Review: ‘Hemlock Grove,’ Season Two

Hemlock Grove Season 2 TV Review

While a loyal contingent was inclined to give “Hemlock Grove” the benefit of the doubt in a “So bad it’s good” way, watching the opening of the second go-round still tips the scales toward so bad — and boring — that it’s just plain bad. For all the kudos Netflix has garnered with its prestige series, this horror offering from Eli Roth is probably every bit as helpful in attracting and pleasing a certain elusive niche of subscribers. Nevertheless, efforts to improve the show, or just make sense out of it, have largely foundered, despite the addition of veteran showrunner Charles H. (Chic) Eglee.

At its core, “Hemlock Grove” is the latest twist on groovy monsters, situated in a small town with vampires (OK, upir), werewolves and secrets — another supernatural soap, only with buckets of blood and the requisite nudity to differentiate it from CW fare.

For it to work, however, requires an audience willing to be wowed by trifles — impressed by the werewolf transformations, for example, presumably because they never saw “An American Werewolf in London” or “The Howling.”

It would frankly require far too much energy to connect where the second season begins to the chaotic manner in which the first concluded. But suffice it to say the story still centers around Roman (Bill Skarsgard), son of a wealthy and powerful family; and Peter (Landon Liboiron), the progeny of Gypsies, who has a habit of turning hairy whenever the moon’s full.

Set in a Pennsylvania town that has traded in steel mills for biotech and mad scientists, this adaptation of Brian McGreevy’s novel certainly doesn’t spare any expense in terms of spurting blood, even if that means throwing in dream sequences to keep the crimson tide flowing.

For his part, Roman spends much of the second season trying to avoid sucking the life out of people, while his imperious mother (Famke Jansen) remains hobbled (understandably) by past events. Peter, meanwhile, has money troubles, in part because he’s trying to get his mom (Lili Taylor) out of prison.

Mostly, the show exists for its gross-out moments, always a staple of the latenight TV/movies-studios-don’t-screen-for-critics circuit. Still, it’s not like there’s a shortage of places to find either, and the plotting is so haphazard there’s scant incentive to hang around for this season’s 10 hours (six were previewed), much less the urgency necessary to binge them. Even allowing for budgetary and logistical limits, the greatest danger thus far is in being talked to death.

The show’s initial nods to earlier horror also feel more muted, at least until Madeleine Martin (“Californication”) belatedly shows up under heavy makeup, thanklessly echoing a monster-and-wide-eyed-kid beat from James Whale’s early Frankenstein films.

Oh, and the less said about the creepy baby, probably the better.

Strategically, it’s not hard to see Netflix’s strategy — even within its cloistered metrics — by adding a brand-name patch of horror to its original-programming quilt. After the second helping from this “Grove,” however, quaffing a cup of hemlock sounds preferable to watching a third.

Review: 'Hemlock Grove,' Season Two

(Series; Netflix, Fri. July 11)

Production

Produced by Shinebox SMC and United Bongo Drum in association with Gaumont Intl. Television.

Crew

Executive producers, Eli Roth, Charles H. (Chic) Eglee, Eric Newman, Michael A. Connolly, Peter Friedlander, Sidonie Dumas, Christophe Riandee, Katie O’Connell, Elisa Roth, Brian McGreevy, Lee Shipman; co-executive producers, David Straiton, Evan Dunsky, Peter Blake; producer, Lynn Raynor; director, Spencer Susser; writer, Dunsky; based on the novel by McGreevy; camera, Fernando Arguelles; production designer, Drew Boughton; editors, Bert Kish, Michael England, David B. Thompson; music, Nathan Barr; casting, Stephanie Gorin. 60 MIN.

Cast

Famke Janssen, Bill Skarsgard, Landon Liboiron, Freya Tingley, Dougray Scott, Penelope Mitchell, Joel De La Fuente

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  1. JJT says:

    The first few episodes of season 1 had a style that was cinematic and visually appealing that allowed moments of gore to exist without being merely a cheap gimmick as it has been used for so long. The dialogue was representative of the lack of polish and awkwardness present in reality rather than the exposition fests that are standard fare in TV and movies. The lack of over the top exposition meant that a sense of mystery was present throughout the first season, rather than knowing every single plot element by the end of the pilot episode because the characters explained it all through excessive talking. After the first few episodes the style starts to wash out, however the show still retains enough of its originality to keep the rest of the first season watchable.

    Almost all originality and style disappear in season 2. Its as if a whole new production/writing team took over. Season 2 special effects now resemble a SyFy channel movie like “sharknado”. If generic and cliched production/writing were a disease, this show should now be in quarantine with “True Blood” and its like…

  2. patricia says:

    Did i watch the same hemlock groove? Season 2 was fucking good. The actors,the music the beautiful images the contemporary twist of horror classics the friendship between the boys the double-dip fuck trip the open minded subjects,Roman’s house decor..the sexy-modern gore ambiance… everything was captivating .loved it more than season 1 because things where happening with less mystery ..full blast.

  3. csbenji says:

    season 2 sucked @ss. during ep1- 9 nothing happned and then in 10 you just get slapped in the face with awful cgi. just awful.

  4. Panda says:

    The first season was great, the second season I felt like I forced myself to watch. The ending was….well it was just so terrible.

  5. Nona says:

    Unlike the reviewer, I enjoyed the first season for all it’s cheesy, plot hole riddle glory, but I am on ep. 5 of season 2, and am bored to tears. Something, ANYTHING has got to happen. I am disappointed thus far.

    • Nona says:

      And yes, as the reviewer stated, it is often times gross just for the sake of being gross.

      • Rama says:

        A blonde girl comes between a vampire and a warewolf, i wonder, have we seen something like that before?
        Im on ep. 6 and im pretty sure im gonna hate myself for watching the hole season 2.

  6. Reblogged this on HORROR BOOM and commented:
    Well, this is kind of a drag. We’re still going to give a shot, though if the season is as bad as this review, we’re not sure we can make it past the endurance test until the finale. The kid who played the werewolf was kind of hot, though…

  7. K.B. says:

    Liked the first season. I’ll still check out the second, it was a different take on vampires, werewolves, and other things that go bump in the night. It held my interest much more than CW’s the Vampire Diaries for sure. Can’t wait to check it out.

  8. therealeverton says:

    The Werewolf transformation in HG was superior to those you mention, quite, quite nasty and different.

    Critics didn’t like the first series, it didn’t matter, I doubt t will here either. No denying it is weird though.

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