Review by Sean Boelman
Stephen King is the rare author whose short stories are not only good enough to get a long-form series based off of them, but are dense enough to warrant one. The gothic horror Chapelwaite, based on King’s story “Jerusalem’s Lot”, might not be as distinctive as some of the other adaptations of his work, but it’s an effective horror series nonetheless.
The series follows a ship captain who, after inheriting his ancestral home in small-town Maine, finds himself haunted by his family’s dark past. Whether this story demanded a full ten-episode season is up for debate — the back half of the season easily could have been compressed from four episodes into two, making this more fit for a six or seven episode limited series format.
The series essentially has two halves to it, one a mystery trying to understand the curse that has plagued the protagonist’s bloodline, and the other a more straightforward supernatural horror. Both have their strengths and shortcomings, but series writers Jason and Peter Filardi manage to blend them together relatively well.
There are some really interesting ideas explored in the show, particularly in the first five episodes. An element of racial commentary that is introduced for a supporting character is largely abandoned as the story becomes more action-oriented, which is disappointing. That said, the exploration of small-town paranoia is as great as usual for something based on King’s writing.
Our hero Charles Boone is definitely a very compelling character. The first episode introduces us to him in a way that will immediately draw us to him. He’s perhaps a bit more perfect and selfless than the average horror hero, but it works. The antagonists are a bit more on the generic side but still serve as a great foil for Boone.
Adrien Brody gives one of his best performances in years in his leading role. The thing that elevates this above most other horror series is that Brody acts like he is in a serious drama, even in the action-horror final few episodes, adding a feeling of legitimacy to the story and its emotion.
The series also looks very good. Television horror isn’t known for the highest production qualities, but there is an immersive level of detail put into the periodization of the series. The make-up for the monsters is also exceptional and the gore, though sparse, is very well-done when used.
Chapelwaite isn’t as original of a show as one would expect from a Stephen King adaptation, but it’s very solid for what it is. Strong production values and good performances allow the viewer to stay invested despite occasionally dragged out pacing.
Chapelwaite debuts on Epix on August 22 and 10pm ET/PT with new episodes airing subsequent Sundays. All ten episodes reviewed.