Netflix is still basking in the glory of one of their breakout hits last year, 'The Haunting of Hill House'. If you were hoping for more of the same from their latest horror series 'Chambers', we are sorry to say you will be wildly disappointed.
'Chambers' follows a young heart attack survivor Sasha (Sivan Alyra Rose) who becomes consumed by the mystery surrounding the heart that saved her life. The donor's parents are equally fascinated by her, played here by the always captivating Uma Thurman and Tony Goldwyn as Nancy and Ben Lefevre. Needless to say, things get creepier by the day.
The pitch for 'Chambers' was bound to be along the lines of it's: 'The Haunting of Hill House' meets '13 Reasons Why' meets 'Stranger Things' yet it's not even half as good as any of them. Its lack of pacing will frustrate you to watch, as you will go from being completely gripped and wanting to see the next episode to bored and wondering if it's too late to turn back (it's not). At episode 5, you will find it utterly astonishing that you are only at the halfway mark, wondering how the hell they can drag another 5 episodes out of it. We would love to tell you that the ending is worth sticking around for, but it's honestly not. It's a "well, I'll never get those hours back" kind of conclusion.
There are some scares, but they feel cheap. The skill of 'The Haunting of Hill House' is how the atmosphere and tension build to a point that made the jump scares feel earned and expertly timed. With 'Chambers', it's like they are thrown in as an afterthought. It will do whatever it takes to drive the plot forward to its bizarre conclusion with very little concern for consistency.
The most interesting aspect of 'Chambers' is the diversity in the cast, and there was a real opportunity here to do some Jordan Peele-esque critique of white privilege, but the show never really manages to pull it off. 'Chambers' is set in Arizona, near a Diné reservation, and many of the main characters, including the lead, are of Navajo descent. Sasha struggles with her Native identity and the further she finds herself getting involved with the whiter than white Lefevres, the more she finds it slipping it away - for many reasons, some more terrifying than others.
It's refreshing to have a show where the 'other' is the white, rich people. The traditions and beliefs of Navajo people feel far more real than the New Age spiritualism the Lafevre's friends at The Annex are trying to conjure up.
'Chambers' marks Sivan Alyra Rose's first major role and she holds her own as Sasha, similarly Uma Thurman clocks in a strong performance as the grieving mother. Kyanna Simone Simpson also lights up the screen as Sasha's best friend Yvonne, while Tony Goldwyn is finally not just the bad guy from 'Ghost' to us.
The cinematography is also impressive with sweeping eerie shots of the vast Arizona landscape that sets the scene perfectly for this psychological horror.
The failings of 'Chambers' fall solely on the writers heads as somewhere underneath the inordinate amount of subplots, incoherent storytelling and frankly bizarre character choices, there was the gem of something great here.
A tighter script, with a much shorter episode span, could have made this show something great. Jordan Peele has opened the door for a much more complex horror to be told that can also serve as social commentary, so 'Chambers' should be applauded in the least for its attempt at something different. An attempt is all it is though unfortunately, as 'Chambers' just isn't worth your time.