Saturday, October 31, 2015

Bookmonkey visits Hemlock Grove: Post Twelve

And here we end our visit to Hemlock Grove.

In the end, the show is a different take on a classic monster mashup, think Frankenstein meets the Wolf Man but in an updated version.

Throughout the season, the series attempts to show how these mythical beings would act and interact in a contemporary setting. In many ways it can be considered Magic realism, but in terms of a Horror, rather than a Fantastic setting.

In many ways the show is a success in what it sets out to do; the vampire, werewolf, and monster elements work in a "real world" setting.  In many ways the story works more as a thriller with horror elements than simply a classic horror story.

The pacing of the series does sometimes work against it - as the story attempts to stretch across the course of thirteen episodes, most of the episodes work, but I ended up feeling like the series could have worked at ten, rather than thirteen, episodes.

The series works best when it focuses on the growing relationship between Peter and Roman, showing how their friendship changes and grows during the course of the murder investigation, and although my personal favourite character was Shelley (the series version of the Frankenstein's monster), the human side of these characters is what worked best for me.

In the end, I'm not sure whether I'll be following up with the later seasons - but as the first season was a pretty straight adaptation of the novel, I'd like to see what the creators end up doing with these characters once the go off book.

Thanks for hanging out with me for another Ocotober!

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Bookmonkey visits Hemlock Grove: Post Eleven

Moving away from the series various werewolves, vampires, Frankenstein's Monsters, and psychics, I thought today would be a good day to look at the series regular human character, Christina Wendall, (played by Freya Tingley - pictured left).

A quick side note; of the kids in the series I haven't forgotten about Letha Godfrey (Roman's cousin), but as she ends up pregnant in the second episode by, in her own words, an angel, I'm trying to stick to the one character without an obvious and direct supernatural connection to the series.

Christina is introduced in the pilot as the series answer to Twilight's Bella Swan.  She's a highschool student looking to be a writer, and in first meeting Peter, directly asks him if he is a werewolf.

Throughout the series, Christina ends up finding one of the killer's victims, and ends up in the local insane asylum - her hair changes from brunette to white over the course of the season and a number of people she knows end up being the victims of the killer.

As she is the one main child character who doesn't have obvious supernatural powers or a supernatural origin, she is, in mny ways, the easiest person to relate to in the series, allowing the audience to see the horror in the town through her eyes.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Bookmonkey visits Hemlock Grove: Post Ten

The more genre television I watch, the more often we spend an episode inside a character's head, usually allowing them to learn important plot points and to allow the audience to see more thematic elements of the story overall.

Hemlock Grove does this in the eigth episode, where Vampire (sorry Upir) Roman is drugged and falls into a coma.  The next episode balances events around Peter, the Monster Hunter, and Roman's cousin Letha.

Interestingly, in the dream sequence, Roman's sister is played by a different actress, which is a little strange as the actress who plays her normally, Madeleine Martin, is under such significant makeup (and the regular use of a body double to show her character's height), that it seems like you could have simply used the actress you already had...

Although the episode does increase the eeriness of the series overall, I tend to find these stories a little light on plot development, and was happy to get back to the main story over the next few episodes.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Bookmonkey visits Hemlock Grove: Post Nine

The Sins of the Fathers.

Much of episode seven works in flashback, describing the backstory of Peter's mother and Uncle, how have been having an affair since the pilot.

Past that Roman (pictured left) and Peter go their own ways, and each make some pretty horrible, and horrific, mistakes.

Part of the appeal of a multigenerational horror story is watching history repeat itself in different ways, and just as Olivia (Roman's mother) makes what may be a disastrous connection, Roman goes one step further, and takes part in what may be the most horrific event in the series so far.

Roman has the ability to force his will on others - simply stated, if he can look someone in the eye, he can effectively control their actions and or memories.

At first this seems like a pretty amazing ability, but think about it for a minute.

With an ability like that, all the check on your own behaviour would have to come from your own willpower, as anyone else could be controlled into going along with you.

