Hemlock Grove Review – Drinking the Hemlock Tea


Hemlock Grove is like a literary “Fragment” story in that we are plunged disconcertingly into the middle of a drama. We don’t know the history of this town, its people, their backgrounds and their relationships with each other. Like many a horror/Gothic tale, we are thrown into the beautiful disorder and left to figure things out for ourselves. Maybe this is why we are not meant to be surprised at how casually people accept odd situations. No one seems alarmed when Dr. Chasseur (Kandyse McClure) point-blank asks Peter (Landon Liboiron) if he is a werewolf, nor raises an eyebrow at 17-year old virgins becoming impregnated by angels, or teenage boys transforming into predatory wolves in broad daylight. Flashbacks and layering of some detail is given, yes, but for major plot points, generally speaking, we have to piece it together on our own. In my case, for example, I am still not clear on why Peter (the wolf) showed Roman (Bill SkarsgÃ¥rd) his secret.

But, isn’t this a compliment, really? Series developers Lee Shipman, along with Executive Producer Eli Roth, have enough confidence in us and our imagination to let us do some of the work.The series is the next step in the evolution of campy supernatural soap operas; from Dark Shadows to Twin Peaks, and the more recent American Horror Story. Hemlock Grove amps up the campy for sure, but also the mystery factor. Who, or what, is ripping apart the teenage girls in this small Pennsylvania town?

Naturally, our first suspicion is Peter, gypsy boy and possible werewolf… or is it Roman, privileged white boy whose aristocratic Godfrey family seems to own the town? Roman may be a vampire. He certainly loves blood, so much so than upon spying a tampon sticking out of a pretty classmate’s purse, follows her to the restroom. Judging by the sounds from the other side of the door, (where Peter listened with a grin) she didn’t mind. Sex and blood and the whole messy business of life.

I am about one-third of the way through the series, and while it has been criticized by others as being confusing, convoluted or overwhelming, I love making order out of the chaos.  The murder happens right away and then we are given the space to get to know the major players. All the archetypes are present; the wealthy, almost royal Godfrey family, who live in their “castle” away from everyone else. Matriarch Olivia (Famke Jannsen) rules with an iron fist, which is disguised in her exquisite exterior. Femme fatale indeed. Her son Roman seems to both fear and loathe her, while she loves, and I mean really loves him. Peter and Roman team up in a magical kind of bromance to investigate what is running around killing people. Peter’s mother Lynda Rumancek (Lili Taylor) smiles as if she holds many secrets.

But the town bursts with secrets. What is this “favour” between the Sheriff (Aaron Douglas) and Dr. Norman Godfrey (Dougray Scott)? What is the truth behind the immaculate conception of Letha Godfrey? Speaking of Sheriff Sworn, I loved the scene where he dropped off his daughters and Christina, the aspiring novelist at their school dance. Even with all the horrific events in town, his biggest terror is his teenage daughters.His face, with his baffled and scared look was a light moment that gave me a laugh. Nice touch.

Olivia’s teenage daughter, on the other hand, is seven-foot monstrous girl, an angst-ridden adolescent Frankenstein. Shelley Godfrey is horrifying on outside, poetic and sensitive on the inside. Only a chosen few people see her beauty. Everyone else sees the surface and either fear or shun or torment her. We learn in a flashback that she died when she was an infant. Her father, who later shot himself in front of his wife, brought her to the Godfrey medical research tower, where the “mad scientist”, Dr. Pryce (Joel de la Fuente), conducts his research. Indeed. She lives today. But what is she? And how deliciously creepy is Dr. Pryce? He is terrifying in his courtliness.

One quarter of the way inside and yes, while confused, am still enjoying the maelstrom. I can’t wait to plunge back within Hemlock Grove and her mysteries.

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