The Horror of Dolores Roach Prime Video series Justina Machado (Dolores Roach), Alejandro Hernandez (Luis)
ManOfTheCenturyMovie Tv “The Horror of Dolores Roach” is a rotten riff of “Sweeney Todd”.

“The Horror of Dolores Roach” is a rotten riff of “Sweeney Todd”.

The Horror of Dolores Roach Prime Video series Justina Machado (Dolores Roach), Alejandro Hernandez (Luis)

“The Horror of Dolores Roach” is the kind of show that tries to do everything at once instead of getting one thing right. Is it a horror show? Is it a comedy? Is that a riff from “Sweeney Todd”? Is it a character study? Is it a field? Is it a comment? Yes, it’s all of those things, and yes, other series have bundled many genres and multiple goals into ongoing success stories, but that requires first identifying which elements work well together.

Good horror isn’t just blood. Good comedy is, well, pretty subjective. But “Sweeney Todd” isn’t just about cannibalism, the pitch is earned and the commentary demands sustained attention. The Amazon Prime Video series, adapted by creator, writer and executive producer Aaron Mark from his one-man comedy show (“Empanada Loca”) and subsequent podcast (“The Horror of Dolores Roach”), never cooks an ingredient long enough for the its flavor stands out in an overstuffed stew. Both thematically and logically, the eight-episode first season is a mess, so completely overdone that it’s impossible to savor even a few choice bites.

Related stories

‘The Wire’ creator David Simon asks drug dealer for clemency over Michael K. Williams’ death

SING 2, from left: Pig Gunter (voice: Nick Kroll), Buster Moon (voice: Matthew McConaughey), Ash (voice: Scarlett Johansson), 2021. © Universal Pictures /Courtesy Everett Collection

How ‘Sing 2’ Inspired Netflix to Go Live Sports

It’s opening night, and “Dolores Roach” has just earned a standing ovation. The play’s protagonist, Flora (Jessica Pimento), sits in her dressing room, wiping her fake blood from her hands. Taped to the mirror are newspaper clippings with headlines like “The Real-Life Sweeney Todd,” “Ex-Con Masseuse Identified in Uptown Cannibalism Scam,” and “From True Crime Podcast to Broadway” — pretty blunt (and expository) nods to the story what he is telling on stage and what we are about to experience through flashbacks. After sending away her sycophantic friends (including Bryan Fuller, who plays himself), Flora is cornered by a surprise guest: the current Dolores Roach (Justina Machado). “Are you going to kill me?” asks the actor. “Nope,” Dolores says. “Worse. I’ll tell you shit (…) shit you can’t wash away.

With Flora as a hostage, Dolores recounts what really happened, starting in 2003, when she was living in Washington Heights and dating a marijuana dealer named Dominic. “I so fucking adored that man,” Dolores says via voiceover. “I would have done anything for him. And I did. Uh oh, the cops are at his door. Oops, there are bricks of weed in the walls of her apartment, and damned, Dominic is nowhere to be found. Dolores proves her love for her with a 16-year prison sentence and when she finally gets released, it’s 2019, there’s still no word from her boyfriend and Washington Heights isn’t quite what she remembered.

Within 15 minutes, “The Horror of Dolores Roach” already sounds jarring. The voiceover is a big deal, despite Machado’s best efforts, because it’s often redundant, on the nose, or overwhelming. Hardly will one scene transition into another without hearing Dolores’ exposition hammer home what’s going on, how she feels about it, or both. (Worse is when he comes up with dad lines.) There is promise in certain plot points, like the grim irony of people being sent to prison for a substance many governments now profit from, or the rapid gentrification of Washington Heights. But where did the podcast look like make the most of its themesthe series confuses these points as well.

Dolores isn’t just in prison for someone else’s crimes. You assaulted an officer. That charge may have been introduced to help explain her later violent behavior, but said behavior is never tied to her admittedly traumatizing prison stint, nor do co-showrunners Mark and Dara Resnik explore pot’s recent legality. beyond a few off-the-cuff jokes. Dolores’ later savagery isn’t framed as a reaction to her unfair treatment of her by the American criminal justice system; she nor she is taking back the power of her that was wrested from her by men and the courts. When the “twists” come without rhyme or reason, she instead comes across as an ugly stereotype: the crazy, hot-headed Latina. (“Dolores Roach” is a far cry from “Swarm,” another Prime Video series that explored female serial killers of color.)

Dolores Roach Amazon Series K. Todd Freeman (Jeremiah)
K. Todd Freeman in “The Horror of Dolores Roach”Courtesy of Prime Video

Whiteness in Washington Heights is also treated with particular imprecision. When Dolores first reaches her old neighborhood, she’s greeted by a giant new Chipotle on the corner (and a shiny T-Mobile across the street), but her first “What the fuck” comment is aimed at a hipster carrying a potted plant. Why a random white boy – on the streets of CNY — sets her in motion, but corporate yuppification isn’t clear, and the choice only becomes more vexing when Dolores learns that her favorite empanada shop, Empanda Loca, has survived gentrification…so far. Times are tough and the business is barely holding up, so wouldn’t she be more upset that fast food restaurants are pushing out her favorite places (and the people who run them)?

It does not matter. Inside Empanada Loca waits for Luis (Alejandro Hernandez), the ex-delivery boy who now runs the restaurant, but still harbors a massive crush on his favorite customer. He offers Dolores a place to stay and even suggests that she put her prison upbringing into practice, namely start a massage parlor in their basement apartment. While locked up, Dolores earned the nickname “Magic Hands” (which, come on, even by prison standards is pretty unimaginative) for her amazing back rubs, and she’s soon making decent money despite her quarters rough.

Saying how she starts killing customers and stuffing them into pastries may veer into spoiler territory, but confirming that that’s where “The Horror of Dolores Roach” ends most definitely isn’t. The series wears its “Sweeney Todd” homage like an inflatable sumo suit – unmistakable in its focus, but twisted to the extent that it is clearly a blank copy. “Dolores Roach” doesn’t revel in the macabre (let alone bursting into song) as much as she deploys death when she’s in despair. There are creepy moments here and there (some seen, some simply described in dialogue), but they don’t add up to anything worth the collective ick factor, and they regularly clash with the lighter, sitcom-esque set-ups that underpin the central episodes.

Even into eight half-hour parts, the first season is cut down. The tone is everywhere, along with the motivations of the characters and the logistics of the plot. Dolores isn’t killing to help herself. Only a few victims “deserve” it, no matter how much leeway the vigilantes are given, and as the bodies pile up, there is less and less motivation for each kill. Soon she becomes little more than a murder addict, detached from reality, and even with all that voiceover, her passionate impulses make no sense. Worse, all these frustrations prevent any enjoyment of what should be guaranteed entertainment: Machado’s performance. (K. Todd Freeman, an excellent actor + everyone’s favorite “Evidence” partner, is also undermined, not to mention some wasted cameos from welcome faces like Marc Maron and Judy Reyes.)

“If my life were a horror movie, I’d be yelling at myself not to go in,” Dolores says during a suspense-free scene. She considers this review a helpful echo of that thought: Dear readers, save yourselves.

Grade: C-

“The Horror of Dolores Roach” premieres all eight episodes of its first season on Friday, July 7.

Related Post