Actually, that sounds pretty awful.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Bookmonkey visits Hemlock Grove: Post 8

The Geography of Hemlock Grove

Five episodes into the series and I'm growing more than a little curious about the geography of the town.  In reading the original book, I actually felt like the town was a sort of analogue for Detroit, a city where industry has left, but as the city still has a massive medical complex in The Godfrey Institute, it must have more than one skyscraper right?

Apparently, not so much (pictured right).  In the series the town appears to have more in common with Gilmore Girls Stars Hollow than a city, and although it does have both a small time charm and all sorts of quirky characters, the comparison pretty much ends there.

As with many things, I was able to find a map of the town online (at the Hemlock Grove wiki) which does end up looking like a tiny mining town with a massive single skyscraper dominating the skyline.

Strange, but (fictionally) true.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Bookmonkey visits Hemlock Grove: Post Seven

Okay, so there's actually both a Frankenstein (the scientist) and a Frankenstein monster in Hemlock Grove.

After four episodes filled with Vampire (sorry, Upir) and Werewolf stuff, the idea of a mad scientist creating a monster was a heck of a lot of fun for me.

Actually episode four does a nice job of both moving the murder mystery forward and fleshing out a one of the supporting characters through flashback; specifically Dr. Clementine Chasseur (played by Kandyse McClure, pictured left).  Initially in the series, she's introduced as an officer of U.S. Fish and Wildlife, but things begin to move pretty quickly to show she's covering for something.

Part of what I'm enjoying at this point is the fact that the show seems to be working to have traditional monster archetypes (vampire, witch, werewolf, etc.), but then attempts to deconstruct them; the witch has magic, but doesn't use it as it causes more trouble than it's worth, the werewolf hides his nature for fear of scientists, like the mysterious Dr. Chausseur and her interest in Peter.

So far, as an adaption, I'm definitely preferring it to the original book, which moved, chapter by chapter, through different narrative techniques, often feeling more style over substance, but the different transitions seem to work much better in a televised format.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Bookmonkey visits Hemlock Grove: Post Six

After watching a third of the first season, I think I'm finally starting to get what Hemlock Grove is putting down.

Currently, the show has about five different storylines going on, ranging from the friendship between to Peter and Roman, to the overall murder mystery and the bizarre focus on the Ouroboros imagery throughout.

What finally hit me this episode was how the show is actually laying each storyline out and moving them forward that their own pace - there really is no guarantee that a plot point (like Shelley's (pictured right) strange disfigurement or, even stranger, random glowing) will  lead to anything in a specific episode.

The stories move at different paces and although each episode touches on them, the series works a little like a soap opera, in that it always has something going on, but never seems to give a conclusion for anything.

As I'm definitely sticking with the series through the first season, I'm interested to see how it will all end up, and I'm hoping that my understanding of the pacing will play out.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Bookmonkey visits Hemlock Grove: Post Five

Episode three (sorry gang, but spoilers abound), actually moves into some pretty interesting territory.

In many ways the series comes down to this.

Imagine you've got a pretty terrible secret (in the show's case, Peter is a werewolf), and then imagine that some horrible crime starts happening in your neck of the woods that really starts to point to you as the guilty party.  The worst thing is, with your own knowledge and background, you indeed have the capacity and the inclination for this crime, but you know it isn't you.

What do you do?

Although I still kind of feel like I've started watching the second season of a show that should have done a heck of a lot of explaining previously, the third episode moves the mystery along, and for the first time, all of the side plots begin to feel like they are contributing to the main story overall.

Also two caste members from the Battlestar Galactica reboot?  How cool is that?

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Bookmonkey visits Hemlock Grove: Post Four

Without going into too much detail of the second episode, this is the one that confirms that yes, Peter is a werewolf, and it does it in one of the more startling transformations sequences I've seen in quite a while.

