Review: Hemlock Grove - "Jellyfish in the Sky" (premiere)

By: Heather Seebach

Right on the heels of my Eli Roth tribute, his new Netflix original series, Hemlock Grove arrived for instant streaming this morning. Since the first episode was directed by Roth himself, I figured this would at least be another show that started off strong before going into the shitter. But this debut episode is surprisingly disappointing coming from Roth. It feels like True Blood for the high school demographic only with worse acting and dialogue (if you can believe it).

Based on Brian McGreevy's novel of the same name, Hemlock Grove has something to do with a spoiled rich kid who is somehow supernatural but doesn't know it and a recently-arrived gypsy family. Oh, and some cheerleader gets murdered. It's hard to pin down this first episode because it skips around constantly. Characters are quickly introduced then ignored and the timeline is unnecessarily non-linear. 

It's also difficult to ignore the bad acting, especially coming from decent actors like Famke Janssen who is doing an atrocious English (?) accent on this show. As the aforementioned rich kid Roman, Bill SkarsgÄrd is alright, but he looks distractingly like Evan Peters from American Horror Story. And naturally he bears resemblance to big brother Alexander, which only adds to the True Blood vibe.

I wish Eli Roth had written this episode too because his presence behind the lens isn't enough to save it from awkward, excessively-wordy dialogue. The opening sequence is the episode's strongest attribute, even though it's marred by bad editing, a laughable POV shot, and weak acting. It opens with a murder that is effectively brutal (one word: fingernails). 

The werewolf subplot was not really explored much in this episode, but I am already dreading it. Despite a moment where the show openly mocks Twilight, it frequently has the brooding, pale Roman and the alleged werewolf-boy Peter (of course that's his name) eye-fucking each other in a way that reeks of the Stephenie Meyer series.

I liked what little gore we saw this episode, and I can only assume the show will up the ante based on that red-band trailer. Maybe it's just good marketing, but that trailer looks fantastic, so I genuinely hope this series improves.

The werewolf transformation scene from a future episode is available on YouTube already, and while I appreciate the idea and the gore, I cannot help but think of The Company of Wolves. Where does one draw the line between homage and rip-off? It's pretty much a combination of this scene and this scene. Take a look:

I'll be watching some more of Hemlock Grove and checking back in with my thoughts. In the mean time, if you watch any of it on Netflix, be sure to tell me your thoughts in the comments below!

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