23 May 2015 | remittancegirl
Good concept imperfectly executed
Although I was intrigued with the series and there were some nice psychological thriller / supernatural stirrings in the first episode, I quickly got bored of Christina Ricci's one dimensional acting. She seems to have only one setting: unreflective sociopath mode. The script would have benefited greatly from a more complex and nuanced character. Clea DuVall, playing Lizzie's sister Emma, has far more depth and subtlety. Meanwhile, all the bad men are unremittingly bad, cardboard cut-out villains. Cole Hauser's Siringo is suffering from a serious charisma deficit.
Although I'm not adverse to gore, it is being used instead of better scriptwriting as a way to segue into new scenes. It quickly started feeling like an obvious device. I found a lot of the dialogue far too modern. Again, Ricci's very flat, clipped delivery pulls it out of period.
Meanwhile, the props department should have done a better job with their historical research. The flashlight, used by Hauser in his exploration of the schoolhouse, was not invented until 1899 - when the dry cell battery became available.
All of these flaws would not have rendered the series unbearable. It was the soundtrack that fundamentally ruined it for me. There have been series and films that pair historical settings with contemporary music to excellent effect. The Knick (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2937900/?ref_=nv_sr_1) is set in basically the same time period and uses very atmospheric, very modern abstract electronic music throughout the series and manages to make it work superbly well. The choice of music for this series - both the incidental music that was over-dramatic and bombastic as well as the bits and pieces of contemporary rock - became a real distraction that served to distance me emotionally from the episodes. Especially the indie rock with vocals.
It feels like a low budget, Baz Lurman series with more gore and fewer Hollywood stars.