For me the gold standard will always be  Rick Baker's transformation effects in the 1981 film An American Werewolf in London (the makeup for that film was so good that the Academy Awards introduced a new category, Best Makeup, because of it), and although much of what you see in the episode is clearly computer generated, the effects are pretty impressive nonetheless.

The episode itself largely focuses on the murder mystery, but does introduce (through email), Roman's older sister Shelley, a giant girl suffering from some undefined deformities, who wheezes loudly and speaks through a small mechanical device in person, but through her emails, shows herself to be well spoken and quite intelligent.

I actually preferred the second episode to the pilot, and am definitely looking forward to the rest of the season.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Bookmonkey visits Hemlock Grove: Post Three

So then the book became a television series...

On April 19th, 2013, the entire series became available for download on Netlfix.

As a bit of a slow starter - I of course, found my current copy in DVD form at a used bookstore back in July.

So here's what I've got to say about episode one - Directed by horror filmmaker Eli Roth (famous for Cabin Fever, the Hostel franchise, and a movie called Clown one of my coworkers says I have to check out), the pilot for the series, titled "Jellyfish in the Sky" starts very similarly to the book - the narrator is missing, but the opening death sequence surrounding the first victim is incredibly intense, brutal, and pretty darn horrifying.

As with the book, the pilot is swimming in potential leads, in addition to both Peter and Roman, their mothers, siblings, aunts, uncles, and cousins all make appearances and also fight for screen time, leaving me unsure of which storyline to follow - in general I prefer a show like Lost or Skins when featuring an ensemble cast, focus on one character per episode and give me some time to get to know everyone.

The series looks pretty great however, the colours are lush, the town, which appears to be both a small town, and a previously thriving factory town, looks like a great setting for a horror story, and I quite enjoyed how the pilot acknowledges some of the similarities to Twilight and points out that this is nothing like that.

In the end the pilot had me interested in watching more - so far no werewolves, but a lot of mystery.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Bookmonkey visits Hemlock Grove: Post Two

Generally if a film or television show has been adapted from a book, I'm likely to try and read the source material first, possibly because I love reading, or because I want to know where the story originally came from, or maybe I just like to feel like I'm more "in the know" than my friends and loved ones.

So, when I decided to spend the month looking at the Netflix series Hemlock Grove, you'd better believe I picked up the original novel and got reading.

The original novel is ok. I've read a lot of werewolf and other monster fiction over my life, so I can easily compare it to all sorts of things, considering it a slightly twisted version of Twilight, or even a little bit like the film The Lost Boys, in that the story goes to a lot of lengths to show how monstrous the creatures appear to humans, but that the monsters themselves are never really viewed as tragic, just scary.

The novel largely follows two young men, Roman Godfrey and Peter Rumancek, one of whom is a werewolf and the other is likely a vampire (although he doesn't seem to be aware of it). Much of the drama focuses on a string of brutal murders in the city/town of Hemlock Grove, and of the search for the killer.

For me the issue was a massive amount of pretty unnecessary side characters, and a number of side-plots that seemed to go nowhere and not amount to much. The story begins with a fairly clever writing device, in that the actual (and unnamed) killer is also our narrator, but once their identity is discovered, the book seems to drop the concept. Both leads go through a number of harrowing events and some of them are quite effective and disturbing, but in the end, if I were looking for a great werewolf novel* - this wouldn't be it.

Now onto the show!

*My favourite three would be Endore's Werewolf of Paris (1933), Brandner's The Howling (1986) and McCammon's The Wolf's Hour(1989)

Friday, October 2, 2015

Bookmonkey visits Hemlock Grove: Post One

Welcome to the first of my October posts on the Netflix series Hemlock Grove, which, after viewing one episode, looks a little familiar...

So you've got this werewolf see, and then a vampire-ish sort of fellow, and they both attend the same high school, and then there's this girl...

But, unlike the way I spent 2010, this series has some pretty diehard (as opposed to twi-hard) fans, and it was based on a book first, and the soundtrack is supposed to be pretty fantastic...

Okay, you know what - Hemlock Grove!

Let's see where this takes us!