What horror monster will rule on TV now that the zombie genre has been sucked dry thanks to AMC's Walking Dead franchise? Surely not the vampire or the werewolf. We've had more than our share of those changelings, with a flood of dramas from True Blood and Vampire Diaries to Bitten and Hemlock Grove.
Horror master Eli Roth, who created Hemlock Grove for Netflix, is putting his money on demons. He's one of the creators and exec producers of South of Hell, a supernatural procedural starring Mena Suvari as a demon-hunter.
Cable channel WeTV will show all seven episodes of the first season back to back starting at 6 p.m. Friday.
Co-created by Jason Blum, the successful producer of the Paranormal Activity and Insidious franchises, South of Hell is an easily digestible piece of horror froth that's totally enjoyable, if entirely facile. The lightweight, low-budget actioner lacks the sophisticated imagery and production design of Showtime's Penny Dreadful or the sharp wit and derriere-kicking fight sequences of CW's beloved slice of demonology, Supernatural.
Set in a Charleston, S.C., that seems beset by legions of demons, the drama features Suvari as Maria Abascal, a freelance exorcist who uses a unique and utterly creepy technique to rid the possessed of unwanted satanic interlopers.
Other demon-hunters use crosses, holy water, and incantations to get the job done, but Maria simply lets her inner demon out. See, Maria herself is a possessed gal, carrying within her a seriously hellacious chick named Abigail. Strong, ruthless and always hungry, she punches the daylights out of unwanted demons. Her reward? She gets to eat the demons, which look like deformed catfish and crawl out of possessed victims' mouths.
The problem with South of Hell is its shifting, uncertain tone. After watching the first three episodes, I'm still not sure whether it's supposed to be satirical or serious. More than any other show, it reminds me of the lighthearted 1990s witchcraft yarn Charmed.
Still, the show has promise: The freelance exorcism jobs are anchored in a larger, continuing story. Seems Marie's dead father, Enos Abascal (Bill Irwin), the leader of a doomsday cult who infected Maria with Abigail before being killed by the cops, has crawled out of hell. Backed by a demon army, he's gunning for his daughter.
All Maria has to do is destroy the army and send her dad back to his prison cell down below. She's aided in her blessed battle by her brother David (Zachary Booth), a junkie with a heart of gold, and the Rev. Elijah Bledsoe (Lamman Rucker), a crusading preacher whose daughter Grace (Paulina Singer) is a former member of the cult.
South of the Hell should give horror junkies enough of a tickle to stave off withdrawal. But it lacks substance. It's an intermezzo, not a full course.
South of Hell