This is an (almost) spoiler-free review of Netflix’s new teen-horror series Chambers, all 10 episodes of which are streaming on Netflix.
Netflix has been delving into the young adult programming landscape for a while now, but with its new horror series Chambers, they manage to deliver something strange and unique but ultimately uneven. Whilst the slow-burn chiller definitely isn’t for everyone and doesn’t fully deliver on the mystery at its core, genre fans will still likely be intrigued by the atmospheric offering.
Set in the sprawling landscape of Arizona, Chambers centers on a teenage girl, Sasha, (Sivan Alyra Rose) who suffers an unexpected heart attack during a moment of intimacy with her boyfriend. She almost dies but is saved by an unexpected heart transplant, and quickly becomes drawn into the privileged and alien world of the donor’s family. The first couple of episodes of Chambers offer up a chilling and often visually distant world which is clearly separated into the haves and have nots. Sasha’s world is working class, dusty, and rural, but the donor – Becky – and her family come from a world of clean lines, white marble, and glass.
Elevated Horror is a loaded term, but it feels like the show is attempting to bring the aesthetic and aural experience that’s often connected to those films which get tarred with the Elevated Horror brush to the small screen. There’s a mix of long sparse shots alongside jarringly edited moments; the sound design is great and adds a lot to the often minimalist storytelling. Arguably not much happens in the first couple of episodes, but the directors do manage to build a lot of atmosphere, especially after Sasha and her uncle Frank (Marcus LaVoi) are first invited to the home of Nancy (Uma Thurman) and Ben Lefevre (Tony Goldwyn) – the grieving parents of Becky. Something’s clearly not right there, but despite her best intentions, soon Sasha is enrolling in the same private school that her donor attended as part of a scholarship in her name.
The problem comes once the setup has been achieved and you realize that Chambers still has eight more episodes to go. The show is definitely light on plot and often feels like it’s struggling to fill its season order. It doesn’t help that the ‘heart transplant makes the person who receives it start to act more like the donor’ trope has been done before, most memorably in the brilliant Eerie, Indiana episode “Heart on a Chain.” Chambers doesn’t necessarily add much to that narrative device, but the attempted exploration of the wealth divide, poverty, and privilege does give it an interesting edge.
Teenagehood is ripe for horror and explorations of it, and the body horror drenched setup seems to hint at the potential for an interesting and analogous tale. However, narratively the story gets wrapped up in its own secrets and seems to waste the more interesting aspects of its teenaged cast, focusing more on its own lore and high school drama than the innately scary coming of age period. Another thing that’s unusual about the series is its representation of teen sexuality, which at times feels raw to the point of explicit and even voyeuristic. It’s a huge shift from the sanitized lust of shows like Riverdale, Pretty Little Liars, and Chilling Adventures of Sabrina.
Rose is a dynamic and engaging lead even as the show pushes her into more and more ridiculous situations. Chambers is ambitious to the point of silliness when it comes to its central story as the mystery around Becky’s death gets stranger and stranger and Sasha attempts to find herself (and the truth) in the face of her odd new status quo. Visually engaging direction and inclusive casting keep Chambers on the right side of interesting, even when it really starts to feel like they might be reaching in terms of storytelling. By the later episodes, though, the show starts to lag, often more interested in soap opera story threads than the standout strong performances from the cast. Speaking of the cast, Thurman and Goldwyn are standouts, just as creepy and devastating as you need them to be, as the possibly cult-affiliated grieving parents.
Those who find themselves intrigued enough to stick it out for the full 10 episodes will be rewarded with one of the show’s best and weirdest episodes, which offers up a hook that’ll likely catch even the most skeptical of viewers. Though, as the series ends, you can’t help but wish they could have gotten to the good stuff faster and properly expanded on it, rather than teasing something that’s ultimately more interesting than what came in the nine episodes before.
It’s great that Netflix is using its platform and budget to create shows like Chambers. Even if the finished product might be lacking, it feels good that experimental, unconventional genre shows like this are being made.
Chambers could have been better, but it does fill an interesting gap in the teen market: authentic storytelling that’s experimental and rough around the edges with a horror bent. Though it’s not going to be a word of mouth smash, it will likely find an audience and become a cult hit amongst those who like their chillers slow, serious, and atmospheric.
Source: Read Full Article