half hours and not necessarily because the show improves. The narrative details never coalesce to make you feel like you’re finally understanding the Hemlock Grove universe, and the shooting style and shot selection further make the viewer feel like an outsider, as there’s often a very heavy hand on the camera.

But what really puts the stake in Hemlock Grove - more so than anything – is that it’s flat out boring. There are certainly moments that work and they’re very easy to identify because once they come and go, the urge to take a peek at the clock returns, and that sensation certainly doesn’t meld with the Netflix binge-watch release strategy.

All episodes of Hemlock Grove arrive on Netflix on April 19th.

Follow Perri on Twitter @PNemiroff.

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TAGS: hemlock grove

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  1. OUCH!!

  2. Yeah, I have only watched episode 1 but more than anything else when the episode ended I kept thinking that once again Eli Roth is a pretty terrible director.
    I’m not trying to be a “hater” but in all honesty his success perplexes me. If Cabin Fever and Hostel are considered your best films I think the bar is set quite low.

    • Totally agree.

      How the guy gets work, I’ll never know.

  3. I saw the trailer when a guy turned into a freakin dog??? Its a pretty exaggerated turn but I was disappointed when the guy turns into Twilight???

    I’m a huge fan of Vampires, Zombies and especially Werewolves! But this one cracked me up! You’re supposed to turn into a Beast a Lycan but back into a freakin Dog???? HAHAHAHAHAHA!!

    • Very stupid comment.

    • THANK YOU!!!! My thoughts exactly. I am a HUGE fan of Vampires, Zombies and Werewolves as well. I saw the trailer and thought, great finally something about werewolves. I watched him turn and I was like, yeah, yeah, turn baby, turn, eyes popping out, teeth popping out, YEAHHHHHH, finally….. WT….. a DOG??? A DOG??? Are you kidding me??? What a HUGE disappointment. If only Netflix would have gotten it right the show would have been a hit, but no they had to use dogs. This show is not going to last. Lost us when we saw the guy turn into a freaking dog. Get it together movie and show makers, get it together!!! Thumbs completely down for Hemlock Grove.

      • Apparently you’re only familiar with movie monsters. In legend, a werewolf was supposed to turn into a WOLF, not a hairy faced guy. Only in some versions was the werewolf a two-legged monster.

  4. shut up….i actually enjoyed the ep

  5. I’ve seen 6 eps now and i like it. It has allot of potential but one thing that bothers me are the holes in the story. For example no one asks themselves what they are or why, kinda strange. If you have a sister that glows u might ask mommy why.

    • You shouldnt have to watch six episodes of something to like it. you should like it by the first, and at the least, the second. and by the end you should love it. this review settled it for me, i wont even bother giving this show a chance, ive got better things to watch.

    • That sounds like a big fault. I couldn’t make it through the first episode.

      • Ai have watched all 13 episodes and I love t <3

        • I am just curious, would anyone mind explaining to me what the ending meant exactly. I was so confused. I literally watched the entire season in one sitting. So I was very astonished that I didnt understand what the ending meant/signified.

          • Kacie, the end basically shows us Roman turning into a full fledged upyr/vampire after killing himself. The baby in the crib was his, conceived by his cousin/sister after he raped her. I will admit I don’t have a great explanation about the fetus that opens its eyes in the Godfrey lab. I assume its just part of the “experiment” of bringing people back to life or creating artificial humans.

            I am curious to see what Roman’s personality is like now that he’s full vampire (if there is a season 2). He didn’t want to kill his child which suggests that maybe he will be the “good guy” vampire. Who knows? Hemlock Grove was a cluster f*ck to say the least, but still, I really enjoyed it. Hope to see more.

          • Kacie, the end basically shows us Roman turning into a full fledged upyr/vampire after killing himself. The baby in the crib was his, conceived by his cousin/sister after he raped her. I will admit I don’t have a great explanation about the fetus that opens its eyes in the Godfrey lab. I assume its just part of the “experiment” of bringing people back to life or creating artificial humans.

            I am curious to see what Roman’s personality is like now that he’s full vampire (if there is a season 2). He didn’t want to kill his child which suggests that maybe he will be the “good guy” vampire. Who knows? Hemlock Grove was a cluster f*** to say the least, but still, I really enjoyed it. Hope to see more.

