Horror / TV Series
Is It Worth Watching? Sure, why not!
Netflix’s record on horror films and shows is about 50-50. While there have been signs of brilliance with The Haunting of Hill House, there also have been shows like Haunted which make you wonder if there is any quality control at Netflix. Chambers is somewhere in the middle. Ok, a little bit above the average, but not too much. It is a story of Sasha, a seventeen-year-old girl whose biggest worry is whether she’ll be able to lose her virginity. Until she has a freak heart attack and has to have a heart transplant. In true horror style, all does not go well and Sasha starts having visions, which, initially confusing, quickly turn life-threatening. She very soon figures out that these visions are memories of her donor, Becky, and each memory brings out a little bit of Becky in her. Frightened for her sanity, Sasha begins to investigate Becky’s death, revealing terrifying secrets of Becky’s family but at the same time isolating herself from her friends and family.
The best thing about the show is that there are no cheap shocks. The horror is built slowly and menacingly, like the scene where Sasha is in the bath and looks down to see two burnt and bloody hands gripping the sides of the bath waiting to bring up something unspeakably horrifying. Sometimes, the hints and scares and more subtle: fleeting changes to the scene which quickly disappear, leaving you to wonder if you’d actually seen anything. There are ghosts, premonitions and black magic. The unravelling of Sasha as she closes in to the epicentre of her nightmare, is brilliantly done. Many times during the show I let slip, ‘Oh dear!’ or worse. Mostly worse. Even H, who is not easily scared, raised his eyebrows (because it isn’t too manly to say, ‘Oh dear!’).
When Sasha is invited to a “Fire Ceremony” where all Becky’s favourite belongings are to be burnt in order to release her spirit (yes, all that mumbo-jumbo), it becomes pretty clear that Becky’s father, Ben, is part of some sort of pagan cult. (“That explains a lot,” says H, as though he had seen it coming all along from Act I Scene I.) It didn’t explain all that much, except you got a sense of possibly why all this strange occurrences were happening. And that Becky’s death may not have been as accidental as her family were making it out to be. Frankly, for me, it was a bit of a downer. Another, cult-related horror program. I was hoping for more supernatural kind of stuff, but each episode built enough tension for me to carry on. And I was well rewarded. (If you really do not like cult-horror films/shows, STOP reading now and definitely don’t watch Chambers. Other wise carry on.)
At the heart of it, Chambers is really a story of the big race divide in America. Sasha and her uncle, Frank, are Native Americans who live in a fairly dilapidated area. Frank owns a fish and aquarium shop and is barely able to make ends meet. Becky’s family on the other hand are white and live in the posh part of the town. Their house is one of those modern glass and chrome and wood structures with odd paintings and wall hangings. (In one scene, everyone watches an Arizona dust storm from the wall-to-wall window of one of the rooms. It was actually quite amazing. Although it did make me wonder all the places the dust would get into.) This family is rich enough to sponsor Sasha to go to the same private school which Becky attended. They even give her a car to shorten her commute. It wouldn’t be unfair to say that Ben and Nancy (Becky’s parents) have a bit of a God-complex. Even the main aspect of the show — Sasha slowly turning into Becky with her white skin and blonde hair — resonates with the oppression of the Native American.
Although not as stylistic as American Gods, Chambers has its moments when it tries to do things a bit differently. Some scenes work remarkably well, like when Sasha is looking at a picture of Becky and suddenly finds herself choking and has to rip her clothes to free herself. Other times, you just think: What the hell? The big name in the program is Uma Thurman. (Where has she been the last few years?) However, her acting seems rather stilted as she plays the grieving, submissive mother of Becky. She is shown up a little by model-turned-actress Sivan Alyra Rose who plays Sasha. I found Sivan quite dull to begin with but she slowly grew on me. The level of acting is mostly fine with some cringe moments and bad dialogues. Overall though, Chambers is a great take on the Possession-genre of horror.
Similar Programmes: The Haunting of Hill House. American Gods.