Episode 175: Hemlock Grove

August 30, 2013

Click to download episode

Hemlock Grove is perhaps the truest definition of a “Netflix Folly” in that it’s a “Netflix Original” series so any lack of quality is the sole fault of Netflix. I talked about the series briefly a few posts ago thinking I’d washed my hands of this dog’s breakfast of a teen horror soap. I wrote:

A Netflix original version of Twi-Blood-Diaries. We watched a whole four episodes before giving up. It wasn’t bad exactly but they were really dragging out the story at about a 2:1 episode to plot point ratio. Actually by episode three it felt like they’d told about one episode’s worth of story. One thing Mandi appreciated was finally there was some vampire enjoying menstrual cunnilingus action—a “sexy vampire” genre pet peeve of her’s is that they never indulge in this obvious opportunity. Anyway, sometimes I think about watching another episode and then… don’t bother.

It turns out I did end up bothering to return to Hemlock Grove a few days after posting the above having found myself in need of something to watch while I ate dinner when Mandi was away for a few days. So I watched another episode, cringed, watched another the next day, sneered, watched another… and so on.

When Mandi returned from her trip, she found herself in the unfortunate position of being forced to watch the remain three episodes with me, I’d passed the point of no return and needed to know how it ended. Welcome home, Mandi.

At this point I’d like to rescind a statement in my previous review: “It wasn’t bad exactly…”

Hemlock Grove really is exactly bad.

It’s partly because they took a book that was more suited to a six episode mini-series and stretched it out to a full 13 episode season. Yet they somehow still manage to rush the ending in the final two episodes. I’ll admit this is only a theory as I haven’t read the book, but I’ve placed a hold on it at the library in order to do a proper comparison—and to answer some lingering questions I have about the plot.

These pacing issues are a good deal of the problem with the series. Also that every second or third scene feels like a non sequitur as characters embark on courses of action for which writers seem to have forgotten to establish solid motivations. It’s unclear if this is a script problem, an issue with the actors’ performances, or if a bunch of interconnecting dialogue ended up on the cutting room floor (or never got shot) for whatever reason.

It doesn’t help the two male leads spend every scene they’re in together trying to out-James Dean each other. The palpable “too cool for school” disinterest in everything that surrounds them makes it difficult to buy their investment in their “quest” to find the rogue werewolf terrorizing the town. The  effect isn’t unique to them, all the characters seem to merely be drifting through life in a state of blasé detachment. Of course this is something that could have had a legitimate narrative or thematic purpose if done artfully.

But it wasn’t.

Advertisements

Episode 137 – Underworld: Awakening

January 25, 2012

Underworld Awakening podcast - click to listen

 


Underworld: Awakening  / Resident Evil: Afterlife comparison

The fourth installment in the franchise—and the proper sequel to the second film Underworld: Evolution—finds our heroine, Selene, awakening from twelve years in stasis to a world where humans have purged Vampires and Werewolves to the point of extinction. This is really the only place the franchise could be taken. This place being the Resident Evil films.

Co-directors Måns Mårlind and Björn Stein borrow more than a few pages from the Paul W.S. Anderson schlock-fests:

Page 1—We see a back-story of where a True Blood-style “Great Revelation” results in lycanthropy and vampirism being treated as like T-virus infections with paramilitary units going on search and destroy missions.

Page 2—Selene breaks out of a glass stasis tube, naked, in an Umbrella Corporation lab (here trading under the name AntiGen) and has to kill her way past endlessly respawning guards who luckily have a bad case of the Stormtroopers as far as their marksmanship goes.

Underworld Awakening / Resident Evil comparison

Page 3—Selene has to make sense of the world she’s awoken to while trying to complete a quest against insurmountable odds.

Page 4—Selene fights with rotten looking dogs in a dark, cramped space.

Page 5—Selene teams up with a preternaturally strong and intelligent child sidekick.

Page 6—A genetically enhanced werewolf bears a striking similarities to Nemesis, at least in concept.

Page 7—Selene shoots two guns at the same time. A lot.

Underworld Awakening  / Resident Evil comparison

But to be fair, Mårlind and Stein borrow pages from other sources as well. Twilight and True Blood get their due in the form of a love triangle between being set up for the unavoidable next film. An Edward-esque vampire named David seems poised to come between Selene and her missing werewold/vampire hybrid boyfriend Michael. Really, this film has everything.

Except zombies. I’m holding out hope for those later in the series. In fact, if the next film doesn’t see a vaccine for vampirism and lycanthropy going horribly awry and turning humans into the walking dead, I’ll be demanding my money back. And I’ll be swearing a lot while I do it.

What the film doesn’t have, besides zombies, are engaging performances by any of the actors—including a sleep-walking Stephen Rea. For a film that is trying so hard to be Resident Evil, they seem to have forgotten Milla Jovovich is interesting to watch even if she’s just eating dry toast. Kate Beckinsale is about as interesting as watching dry toast. The first Underworld film became a cult favourite due mostly to the Adam West-meets-William Shatner camp of Shane Brolly and Bill Nighy‘s terrible (awesome) performances. No one here seems willing to make a fool of themselves and that’s the film’s great loss.

What the film does do well is bulk up on the gore. Finally the violence in Underworld is as dark and visceral as as war between vampires and werewolves should be. Unfortunately you have to endure some terrible 3D at the same time.

Apparently this was one of the first features filmed with the Red Epic cameras being used in The Hobbit. Since Awakening features some of the worst cardboard cut-out 3D I’ve seen since the rebirth of 3D, things don’t bode well for Middle Earth. In several scenes it’s exactly like you’re looking at a diorama with layered planes of paper dolls instead of experiencing an immersive world.

In a lot of ways Awakening is a better film than the previous Underworld films. But that actually makes it a less enjoyable film. And if you’re just going to see Beckinsale’s ass wrapped in vinyl, find a picture on the Internet—it’ll last longer.

Bitches Please. Matrix was first.

Fotoshop by Adobé


%d bloggers like this: