The Horror Honeys: South of Hell ~ But Mostly, Right in the Middle of It

South of Hell ~ But Mostly, Right in the Middle of It

A Series Review with Horror TV Honey Lisa

South of Hell (2015 - )

Two of the most divisive names in horror, Eli Roth and Jason Blum, partnered to bring a show about possession to television. They even managed to bring Ti West and Jennifer Lynch on to direct an episode, or two, in the case of Lynch. With horror currently experiencing a renaissance on TV, it seems as though all of these things would add up to a lot of buzz and a big premiere, but, tellingly, this was not the case. If it’s true that the world ends not with a bang, but a whimper, I think South of Hell just whimpered the death knell of horror television.

Remember when it seemed strange that Lifetime was doing a Lizzie Borden television show? Well, WEtv one one-upped them by ordering an 8-episode season of South of Hell. The channel that blessed (cursed) us with Bridezillas, decided to jump into the horror game full force. In their defense, a show from the Blumhouse production company and executive producer Eli Roth, who also directed the premiere episode, and featuring a recognizable lead actress, seems like a great idea. It was not.

Mena Suvari (American Beauty) stars as Maria Abascal, a woman who is possessed by a demon. As she struggles to maintain control over her literal inner demon, Abigail, Maria and her brother work as demon hunters for hire. These two siblings find themselves in unusual situations where they use their unique talents to defeat demons and the forces of hell all while uncovering a family history that is even more sinister than they ever imagined. While they aren’t driving an Impala, they do have a vintage pickup truck which seems apropos for the South Carolina setting. Dripping and oozing with a southern gothic motif, South of Hell suffers from a small production budget and an inability to distinguish itself from all of the other horror offerings currently on television.

In an unprecedented move, WEtv released 7 of the 8 episodes on Black Friday. Touting it as a binge watch, this was certainly a clever idea. After a day of binging on food, binging on television the next day seems completely appropriate and is probably what the average American was doing. The smart TV bingers were probably devouring Flesh and Bone or Jessica Jones, but your fearless Horror TV Honey was watching South of Hell and it is 7 hours that she will never, ever get back. Adding insult to injury, the elusive 8th episode of South of Hell is only available to purchase. 

On November 27, WEtv aired seven episodes in a row. On November 28, the entire season, including the 8th episode, was available for sale on iTunes. No, you can’t just purchase the 8th episode, if for some reason you felt compelled to do that. You have to buy the “extended season” to get that one episode. You just slogged through 7 episodes of cliched, southern gothic, exorcism crap and the only way you can find out how the season ends is to buy the ENTIRE season in order to watch ONE episode?! Oh, I’m sorry South of Hell, I didn’t realize that I was watching something so fucking good that I would want to purchase the whole season so I could assault my eyes and intelligence with it all over again. I can think of exactly ONE show that I would do this for and seeing as how Walter White is dead, I won’t have to do that. Actually, I wish I could get my hands on some of that Blue Sky and try to erase South of Hell from my memory. 

As a courtesy, I will now warn you that I am going to speak freely about the events that took place in this show. If you still have a yearning to watch it, please stop reading now. 

All of the actors did the best that they could with the content that they were given. David Abasacal, played by Zachary Booth, is the greek chorus of the show. He’s not just Maria’s brother, but he also provides the unnecessary and, at times, laughable voice overs. It’s similar to how Dexter Morgan verbally shared his inner thoughts on Dexter, but in this case, it’s just egregious. Maria and David navigate the many demon possessions taking place in South Carolina, make a frenemy with Reverend Elijah Bledsoe, get into lots of trouble with the locals, including a KKK like faction that comes and goes for no apparent reason and both of them dabble in romance. David falls in love with Reverend Bledsoe’s daughter Grace, which is troublesome for numerous reasons, but most notably because we will all come to find out, un-shockingly, that they are siblings. See, Maria and David are both screwed up because their mother left them and then committed suicide. Before committing suicide, she hooked up with Bledsoe and had Grace. Yawn. By the time they all learn this information straight from their mother’s mouth while they visit her in purgatory, you just don’t give a shit. This is also not the only incident of accidental incest that happens in the show. Whatevs 

In between being confronted with demons, David tries to kick his drug habit and Maria falls in love with the lone handsome dude living in the same trailer park. Maria also reads tarot cards at a local flea market/cafe where there is a giant neon sign. Admittedly, it took me more than a minute to realize what genius they were trying to pull off with this sign. It’s a “Womens” sign that is visible no matter where they are in the marketplace, but the “W” flashes in and out constantly. Omens. Get it? This is some seriously high level symbolism going on. 

Out of respect for Kim Fields and my love of The Facts of Life and The Real Housewives of Atlanta, I will only mention that she is also in this show. Jennifer Lynch has proven on The Walking Dead that she can direct the hell out of a television show and her episodes were the best of the season. As far as Ti West goes, I can only assume that Blum and Roth blackmailed him into doing his episode because it smacks of boredom. 

Lots of other ridiculous things happen, but quite frankly, I don’t have the patience nor the wherewithal to detail it and besides, the mere fact that this whole show comes off as a Z-level Supernatural wanna-be with the kind of writing that can only be found in the final season of True Blood means that I have already spent far too much time on it. It’s clear that WEtv wasn’t quite sure how to enter the realm of horror and they further flubbed by not knowing how to effectively promote and air the show. Did they barely advertise it because they knew they had a subpar product on their hands or did they really just not know how to coddle anything that didn’t involve women behaving badly? Either way, South of Hell was a huge missed opportunity and seems to be the clearest example that both Blum and Roth have their hands in one too many pots at the same time. What ever happened to quality over quantity?

If you want to watch South of Hell, Lisa has given you enough clues where to find it.
We don't encourage masochism here.

Did you make the mistake of suffering through South of Hell?
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