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‘The Horror of Dolores Roach’ Review: Amazon Drama Lacks Bite



Nonfiction podcasts have confirmed to be a wealthy vein for the IP-starved TV trade to mine, from true crime (“Dirty John”) to unauthorized biography (“The Dropout”). Scripted podcasts have been a much less fruitful supply of fabric, with the primary season of Sam Esmail’s star-studded “Homecoming” serving as the only real exception up to now. Even then, luring Julia Roberts to the small display screen possible had extra to do with the present’s success than the story’s medium of origin.

“The Horror of Dolores Roach,” a brand new collection produced by Blumhouse Tv for Amazon Prime Video, appears unlikely to reverse this development. “Dolores Roach” started as a one-woman play known as “Empanada Loca,” however discovered a broader viewers in audio kind. Launched underneath the auspices of Gimlet Media, the studio just lately absorbed into mum or dad firm Spotify after drastic cuts, the retitled podcast riffed on the city legend of Sweeney Todd, the legendary barber made well-known by Stephen Sondheim. (Disclosure: I beforehand labored at Gimlet’s sister studio The Ringer, additionally owned by Spotify.) “Dolores Roach” modified the antihero’s identify, gender and nationality —  however stored the cannibalism and twisted love story that also outline the character.

Translating such a grisly story to a extra visible format gives loads of adaptive prospects. (Tim Burton’s “Sweeney Todd” might not have aged nicely due to Johnny Depp, however the musical was an ideal match for the director’s macabre fantasia.) It’s one factor to listen to a voice describe stuffing a pastry with human flesh; it’s one other to look at the chef in motion. However whereas the televised tackle Dolores Roach — anglicized from “Rocha” — will get a lift from Justina Machado, who brings the identical heat charisma to a serial killer she did to a single mother in “One Day at a Time,” the present is just too timid to embrace the extremity of its premise. Marketed as a horror comedy, “The Horror of Dolores Roach” successfully earns neither scares nor laughs.

Created by unique playwright Aaron Mark, who shares showrunning duties with Dara Resnik, “The Horror of Dolores Roach” is framed as a monologue by Dolores, now a infamous killer who’s cornered the actress taking part in her onstage to share her aspect of the story. We then flash again to Dolores’s launch from jail after 16 years, having taken the autumn for her drug-dealing ex (Anthony Grant). However the ex is nowhere to be discovered, and Dolores’ native Washington Heights has modified dramatically for the reason that aughts. With nowhere to remain and no cash to her identify, Dolores begins crashing with Luis (Alejandro Hernandez), the proprietor of the native empanada store, and providing massages for money, an artwork she picked up from her former bunkmate. Anybody who’s ever hummed “The Worst Pies in London” is aware of how the duo’s respective talent units will ultimately overlap.

If newcomers usually are not conscious that “The Horror of Dolores Roach” was as soon as a podcast, Machado’s omnipresent narration is an apparent clue. The system is overused, neglecting to compensate for the viewer’s capacity to see the motion and Dolores’ feelings — no have to have both defined to us. (When one other character asks Dolores whether or not she’s OK as she visibly panics, the voiceover makes certain to inform us, Ron-Howard-in-“Arrested Development”-style, that she isn’t.) The impact isn’t simply inartful; it roots the present somewhat too firmly in Dolores’s have to persuade herself she’s a great particular person, even after she impulsively strangles her and Luis’ landlord Gideon (Marc Maron). Homicide and meat pies usually are not components for a grounded present. But “Dolores Roach” tries too laborious to humanize its protagonist and make the case that she isn’t a monster. What’s so improper with monstrosity, although? 

On the similar time, “The Horror of Dolores Roach” is just too broad towards the whole lot and everybody who isn’t its major character. Makes an attempt to replace its central fable right into a commentary on gentrification ring hole; so does the poisonous romance between Luis and Dolores. Each plots really feel extra rooted in summary stereotypes — the grasping (and, uncomfortably, Jewish) landowner, the hothead troublemaker — than particular relationships. Dolores’ jail beau Tabitha (Maureen Cassidy) is one exception, although nonetheless behind bars and subsequently confined to the collection’ margins.

But the most important missed alternative often is the violence itself, which lacks the gore and operatic aptitude that make the Sweeney Todd story such a twisted delight. “The Horror of Dolores Roach” must be enjoyable, however even a Cyndi Lauper cameo as a personal investigator can’t give the present a way of glee. Relatively than inform us Dolores isn’t a villain, you want the present would lean into her vengeful aspect and serve up some ham. In any case, lengthy pig’s already on the menu.

All eight episodes of “The Horror of Dolores Roach” can be found to stream on Amazon Prime Video.

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