With an insanely prolific producer (Jason Blum – Ouija, Sinister, The Purge), a tried and tested genre director (Eli Roth – Hemlock Grove, Cabin Fever) and a recognizable leading lady (Mena Suvari – American Pie), South of Hell evidently attracted a good deal of talent.
South of Hell is infuriatingly good at is dishing out the back story. Matt Lambert has somehow succeeded in weaving the exposition so deeply into the narrative that it’s barely noticeable. But then again, their past is so embedded in the plot that it would be hard to stilt the forward momentum when the story is driven by the characters combined pasts.
One thing is easily predictable about this show; the past is coming back to bite them. South of Hell essentially stands testament to the effect our actions can have in the future.
The premise alone should be enough to carry this show. The tone and style screams a Southern charm that has been missing from our screens since True Blood took its last bow in 2014. Yet something just doesn’t click.
South of Hell is a supernatural thriller set in South Carolina, following Maria Abascal (Mena Suvari) a demon-hunter-for-hire whose power stems from below rather than above. Thanks to her demon obsessed father (Bill Irwin – Sleep Hollow, Law & Order Special Victims Unit), Maria is possessed by a hungry green eyed demon named Abigail. Maria can barely control Abigail, and it falls to her brother, David (Zachary Booth) to keep Maria’s demon under control, even though he can’t control his own drug addiction.
Maria is barreling head long towards her life’s mission – get the demon out. But the demon doesn’t want out and daddy dearest isn’t about to let that happen. Can you taste the tension and the frustration?
The level of conflict building in this show could be explosive. But it’s dampened down by one thin, the narration – the moronic and almost pointless narration. We can only assume that forcing viewers to see through David’s POV is Lambert’s last ditch attempt to make an unlikeable character bearable. If that is the case, he failed. David is still just a scrounging drug addict holding Maria back and trapping her in a never ending cycle of self-loathing.
Despite being a supernatural thriller, South of Hell appears to be very low-fi. The creative team have favoured more simplistic avenues. Coloured contact lenses are rife in South of Hell and all I can say is they had better be significant. The green lights flickering on outside possessed houses also appear to be rather redundant. If the aim was the suck the suspense out of a scene and shove the viewer ahead of the characters, then mission accomplished. If not… well it’s a too late now.
South of Hell is for all intents and purposes a good pilot. It sets up the series and probably beyond within its 45-minute slot. It introduces the key players and paints a pretty compelling and gruesome image of the inevitable reunion to come. That alone will make the twist that saves the day all the sweeter – or at least it should.
Demons are relatively underused in TV shows and that gifts South of Hell a unique change to tell a brand new story. And it is a new story – for TV. With an increased budget, they sky would probably be the limit for South of Hell.
South of Hell is brimming with metaphors and ironic circumstances. It’s on the nose and very true to the genre. No wonder the American network didn’t have a clue what to do with it.
The show was originally released in November in the USA, on Black Friday. Not only did they choose one of the worst days of the year to release a brand new show, they also fumbled the release. We TV Network released all 8 episodes in one go and sealed its fate. Hopefully, Pick TV have put more thought into the distribution. But It’s going to take a miracle to save this show.
If you’ve watched the pilot once and weren’t overly moved, go watch it again. It is better the second time around.
You can catch South of Hell on catch up and on Pick TV every Tuesday.
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