Wednesday, August 18, 2021

Chapelwaite, on Epix

Even though it was originally a 30-page short story in Nightshift, it sort of makes sense “Jerusalem’s Lot” has become a mini-series. Technically, it is a prequel to Salem’s Lot, which still holds bragging rights as best Stephen King miniseries yet (and maybe second best overall adaptation behind the original The Shining). This one isn’t quite that good, but it definitely represents a rebound from the disappointing Lisey’s Story. Maine (circa 1850) gets weird again in creator-writers Peter & Jason Filardi’s 10-part Chapelwaite, which premieres Sunday on Epix.

There has been little happiness in the Boone ancestral home of Chapelwaite, but retired whaler Charles Boone hopes to change that when he inherits the property and the local mill from his estranged cousin, Stephen. Much to his surprise the townsfolk of Preacher’s Corners make no effort to hide their hostility when he arrives. The presence of his mixed-raced children, eldest daughter Honor, troubled middle daughter Loa, and son Tane, the youngest, only fan their prejudice, but he promised their late mother he would provide a stable upbringing for them (on dry land).

Unfortunately, Chapelwaite appears to have a destabilizing effect on Captain Boone. He is constantly unnerved by the sound of rats in the walls that only he can hear, especially in light of the family’s history of insanity. Initially, only their governess, modern-thinking Rebecca Morgan and loyal mill employee Able Stewart befriend the Boones, but as the captain uncovers an unholy cabal centered in the nearby ghost town of Jerusalem’s Lot, the local Constable and deeply flawed parson also side with the pariah family.

Chapelwaite is at its best during its mid-to-later episodes, when the rag-tag Team Boone takes its stand (so to speak) against the infernal forces of Jerusalem’s Lot, led by the ferocious Jakub. There really is a bit of the vibe from It or The Stand, but set against a wonderfully eerie gothic setting. You can see the King-ish themes and motifs, but there are also Hawthorne-like elements. Unfortunately, that also means there is a very King-esque hostility towards fathers and clergymen, even though both Charles Boone and Rev. Martin Burroughs grow in stature and have their grand moments.

Adrien Brody does a terrific job freaking out and brooding hard as Charles Boone. Young thesps, Jennifer Ens, Sirena Gulamgaus, and Ian Ho, are all quite effective as the Boone children, but the Filardis maximize Loa’s petulant acting-out, to a point that becomes tiresome. However, Devante Senior, Gord Rand, and Hugh Thompson really stand-out, adding depth of characterization as Stewart, Rev. Burroughs, and Constable Dennison.

Of course, it is also great fun to see genre veteran Julian Richings turn up as Boone’s supposedly dead Uncle Phillip. However, Emily Hampshire doesn’t quite click as Morgan, perhaps because the Filardis can’t seem to decide which century she should act like she lives in (the character unpredictably lurches from confident self-assertion to passivity). However, Christopher Heyerdahl (and his evil-looking makeup treatments) are all kinds of creepy as the
monstrous Jakub.

Chapelwaite probably could have been shorter and tighter (by a couple episodes), but it should also be noted, the series gets more intense and suspenseful as it progresses. These episodes have a lot that wasn’t in King’s source story, but most of what the Filardis add works really well. The battery of directors and cinematographers give it a consistently cinematic look and maintain an appropriate atmosphere of dread. Recommended for horror fans, Chapelwaite premieres Sunday (8/22) on Epix.