Tag Archives: werewolves

I see where you’re coming from, Hemlock Grove

People will be incredibly harsh about Netflix‘s new original series Hemlock Grove. This is because there’s a lot to be harsh about; it’s a stupid show. It’s an incoherent mess, a car crash of inanely misogynistic overtones and insanely daft dialogue. It doesn’t know what it’s doing, where it’s veering next, and although the description of the first episode mentions the grisly murder of a teenage girl, it’s not a whodunnit. Oh, no. It is certainly not that.

Imagine studying Twin Peaks for its crazy insane brilliant moments and cutting them out with a scalpel, mixing them with an unhealthy dose of The Vampire Diaries, and then running the result through a Stephen King filter. Welcome to Hemlock Grove! You can ignore all the full Twin Peaks comparisons though, they’re way off; this is a child of IT and The Company of Wolves. The setting could be King’s Derry with the old American gothic steelworks and the deceptive docility of the streets; the teen angst could have come straight from the CW; the mysteries it tries to hint at are as clear as anything because this show is playing at layers it doesn’t have to cover it all up.

So it’s awful, but I watched all thirteen episodes because I was loving it. It’s crap and beautiful, reaching for something absolutely sublime. I wish it had been more courageous with the murder plot, and more work had been put into the dialogue, and the oppressive score had been scaled back some. I wish Famke Janssen had been allowed to act with her real accent and that someone on the writing staff could have pointed out that sexually active, attractive, or just plain interesting girls are more than murder/death/tragedy bait. I wish, I wish, I wish.

There’s so much promise to it – occasional hints and hat tips to genuinely dark moments and amusing sidenotes. The actors really try, and sometimes are completely over the top, but other times you feel a pang because it’s dead on, if not the kind of dead on Eli Roth and his gang want to be. The friendship between the boys is the core of it all and the occasional moments when it’s four teenagers against the world are when it begins to feel like there’s a direction and a purpose. Bill Skarsgard is wonderfully sinister and deranged, Landon Liboiron’s acting talent is clear but oddly underused (as is Lili Taylor). Joel de la Fuente was great fun and should have been made more of plot-wise (as should the whole Institute). Famke Janssen chews all the scenery and almost, almost gets away with it, but for the poverty of amazing one-liners.

I watched it all because I enjoyed the hell out of it, and its flaws make me furious because it wasn’t far off being amazing – the flaws are just too huge and can’t be ignored. I can’t recommend this series to anyone. That said, if you have a whole lot of fun with style over substance (I can honestly say I do), this could be right up your street. I’m conflicted. It’s fun, but only if you appreciate that it’s also awful.

Unfortunately the basic message is YET AGAIN do not be a girl in a horror movie/show.

Thanks, Eli Roth, Brian McGreevy, et al. Why don’t you work on that.

And yes this is my first blog post in months. This is because werewolves MATTER, okay.

MD Lachlan’s ‘Wolfsangel’

I have no interest in werewolves. Most modern depictions seem to involve bad special effects, stupid love triangles and random pointless blood spatter and, weirdly, some sort of vampiric involvement for no good reason. Werewolves hold no interest for me, less even than vampires, which at least have Bram Stoker and Polidori to give them some merit (and that said I do like the Sookie Stackhouse books and Vampire Academy for being moreish and highly entertaining, but that is another matter entirely).

Now, though, I’ve seen the light. There IS a point to werewolves. They CAN be brilliantly done.

MD Lachlan’s Wolfsangel is a take on werewolves that draws in threads of Norse mythology, dank, dangerous witchcraft and brilliantly pitched mythic language to create a book that felt otherworldly and convoluted in a way I didn’t expect from what I’d heard about it beforehand. King Authun, a mighty warrior, seeks the child that a witch queen’s prophecy has told him will bring his people glory – only he finds twin boys instead. One is brought up as his son, a prince, while the other is brought up, wolf-like, in the wilderness. The witch, easily one of the most unsettling characters I’ve read, sits in her dark caves and spies through hallucinatory, mind-expanding visions on the boys as they grow and on the world around them; and there’s so much more to it, a mixture of classic fantasy coming-of-age in the prince Vali and his relationship with Adisla, a lot of horror as well, and even a little bit of political intrigue and betrayal.

It’s hard to explain exactly what this book is but it’s very much the kind of novel that crosses genre boundaries, and although I freely admit that it was hard-going at times as I’ve discovered that I’m quite squeamish when it comes to people being eaten (it was described brilliantly, I will point that out) but well worth the effort. There are gods and monsters and witches and quests and long-lost brothers and love triangles in which the emo-angst isn’t the focus (YES!) and it’s all worked together with excellent writing.

Wolfsangel is one of those rare things – a novel with an epic storyline in line with the epics of old, complete with epic language and characters drawn from mythic tropes and seemingly controlled by fate that still manage to act independently and surprise you. It feels so ancient, so steeped in age and old magics, filled throughout with a deep unease and visceral authenticity, that it was hard to pull myself out of it and enjoy the impromptu early summer we’ve been having.

It’s not a fun read, but it is a great one. I’m very interested to see how the series develops from here – it can be read as a standalone work, but I get the feeling that the internal mythology MD Lachlan is building will have some excellent pay-offs.

Solid 4/5, because I’m not as comfortable with the violence as I once might have been, and it is a harsh book, but it is very, very good.