A teen scarefest that looks like a big-screen movie

Bill Skarsgard (left) and Landon Liboiron portray rich boy Roman and trailer-dwelling Gypsy Peter, respectively, in "Hemlock Grove."
Bill Skarsgard (left) and Landon Liboiron portray rich boy Roman and trailer-dwelling Gypsy Peter, respectively, in "Hemlock Grove." (SOPHIE GIRAUD / Netflix)
Posted: April 19, 2013

Hemlock Grove has most of the markings of a teen scarefest - will you be Team Roman or Team Peter? - except for its um, emphatically mature displays of nudity, violence, and profanity.

That's hardly surprising given that the second original series from Netflix (following the stellar House of Cards) comes from goremaster Eli Roth. (All 13 episodes will be available simultaneously on Friday).

Hemlock Grove is a typical rusty Pennsylvania steel town (the exteriors look a bit like Jim Thorpe, Pa.), except that the local girls all seem to be America's Current Top Models.

When a cheerleader is gruesomely eviscerated, (werewolf alert!), there is no lack of suspects. Might it be one of the town's alpha studs - rich boy Roman (Bill Skarsgard, a younger, slightly more decadent looking version of his brother, Alexander, of True Blood fame) or the trailer-dwelling Gypsy Peter (Landon Liboiron, who resembles Jared Leto)?

Both guys have disturbing habits. And both look about as much like high schoolers as Cole Hamels does.

Let's not overlook Roman's strangely seductive yet sinister mother (Famke Janssen). And what experiments is that spookily smiling Dr. Pryce (Joel de la Fuente) conducting at the Godfrey Institute?

Whatever you do, don't go near the school dance. It's like a buffet for Hemlock Grove's ravening beast.

To its credit, the series has rich production values and a better cast than this kind of fare usually attracts, including Dougray Scott and Lili Taylor. It manages to be lush, gross, frightening, and ridiculous - all at the same time.

While hardly a model of continuity (a chain-smoker in one episode will be cigarette-free in the next), Hemlock Hall looks like a big-screen movie. But it behaves like a TV series, not letting out all its secrets at once.

This Grand Guignol will keep you guessing, which in turn may keep you watching. But you better have a strong stomach.


Contact David Hiltbrand at 215-854-4552, dhiltbrand@phillynews.com, or follow on Twitter @daveondemand_tv.

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