TV review: South of Hell, Pick
Horror misfire from Blumhouse Productions
Everything about South of Hell points of a fun scary romp. Produced by Blumhouse Productions (Paranormal Activity / Insidious / Sinister), the opening episode is directed by horror favourite Eli Roth (Cabin Fever / Hostel) and stars Mena Suvari (American Beauty) in the lead. Unfortunately it's just too lightweight and hackneyed to be genuinely frightening.
Set in South Carolina, Suvari plays Maria Abascal one half of a brother and sister demon hunting duo. A fortune teller by day and exorcist by night. Her secret weapon being that she's possessed by her own monster, Abigail, who gets her kicks devouring other demons.
South of Hell seems content to plunder every Southern Gothic trope. The main problem for any project tackling demonic possession is that no one has ever bettered The Exorcist, the entire genre is now bogged down in the same overused iconography. Adding more bangs and whistles just dissipates the impact. SoH is too flashy and slick, and when you bring monsters into the light they lose their power. As a prime example a demonic showdown in an insane asylum is a jumble of jittery jump cuts rather than the ferocious face off it should have been. And there's an over reliance on Day-Glo contact lenses to depict possession. Sorry guys it's just not scary.
There's almost too much good horror content on TV right now – take your pick from The Walking Dead, Penny Dreadful, American Horror Story – South of Hell can't compete. However later episodes are directed by a selection of interesting names including Rachel Talalay (Freddy's Dead / Doctor Who), Jennifer (daughter of David) Lynch and perhaps most excitingly Ti West (House of the Devil / The Sacrament) so there's still potential after this decidedly average opener.
South of Hell premieres on Pick, Tue 2 Feb, 10pm .