If, as Eli Roth contends, “people want their horror horrific,” then judging by the six minutes of Hemlock Grove that screened here today, fans of the genre shall not be disappointed. Roth, who exec produces the Netflix original series, was in Cannes this afternoon with star Famke Janssen. He directed the first of 13 episodes which all become available in the U.S. on April 19. The Gothic horror with a Twin Peaks lilt was produced by Gaumont International TV, a division of the French major. Roth called the studio, “director friendly” and joked, “Especially because they’re French, we can say auteur, and not ironically.”
Roth said he’d been looking for a TV project, but was having a hard time cracking the nut. Netflix let him “run wild” with Hemlock Grove which is written by Brian McGreevey and Lee Shipman and based on McGreevy’s novel. Network TV “has all these standards” but in horror, Roth contends, “you want to see the sex and the killing and the violence. What’s great about Netflix and Gaumont is you can really push the envelope in that direction.” Roth he was aiming for something “beautiful and horrific,” especially in showing how one character transforms into a werewolf, that “would really fuck up an entire generation.”
Janssen plays Olivia Godfrey, the 150-year-old non-aging matriarch of a small town where a girl is murdered in a manner most grisly. That sets off the story that also involves Olivia’s son, played by Bill Skarsgard, and the new kid in town, played by Landon Liboiron. Lili Taylor, Dougray Scott and Penelope Mitchell also star.
Roth says the show was made as though it were a 13-hour movie. Although the Netflix release is designed to allow viewers to consume the program as they wish, he said the stories were arced so they’ll work as episodic television in the places where Netflix is not handling distribution. Roth also alluded to the future saying he was conscious of building the “mythology” of the show for more seasons.