Chapelwaite (2021)


The writers blend Lovecraft and Stephen King in this unusual, creepy and compelling ten-episode series about a family who moves into their ancestral home, only to realize their dead relations never left it.


Captain Charles Boone (Adrien Brody) seeks a different life for his family after the tragic death of his wife at sea, so when his relatives die off and leave him an abandoned mansion and sawmill in Maine, he packs up his three young children and moves there. But it shocks him to discover none of the townspeople warm up to them or want them there; rumors abound about his family and their cruel and strange behaviors. Some believe them responsible for an illness that swept through the town and took half the population. And he has to admit, the house seems… weird, and not in a good way. His daughters hear footsteps, and he hears rats scratching inside the walls.


Though her mother tells her to stay away from them, a local want-to-be journalist named Rebecca Morgan (Emily Hampshire) sees the family as the ultimate inspiration for a story. She pretends to be a governess in need of work to wheedle her way into the house, but finds herself growing attached to the kids and struggling with her desire to make a name for herself off their horrific family history. The townspeople rebuff her efforts to integrate them, and don’t like Boone’s assertive method of doing things (either his workers can live up to the plans he has for the mill, or they can find somewhere else to earn a living). But something evil lives within their community, and their dead relatives that stare down at them from the paintings on the walls may not be so dead after all…


This series impressed me in a lot of ways, because it doesn’t shy away from the vampires as a sinister force (cruel, bloodthirsty, and violent), but it also doesn’t bog its script down in modern foul language. I kept waiting to hear f-words, and none appeared, which is far more in keeping with the time period in which this is set than most recent MA costume dramas. It also has a fantastic cast and memorable characters. The ending is bittersweet; it doesn’t take the easy way out, and it doesn’t let evil win, either. It’s a haunting ending that completely suits the rest of the story. The costuming is terrific, and the atmosphere is unsettling. There are moments of vicious gore offset with atmospheric tension; as we wait to see what will happen inside the house, the story unsettles us. It left me both wanting to watch it again, and to see more of the story.


But there are some flaws, from a writing perspective. Namely, that when you blend Lovecraft and King, you need to find logical reasons to do so; the writers just threw everything together and while it’s compelling, it does not make much sense. In this version of the story, the vampires all worship a worm god, but we don’t know why, other than that he might bring eternal darkness so that they could feed indiscriminately and rule the world (this also makes no sense, because without sunlight, everything on the planet would die, removing their feed crop since humans would all perish without anything to eat themselves). They also build up a subplot and then it abruptly goes nowhere; a baby gets born in town that is deformed and missing its eyes. Later, an explanation is provided for it that again, makes no sense and/or seems like a missed opportunity. (If vampires can reproduce, why isn’t this a big deal? And what happened to the infant? They said they took it to its father, but what did he do with it? We never see it again, so are left to assume they ate it. But why would they eat it? Is a vampire reproducing not unusual, or do they not care?)


There are also some senseless acts of violence that are unnecessary, such as a vampire killing a horse (why?) and then its master. That aside, I did get sucked into it (ha, ha), I cared about these characters, and I wanted them to find a happy solution even though I did not know how the writers could make that happen. It held my attention better than a lot of recent offerings and with a bit more polish on the script (and handling a few of the plot holes) it could have been terrific. For now, it’s a fun mindless romp into the gory world of Victorian vampires, with a few twists and tricks up its sleeves that I didn’t anticipate.



None noted, aside from a few uses of “Christ!” and one GD.


Sexual Content:

In a late episode after a bath, we see partial side nudity on Boone. A subplot involves the local minister impregnating a woman other than his wife and having a deformed child (we later learn it’s a vampire’s baby instead of his); his adultery is looked down on by his cruel wife.



Infrequent but extremely gory, as vampires kill people and animals (a horse takes a mallet to the head, a girl is found holding her dead pet rabbit), attack people, people are attacked by scared humans who blame them for things; a child is turned into a vampire; vampires exposed to sunlight burst into flames in a graphic manner; few people are shot and/or do themselves in; blood spurts and sprays. We see worms wriggling under people's skin several times, and being pulled out of noses. The minister’s wife poisons him for his adultery and he dies in agony, before she eats it and dies herself.



It doesn’t have an anti-religious slant, but it does feature a minister involved in adultery, who goes through a crisis of faith when he learns vampires are real; he’s tempted to flee out of cowardice, but chooses to stay and fight instead. His tyrant of a wife, a mean and cold person, lectures him about morality and then murders him.

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