  6. I liked it!! I for one am tired of the same old transformations of human to horrifyingly gigantic beasts that normal humans never see. They live among humans but no one ever sees them. So I liked that they did it the way they did. Its more realistic!! Watch it for yourself if you like it cool, if not that’s cool too but don’t let others tell you what’s good and what’s not!!

    • Agree with u completely.

  7. I was hooked after the first show. I like the fact that it’s shrouded in mystery and that you can’t figure out the entire plot by watching one episode. Get an imagination people and give the show a chance.

  8. We only know of one protagonist. The rest seems to be a mystery. Poorly written. Not enough characters to keep my attention.

  9. Do not agree. Its not boring at all. It has flaws but still a very good show. Thank s Netflix.

  10. I liked the show. It was slow in some parts and things were left unsaid but all in all I enjoyed it. It is nice to see a show that ISNT a reality show or dating show.

  11. I have watched all three episodes and I found it intriguing. Of course you will have those who will not give it a chance or just expect something of their own standards. If you watch it and pay attention to what is going on, it is fantastic, and I hope that I get to watch a second season.

  12. I have to say, if you’ve never seen anything Eli Roth has done before now I can understand why you would chose the things to critique. Its meant to confuse and have you chase your tail until he wants it revealed. I was hooked on ep 3. Not to mention I’m waiting to see who else he grabbed from BSG.

  13. Ugh what a horrible review this show is amazing just finished watching all 13 episodes. Guess this show isn’t for everyone, but I sure am anxious for a season 2!

  14. Ugh what a horrible review this show is amazing just finished watching all 13 episodes. Guess this show isn’t for everyone, but I sure am anxious for a season 2.

  15. i watched all 13 the show is awsome and the last few episodes are amazing the guy that reviewed this is so wrong

  16. When I see people being critical of something like this and then see how great it is I am always so glad that I distrust critics!! It’s AWESOME!!! A total win for Netflix! I predict not will be on for several seasons if it is able to keep up the intensity and character development! I often leave movies as my friends are diligently picking apart what I thought was a fun movie, and I always ask them if they are so talented why they never entertain me as well as what I just saw! I get a lot of defensive talk or blank stares as they try to figure out why they are so critical of art they themselves would be unable to create!!THIS WAS FUN!! Well done Netflix!!

  17. It’s a really good story gotta get past some stuff and wheres ur movie zone at common other than top actors twilight is stupid this is way more modern and realistic to me

  18. its a really good story gotta get past some stuff and wheres ur movie zone at common other than top actors twilight is this is way more modern and realistic to me

  19. I loved it so come back with a second series

  20. Saw all the episodes and loved this show! i hope they come out with season 2.

    • i saw the whole season all in one day…i freaking loved it… had me on the edge…season two needs to come like tomorrow

  21. Lets base this on what makes series good.

    Actors- Terrible, awkward staring, and unenthusiastic performances. There must be emotion displayed on their faces even when there isn’t a word said.. I feel as though that instead of using emotion (even if it is depressed, sad, brooding), they decided to deprive all of it from their roles. So we are left with these shells which we have to consider people, in which very few of us can relate to or be impressed by.

    Dialog- Cryptic, mysterious, and vague. Something that you might be able to get away with as long as you have fluidity, which this series lacks. It feels like a surreal dream in which their responses are like their are permastoned.

    Settings- Out of place, sometimes. It is off color, Mr. Nemiroff pointed out, feels fake, rejected, and staged. It takes away from the immersion of the show.

    Not sure how long this series is going to stay. Then again, Supernatural last to what? 6 seasons +? One can only hope a series like this can mature into something truly dark, or just turn into Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

    • Wow, finally someone who gets it. This guy is right from start to finish. This show is awkward and just not cohesive. Dialog does not make sense and the acting had me laughing sometimes. Made me feel like I was watching a dark soap opera at times. Especially the part where Roman like, rapes that Asian girl. This had a lot of potential but it never truly coalesced. Huge disappointment. I’m not trying to be a hater, I love everything I watch and I appreciate good storytelling and cinema. But this was… Awful. I watched the whole thing just to see if it got better. Nahh. I didn’t even care if the characters died! That’s bad storytelling…

      • Exactly. When characters in a story are brutalized or killed, and the strongest response it manages to draw from the viewer is, “meh,” well, either the writing is bad or the viewer is a sociopath. Seeing as how I have often shed tears for characters in well-written stories, I’m going to go ahead and say the writing for Hemlock Grove leaves much to be desired.

