PLOT: A young girl is murdered savagely by what appears to be a beast in a town rife with mysterious characters and suspects.
REVIEW: The first episode of "Hemlock Grove" is an interesting case: not quite engaging enough to make me want to fully commit to the series, yet it dishes out enough intriguing plot strands that I'm curious to see where it all goes. It certainly doesn't reach the levels of intensity or weirdness of its horror series brethren like "Bates Motel" and "Hannibal," but there are a few bizarre touches that deserve recognition.
Naturally, the first episode is about setting everything up, hinting at the strangeness to come. As the show begins, a young girl, Brooke Bluebell (Lorenza Izzo), on her way to a date with a teacher is ripped to shreds by some kind of animal - or monster. The police and coroner are confounded.
Meanwhile, mother-and-son gypsies (Lili Taylor and Landon Liboiron) move into a dilapidated trailer, once owned by the mother's brother. Their trailer sits in view of a stupendous mansion, which is occupied by another odd mother-son duo Olivia and Roman Godfrey (Famke Janssen and Bill Skarsgard), who are among the wealthiest people in town. These two hide about half a dozen different secrets, which may include the fact that they're werewolves. Oh, and they're also looking after Roman's hulking, disfigured sister, who lurks the school's hallways like a Frankenstein's monster (and who knows, she very well may be).
The production values on "Hemlock Grove" are pretty good, basically television quality, and the performances are all more or less compelling. (Although I kind of wish Janssen wasn't sporting a strange pseudo-British accent.) Liboiron has considerable screen presence and figures to be the most interesting person on the show - aside from that bizarre sister, whom we really don't learn much about (I'm sure there's plenty more to come). There's a subplot building about a young fledgling writer who takes an interest Liboiron's character that might have fun "good girl/bad boy" results. Another storyline to watch involves the Famke Janssen character's brother-in-law (Dougray Scott), whose suspicions about the circumstances revolving his brother's death are augmented by a strange flashback.
What's holding "Hemlock Grove" back a little, at least right now, is the feeling that, aside from some nudity early on and a little gore, this could fit right in on The CW next to "The Vampire Diaries." It doesn't have the bite, excuse the pun, that you'd want from a premium show. But it's early yet, so we must wait and see.