Once upon a time, in the modern world it had become the fashion in movies and TV to retell stories, mainly fairy tales, with which we find ourselves very familiar. These retellings have a built in audience that instantly identifies with the new take of the story.
Who could resist a modern day Cinderella or Little Red Riding Hood? Perhaps Cinderella wasn’t all that innocent after all, and maybe, just maybe, whoever took that little girl had a thing for red coats.
Grimm, in its first season, and now on Blu-ray, brings these old stories into new light. The show takes the idea of the Grimm brothers, who wrote down many of our fairy tales for morality lessons to children, and gives each episode a nice modern spin.
The show is set in the present day town of Portland, Oregon, and the town has become a “strange creature habit”. So many different and strange creatures live there (but look totally human to the untrained eye) that detectives Nick Burkhardt (David Giuntoli) and Hank Griffin (Russell Hornsby) are never bored. In addition to the usual crime, there are these supernatural crimes to be solved that involve such creatures as a klaustreich and a hexenbiest.
Nick has inherited the power to see these strange creatures while his partner Hank stays oblivious. Nick is one of the last ‘Grimms’, what a vampire slayer would be to a vampire. In fact, the role of being a Grimm is greatly feared in the creature world, and parent creatures tell their little creatures what a Grimm will do to them if they don’t get to bed on time.
The make-up for a large variety of creatures is nicely done: a blend of CGI and what looks to be a throw-back to the 1950s horror monsters, cheesy but fun in a well-done way. When Nick glimpses a creature for the first time, the audience sees it also, as a CGI flash, and then a blurring of the actor’s face. When he has to fight the said creature, then the special effects that come into play are old school: latex prosthetics and such.
During the show, the names of creatures are thrown at the audience, and so I appreciated the Blu-ray set that gives a brief ‘dictionary’ of sorts, done in a humorous way. The case unfolds to reveal such spellings and origins as lausenschlange (German for lousy snake) and blutbad (German for bloodbath, a wolf creature). Most of the named creatures are German, but some are French and Spanish. There are also, in addition to spelling and explanation of the various creatures, the words used for potions, weapons, and other useful things.
Nick makes friends with a blutbad, which is very odd indeed, as Grimms are usually on the hunt and its kill or be killed. The blutbad’s name is Monroe (played by Silas Weir Mitchell) and helps Nick to understand the creature world after Nick’s Aunt Marie (another Grimm) dies. Mitchell is a great reason to watch the show, as he brings humor to pretty much everything Monroe does.
Monroe has, in an effort to live in the human world, curbed his natural wolf instincts and is a really nice guy just trying to get by. He drives a classic Volkswagen, which I thought a nice touch and a nod to the German influences in the show.
Nick is also aided by the Winnebago-camper thing that his aunt parked at his house before she died. Inside, the place is filled the brim with ancient books, herbs, various weapons, and many, many other useful things. In the vein of the show, combining modern with old, the camper is the modern element, a silver, unassuming, tin can-like structure, and what’s inside is the old, useful, dusty stuff. Many times in the show when Nick is trying to figure out what a creature is or what to do, he goes into the silver bullet camper and finds the answer.
Though the show is formulaic, it’s fun. Giuntoli plays a straight character (and I think he lacks charisma, not a criticism but an observation as the show does work) but he is aided by Mitchell, who is genius in his role as Monroe, and a really good, smart writing (coming up with all of those creatures’ names, hats off to smart writing!) and great special effects.
The sets are also pretty amazing---the audience is taken from the city of Portland to the surrounding woods and it looks like something out of Grimm’s fairy tales, from the cozy little log cottages to the tea warming on the hearth-like stove. Of course, as seen in the show, and again I chalk this up to good writing, most of those cozy little fire-warmed cottages are not benign. The creatures that live in them lock up little girls in red coats or do other hideous things.
Each episode begins with a quote, and it is fun to guess what tale is going to be spun and in what modern way. I loved the tale of the golden egg, is which a bird like creature is preyed upon for the egg, the unbezahlbar, she produces. Not in the traditional way, of course, as the audience comes to find out, for the egg rests like a lump in her throat until it is removed very carefully before it cuts off her air-supply.
It will be interesting to see what season two bringing to life, though I think at some point, the writers might run out of actual Grimm’s fairy tales. I suspected that might have been the case in this season, and they might have borrowed from Aesop’s fables or other tales.
Packaged in a great looking flip-out case that really enhances the show, Grimm on Blu-ray really shines in a darkly, atmospheric way and is definitely made for the 1080p format. If you missed this show on NBC, it is now available to enjoy on Blu-ray, and you won’t be disappointed. It’s a fantastic spin on the new craze of an old craze, fairy-tale retellings.
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