Sommerleigh Pollonais, Horror Head Writer
Plot: In the 1850s, Captain Charles Boone relocates his family to his ancestral home in the small, sleepy town of Preacher’s Corners. Charles will soon have to confront the secrets of his family’s history and fight to end the darkness.
Review: Chapelwhat? Unless you’re a diehard fan of Stephen King you might not realise this series was born from one of his most famous novellas, specifically Jerusalem’s Lot. I myself didn’t know about the connection until I went a-googling to see what this show was about. Jerusalem’s Lot is an epistolary short story, which simply put is a story told through the use of letters and diary entries. It follows the main character of Charles Boone and his manservant Calvin McCann who after moving into Boone’s ancestral home begin to discover long-buried family secrets that include the occult and a link to an old village called Jerusalem’s Lot.
A sort of prequel to the mini-series Salem’s Lot, Chapelwaite follows Captain Boone played by Oscar winner Adrien Brody (Predators, The Thin Red Line) who, after losing his beloved wife to some old-timey disease, gets a letter from a long-lost cousin named Stephen Boone. Stephen bequeaths a lumber mill and the family estate called Chapelwaite to Charles and, as his wife’s last wish was for him to create a real home for their three children, Honor, Loa and Tane, Charles moves them into the mansion. But as soon as they arrive in the small town of Preacher’s Corners they are met with prejudice (the children are half-white), fear and downright hatred, due to the Boone family name.
As the people of Preacher’s Corners begin to die from a mysterious illness and blame is set right at the feet of Charles and his family, it seems like things couldn’t get worse. But this is a Stephen King story so worse is right around the corner as Charles struggles with what he believes to be the madness that has passed through his family line. He hears voices, he sees worms everywhere. Is he insane or are there secrets that should stay buried beneath the earth in Chapelwaite? I should write book synopses cause that wasn’t half bad, am I right? All kidding aside, adapting Stephen King’s work is never an easy endeavour and, similarly to a couple of his most recent adaptations (Lisey’s Story and The Outsider) Chapelwaite’s first three episodes are a bit of a mixed bag.
Episode 1: Blood Calls Blood
Episode 1 starts off in brutal fashion with a father trying to kill his son while his mother fights to keep him alive. No, I’m not talking about The Shining but the tone of what’s to come is immediately established. I love horror set in these gothic-looking timelines, and as we jump forward from young Charles to the adult version played by Brody the cinematography, set designs and wonderfully creepy opening title sequence, I knew I was in for something special.
The first episode is a slow one as this is where the main characters and setting is established. There’s not much here in terms of horror but it does a solid job of establishing the tone of the story. The introduction of Rebecca Morgan (Emily Hampshire) as a novelist who eagerly takes a job as the children’s governess so she can dig deeper into the history of Charles Boone and Chapelwaite for her next big story was a very smart way to incorporate both the well-established trope of every Stephen King movie/series having a writer in it while also sticking to the tone of the source material (she writes in her diary and a lot of the stories’ narration comes from her point of view). A strong start with enough mystery to pique your interest, Episode One gets an eight out of ten from this fan.
Episode 2: Memento Mori
This is where we begin to dive a bit deeper into the horrors found in Chapelwaite. Brody does a wonderful job of making Charles Boone the kind of protagonist you not only root for, but are genuinely worried for as well. He’s a good man with a good heart but the darkness hidden beneath the surface is beginning to break free, and like Jack Torrance this is a man struggling with a lot of internal demons. Added to that pressure are the townsfolk of Preacher’s Corners who are mostly a bunch of unlikeable racists with hardly any redeeming qualities between any of them. This was my biggest issue with this episode and the series (so far) as a whole. Most of these people are just one-dimensionally written and even though the actors themselves are not at fault, it’s easy to write them off and ignore them as a whole. I get that this is a small town and the people there hate the Boone family and anyone associated with the name, but it feels a bit lazy to just treat them like your typical pitchfork-wielding mob rather than develop them into people worth spending time with.
There are a couple of outliers like the young preacher Minister Burroughs (Gord Rand) and Able Stewart (Devante Senior) who is the only other person of colour besides the kids in this town and is therefore treated like dirt (you have to wonder why he would stick around), but other than our main cast you probably won’t care when these people begin dropping like flies.
Story-wise they expand more on what might be happening in this town and what the source of the mysterious illness might be. And for those who have never seen or read Jerusalem’s Lot, the mystery is treated in a way that I found refreshing. So Episode 2 gets points for storytelling and atmosphere (plus a really brutal kill) but loses points for lacklustre character development. Six out of ten.
Episode 3: Legacy of Madness
It doesn’t do that much to dig into what’s REALLY going on at Chapelwaite but at the same time Legacy of Madness does give us more of a behind the scenes look at the history of the Boone family as Charles discovers his cousin may not be as dead as he was told. I did like this look into the past and the whole “is he insane or isn’t he” is well executed. I also want to mention the young actors who play Charles’ children, especially Sirena Gulamgaus as Loa. She stands out here maybe due to her character having to deal with a bit more hardships than her brother and sister (she has to wear a leg brace due to rickets) but her scenes, albeit short, are quite effective and I get the feeling they’re building to something special for this character.
Legacy was a slow burn but it delivers in terms of supernatural chills and lays the foundation well for the darker elements that are coming our way. Seven out of ten on this one.
Only three episodes out of ten so far, but Chapelwaite so far has a wonderfully dread-filled atmosphere, an intriguing mystery that most viewers who like this sort of storytelling will be happy to watch unfold, and a main cast of characters that I can see myself getting heavily invested in. Hopefully the pacing picks up going forward and I really hope they don’t drag the mystery out like some shows do. But considering who or what the big bad is here and how much I love this particular monstrous entity I know it would take more than a group of pitchfork wielding townsfolks to stop me from seeing Chapelwaite through to the end.
If you’re a fan of gothic horror, creepy mysteries, and Stephen King adaptations, you only have three episodes to get all caught up on Chapelwaite, so why not give it a go and see if it this horrific tale is for you.
So have you checked out Chapelwaite yet? And you read up on more great horror tv series below:
Sommerleigh of the House Pollonais. First of Her Name. Sushi Lover, Queen of Horror Movies, Comic Books and Binge Watching Netflix. Mother of two beautiful black cats named Vader and Kylo. I think eating Popcorn at the movies should be mandatory, PS4 makes the best games ever, and I’ll be talking about movies until the zombie apocalypse comes.
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