A swing and spectacular miss for the folks over at Netflix. Good God, what detritus! Their new original program Hemlock Grove, released Friday in one 13-episode bundle, is such a stunning example of bad storytelling and vapid script-writing that I took a non-urgent poop after watching two episodes and considered the experience far more pleasurable and productive. In the adolescent supernatural vein of Twilight or The Vampire Diaries, Hemlock Grove is derivative, juvenile, mundane, and utterly without purpose or hook. Whooee, just awful. The pilot episode jumps from scene to scene with such gracelessness and stylistic inconsistency that you're left frankly enraged, without even morsels of sensible narrative or character arcs.
A girl gets brutally murdered in the first five minutes, and the small Pennsylvania town of Hemlock Grove is sort of sad and confused by it. A gypsy werewolf boy named Peter moves into a camper on the town's outskirts soon thereafter and establishes an unlikely friendship with Roman, a rebel kid who may also be supernaturally or vampirically inclined, given his obsession with menstrual blood and his Jedi mind powers. The show bops among ancillary story lines -- presumably for exposition? -- with no inkling whatsoever of a central question or conflict.
For fun, here's Roman's ridiculous family: A weird femme-fatale-type mom (Famke Jannsen) who's hot for his uncle; a cousin named Letha who's pregnant via disputed angelic immaculate conception; a sister, an 8-foot giantess with some of the more profound physical and emotional abnormalities ever dreamt up by a writer's room.
I wish I were kidding.
Here's an abbreviated list of additional reasons why Hemlock Grove is a disaster by the most fundamental standards of art, entertainment and common sense.
--Total lack of clarity re: audience. Who is this for? Is this for pre-teens? Is this for the slobbering goth-porn crowd? Persuasive arguments exist for both.
--Some of the worst casting decisions -- and subsequently, worst accents -- of the past 50-odd years.
--Famke Janssen: Easily the laziest performance of her career.
--Laughably unrealistic dialogue.
--Absolute misunderstanding of genre, suspense, drama, story structure, etc.
--The fact that the small town of Hemlock Grove is home to what would be one of the world's largest skyscrapers. (Some sort of shady bio-corporate activity is maybe afoot.)
--The fact that I do not care about or actively despise every character who appears onscreen.
The pangs of disappointment are of course way more pronounced because Netflix's first original series, House of Cards, is such a compelling narrative success. With dynamite performances from its leading stars (Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright, notably), crisp visuals and the addictive additives that come with backroom political intrigue, this one's worth binging on. The entire first season, centering on cutthroat congressman Francis Underwood, went live on February 1. A second season is currently in production.