REVIEW: Netflix's 'Alias Grace' will scratch your 'Stranger Things' itch
(image via Netflix)
In the shadow of the giant that is "Stranger Things" season 2, "Alias Grace" is a hidden gem for Netflix.
People tend to binge mystery and horror in October. Count me among the masses making it a routine. As a firm subscriber to the darker side of cinema, it's important that the spooky stuff doesn't end there.
Enter "Alias Grace," an adaptation of the Margaret Atwood novel of the same name.
It's a notable change-of-pace from "Stranger Things," equally sinister but more subtle. There's a slow build of suspense. The monsters are internal rather than in your face, making them all the more scary.
Once you graduate from the "Afraid of the Dark' phase of life you no longer worry what's under the bed. The bigger fears lie within. Overarching themes of suffering, loneliness and distrust occupy the mind. This is what keeps you up at night.
"Alias Grace" is able to articulate those feelings with haunting accuracy.
The audience assumes the position of Doctor Simon Jordon, a mental health specialist. He makes the trip from the United States to Canada to meet with a "celebrated murderess" named Grace Marks. At one time a maid, Marks was serving a life-sentence for the murders of her employer and his housekeeper.
At first glance her demeanor doesn't match the accusations. She is by all accounts sweet, soft-spoken and polite. Many believe her to be innocent, including a committee from the Methodist church.
These men and women sent for Dr. Jordon in hopes that his findings could one-day lead to a pardon for Miss Marks. So Jordon conducts a series of interviews to learn more about Grace's story. As he gains understanding, so too does the audience, creating a parallel of sorts.
Grace Marks tells her story in poetic fashion. In vivid details, she describes her life as an immigrant-turned-housemaid. A trail of abuse seems to follow throughout her journey. The faces change but the action does not, ultimately driving her into an asylum and penitentiary.
Whether Grace committed the crimes remains a mystery, as she has blacked out that moment in time. The doctor takes a particular interest in her perceived case of amnesia while pushing to make her remember the details of the murders. He begins to fall for the young prisoner, thus challenging his unattached disposition.
Throughout the series, which is only six episodes, I changed my mind several times. Some characters are despicable, but loving. Some are lovable, but at times cruel. In essence, every character seemed to be capable of good and evil; such is reality.
This show is slipping under the radar. There are still many television fans who have yet to hear about it, let alone watch it.
I highly recommend this series. It's a great follow-up to Atwood's critically-acclaimed powerhouse "The Handmaid's Tale" (Hulu) and it's a fairly quick watch. Atwood, 77 years-old and an author since the '60s, is suddenly a huge name in television. And we're all better for it.