        Also, I’m glad I am not the only one who thinks the dialogue is atrocious.

        No season 2 for me, tyvm.

  22. This Perri dude has it ALL WRONG – Hemlock Grove is Great! I definitely hope to see a Season 2 ! Great cast, Great Storyline! Hunger for More ! Thanks for a New and Refreshing Series to watch!! The only part I didn’t like (SPOILER ALERT) was that they killed off Letha in the end. . . But hopefully the story that will continue will play on this in a good intriguing way.

    • Amazing the people writing the good reviews are clearly staged. All the bad reviews are dead in balls accurate. Its clear the good reviews are either from employees of the show or Netflix.

  23. I think some of it was missed in the review, but again, it just may not be for everyone. No, graphics and such weren’t the most stunning, but they great for what it is, and I give props to the makeup artists for later episodes. One thing about this, is that it actually has factual knowledge, interplayed, and if there is going to be a season two, which is what it appears to be heading towards, then it’s only going to get deeper into that history. Overall, loved the show, can’t wait for season 2.

  24. I want more and will be upset if there is not a second season due to close minded negitive reviews. Couldn’t unglue my eyes from the television. Loved every minute!

  25. Initially, (after the first two episodes) I was ready to say I hated it, a huge waste of time… BUT, as I was also home and sick in bed with bronchitis I decided what the hell, might as well finish it. Now, I like it, and I would encourage others to remember that it is based on a book and the first season seems like the first few chapters of a book when you’re just getting to know the characters but don’t really feel comfortable with the story or anyone in it yet. I believe the second season will be better, because there will be more to sink your proverbial teeth into.

  26. I love Hemlock Grove …..stop hating!!!:-/………… Hoping for a season two!!!! :-)

    • SAME!

  27. In all honesty, I watched every episode. I loved it, I felt it had a great plot and the werewolf change, its predicted off of real life. Think about it, in real life how do you think a man changing into a wolf would really look like? I’ve never seen it done in this way and love the realistic concept about it, and he’s not a “dog,” he’s a REAL wolf. Also, I understand everyone’s let down about how a werewolf in there own perspective, but realisim is what I think the producer was trying to accomplish, they wanted us to be personal with the characters, almost like it could happen to us. Don’t worry, if anyone else has watched straight through the season like I have, you should know, that everyone else is in for a surprising treat. This show does need a little work, however has a great concept and overall beautiful characters. Hopefully, in my eyes there will be a second season.

  28. I’m not sure of what you think is so wrong about this movie but I enjoyed it. It might be akward and weird but That’s what I love about . You people need to wake up and see that this is so much better than twilight. I WANT A SEASON 2 SOON. THIS movie actually makes me want to go buy the book

    • Its clear that s review is fake since its a show and not a movie no one who likes it can explain why they do. Everyone who thinks it suck can pinpoint why.

  29. I loved it, and watched the whole thing over the weekend. I can’t understand at all why some critics are panning this; I can only imagine it’s a failure of expectations. Maybe people have seen so many vampire soap operas and teen romance dramas, that they can’t appreciate anything more mysterious or cryptic, that you have to ponder a bit, as opposed to the pre-digested stuff of “regular television”.

    It is what you might call stylistic, and the dialog isn’t exactly what you would hear in every other TV show on the screen. Is that bad? Not everything is perfectly clear from the first episode…so what is wrong with that? It’s moody, visually interesting, quirky, makes you think a bit about what is going on, and presents supernatural creatures and forces in a more mysterious way than most TV fare. It’s more like a large, complex, weird movie than a TV series, in fact. Maybe that’s the problem. Anyway, it disappoints me that because of the critics, it will probably not see a second season (although IMDB gives it 7 out of 10 rating). I’m glad that they did release it all at once, otherwise it might have been cancelled after a few episodes and the story never completed.

    • This guy goes to MOMA and sees a red dot on a white canvas and finds it captivating. And edgy.

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