Hemlock Grove is a Netflix original horror thriller series, produced by Eli Roth, based on the book of the same name by Brian Greevy who co-developed the series. Two seasons of the show have now aired on Netflix. I consider it to be cult TV and a great watch for anyone who likes horror, werewolves and gore.
The series is set in the dreary fictional town of Hemlock Grove in Pennsylvania. There is a very big wealth divide, and the centre of the town is the Godfrey family, the mysterious Olivia (Famke Janssen) as the matriarch and the Godfrey Tower as the middle of many mysterious and controversies in the town. The leading male characters of Olivia’s son Roman Godfrey (Bill Skarsgård) and his friend Peter Rumancek (Landon Liboiron) are drawn together quickly due to many of the strange happenings in Hemlock Grove.
Throughout the first season there are teenage girls being killed in gruesome ways. Townspeople blame the newcomer gypsy Peter, who is rumoured to be a werewolf. Though this is true – and his werewolf transformation is brilliantly gross – he is not the killer and he and Roman set out to find the true culprit. A subplot revolves around Letha Godfrey, Roman’s cousin who is pregnant “from an angel” and who both Peter and Roman are in love with. The season ends with Letha giving birth and dying in labour and Peter and Roman finding the real killer of the teenage girls; a young girl who has transformed into a vargulf, an insane werewolf who cannot remember or control her actions when in wolf form. Roman also has a revelation as Olivia tells him he is an Upir – a species of vampire. In his hatred, he rips out Olivia’s tongue. Ultimately, Peter leaves Hemlock Grove, leaving behind his distraught friend Roman.
The second season picks up months after the end of season one, with Peter returning to Hemlock Grove after he left. Little has changed in the town, except the arrival of Miranda (Madeline Brewer) who ends up on Roman’s door step after a car accident.
Godfrey Tower is still shrouded in mystery, with lead scientist Dr. Johann Pryce (Joel de la Fuente) refusing to let Roman know of any of his experiments. The main plot follows the prophetic dreams Peter and Roman have, which show men in masks killing children. With the appearance of Miranda and the help of Peter’s psychic cousin Destiny (Tiio Horn) Peter and Roman are able to figure out the reason for their dreams, which revolve around Letha’s child whom Roman takes care of. Nadia is a seemingly normal child, save for bright blue eyes.
With Miranda starting to lactate around the child and the dreams proving to be an insight into some sort of cult, season two gets freaky very quickly. Olivia, despite being injured, and as I had thought dead at the end of season one, is even more deadly and ruthless than before. People die, and even more supernatural creatures are revealed. Season two steps up the action from season one. I am eager to see what the next season will be.
What I do like about Hemlock Grove is that it is not afraid to get weird. The combination of supernatural elements, horror and thriller has all the signs for this being a cult show. Unlike other shows which have become cult since being aired, this series has almost been programmed to be a cult hit.
With a well-known horror director/producer Eli Roth and a good cast it immediately appeals to certain audiences who will appreciate the horror thriller side of the show. Though it has not seemed to have gained a large following like many cult TV shows, it has been well received by some, not by others (typical of cult TV and films, often known for being ‘bad’). The world of Hemlock Grove itself signifies it to be cult, through many features common in cult TV – the strong friendship between Roman and Peter, the almost completely fantastical town that is Hemlock Grove, and the continuous stream of enigmas that are thrown at audiences. The finale of season two has much of this. The ending scene – which I will not say what it was – is one the biggest ‘what the fuck!?’ moments I have had watching a TV show.
Though not a show for everyone’s taste it is similar to many other horror thriller shows, and can be binged on easily, especially with the constant twists and cliff hangers leaving you wanting more. There is good acting from Famke Janssen (as usual) and break out performances from Landon Liboiron and Bill Skarsgård as both tormented teenagers, and it is visually gorgeous even with the horrific scenes.
Go watch it, both seasons are on Netflix!