Chapelwaite Review: First Five Episodes

In college, Stephen King wrote possibly the best Lovecraft story not written by Lovecraft, a twisted pastiche with a side of Poe. “Jerusalem’s Lot” would finally be published in his first story collection, Night Shift. Before that happened, he reused the town’s name in the novel Salem’s Lot (a sort of Dracula meets Peyton Place) and the follow-up short story, “One for the Road.” Fans have spent a good deal of time trying to reconcile the largely irreconcilable histories of the early story with the novel and its coda.

This year saw “Jerusalem’s Lot” expanded and adapted into the series, Chapelwaite. The first five of ten episodes have aired, with suspicious townsfolk, creeping madness, the worm that doth corrupt—and, one suspects, an eye towards a possible future season that will bring us to modern-day ‘Salem’s Lot.

It can be viewed on Epix in the United States and the Sci-Fi Channel/CTV in Canada.

Titles: “Blood Calls Blood,” “Memento Mori,” “Legacy of Madness,” “The Promised,” “The Prophet”

Cast and Crew

Directors: Burr Steers, Jeff Renfroe, Jeff Kosar, Rachel Leiterman.
Writers: Jason Filardi, Peter Filardi, Scott Kosar, Declan de Bara.

Adapted from work by Stephen King.

Adrien Brody as Captain Charles Boone
Emily Hampshire as Rebecca Morgan
Jennifer Ens as Honor Boone
Sirena Gulamgaus as Loa Boone
Ian Ho as Tane Boone
Eric Peterson as Samuel Gallup
Gord Rand as Minister Burroughs
Trina Corkum as Mary Dennison
Allegra Fulton as Ann Morgan
Devante Senior as Able Stewart
Dean Armstrong as Dr. Guilford
Genevieve DeGraves as Creepy Apple Girl
Michael Hough as Daniel Thompson
Steven McCarthy as Stephen Boone
Sebastien Labelle as Robert Boone
Julian Richings as Phillip Boone
Joanne Boland as Rose Mallory
Jennie Raymond as Alice Burroughs
Glenn Lefchak as Fletcher
Christopher Heyerdahl as Jakub
Charlie Rhindress as Carl Cutler
David Rossetti as Joseph Palmer
Acadia Colan as Marcella Boone
Zach Tovey as Dark Figure
Donovan Colan asYoung Phillip Boone
Matthew Del Bel Belluz, Noorin Gulamgaus as vampires
Vox Smith as Young Robert Boone
Lily Gao as Maya Boone
Oscar Mellema as Young Charles Boone
Briony Merritt as Faith Pringle

Premise

Whaler and widower Charles Boone and his children arrive at Preacher’s Corners, Maine, to take occupancy of their ancestral home, Chapelwaite. Unfortunately, the town doesn’t want them, their ancestors seem unwilling to relinquish their hold on the house, and mad thoughts keep worming their way into Boone’s brain. The answers to the Boones’ questions lie down the rode in a forsaken town called Jerusalem’s Lot.

High Point

The show introduces an overcast world evocative of nineteenth-century gothic, and sets up the story effectively. The first couple of episodes hint at the broader, eldritch mystery while exposing us to more commonplace horrors. The third episode, “Legacy of Madness,” shows us those real-world terrors can prove more disturbing than any supernatural menace. The night-time siege of Chapelwaite and its consequences make for compelling viewing.

Low Point

An adaptation will make changes, and some of these clearly suit the new medium. Boone’s children give him someone to fear for, while their Eurasian parentage permits the series to address race-related themes only hinted at in King’s original story.

However, some of the changes give pause, especially when set against the source’s disturbing purity of concept. The pacing drags in places, as the tale grows increasingly convoluted, and I remain uncertain of what to make of the changed nature of the creepy religious cult out in the Lot. It replaces much of the unknowable terror of the source with a too-familiar supernatural favorite.

The Scores:

Originality: 2/6 The script adds enough to the original premise to keep viewers familiar with King surprised, but much of what they add isn’t all that original.

Acting: 6/6 The film features strong acting, with mostly-effective handling of period dialogue that can sound stilted to contemporary ears. Adrien Brody gives a stunning performance. The original story’s Charles Boone seems well-adjusted and a little naïve, until he gets drawn into unspeakable horror and madness. The show’s version begins the tale a haunted man, and his circumstances only grow worse.

Story: 4/6 The first five episodes would have been better as three, with fewer subplots. It’s intriguing but cluttered, and the pace slows, at times, to a worm’s crawl.

Effects: 6/6

Production: 5/6 Chapelwaite is well-made, if visually very gloomy.

Emotional Response: 4/6

Overall: 4/6 The show features some frights and a fascinating, tortured performance by Brody. It’s goes in too many places, however, and it gets to many of them rather slowly.

In total, the first half of Chapelwaite receives 31/42

Notes and Observations

Chapelwaite is filmed in Nova Scotia, and many members of the cast will be especially familiar to Canadian viewers.

The Halloween celebrations feel over-the-top and entirely too contemporary for 1852. However, historical fiction can be a challenging thing, inviting of minor errors. The source story features Charles using the word “ecotoplasm”—it would not be coined until nearly a half-century later. At some point, readers and viewers need to focus on the characters and the impact of their tale.

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