★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ Chambers is Netflix’s latest addition to its teen-horror roster, a genre that seems to be piling up quite quickly now. The story follows a young Native-American teenager whose life completely changes after experiencing a fatal heart attack leading to an emergency heart transplant. However, things become strange after the hallucinations and visions begin, taking her on a bizarre journey of the donor’s life and mysterious death. While the story isn’t completely unheard of – we’ve all seen Jessica Alba’s The Eye – yet, what this Netflix-series offers is a narrative that is gripping from the get-go. And unlike many other shows, Chambers still enjoys a slow-burn that keeps us breathless for more.
One of the highlights of the show is newcomer Apache/Puerto-Rican actress Sivan Alyra Rose who plays the titular character, Sasha Yazzie. Sivan brings Sasha’s already well-written character to life in a multitude of ways. She convinces in her trauma, but Sivan ensures that Sasha’s character is more than her pain, making her that much more likeable. The attention to her Navajo roots, her life as working-class teen living in rural Arizona and even her shallow teenage needs contributes to a fully realised character that you can’t help but root for.
The series also includes a comeback from powerhouse Uma Thurman, who plays the donor’s mother with Scandal’s Tony Goldwyn playing her husband. The pair takes an unnerving interest in Sasha’s life and as she becomes embroiled in their affairs, more and more seems to be revealed about the dysfunctional family. Shortly after Sasha receives her transplant, the donor’s family offers her a scholarship to attend the same school their daughter had – an elite institute named Crystal Valley, where the kids receive high-end laptops and a life-coach when enrolled.
The side characters also bring something unique to the show. Though each of the characters plays a part in the main plot, it is refreshing to see them all have their own stories that do not necessarily revolve around Sasha. While her best friend Yvonne is steadily by Sasha’s side, Yvonne must still contend with her mentally unwell mother whose guardian she is. The same can be said of Sasha’s boyfriend, who is committed to pursuing his Native-American roots, grappling with a choice that he needs to make. It’s these stories, within stories, that make a whole.
Ultimately, it is the cinematography that manages to completely immerse viewers. The attention to light, the vast dry landscape and Sasha’s harrowing visions combine to create a ten-episode dreamlike sequence impossible to tear your eyes away from. Pepe Avila del Pino and Dana Gonzales, the show’s cinematographers, use special effects to create a sense of foreboding throughout the episodes. Sometimes, they would even fool the audience into safety with bursts of transcendent colour, but always reeling it back to the true darkness that lies beneath.
While this show may not offer any original narratives, Chambers deviates entirely from Netflix’s other distributions. It’s inclusive cast and unique setting is something that is rarely seen in the teen-horror genre and while many may find the slow-burn element frustrating, Chambers reminds us of the art of storytelling in the era of binge culture. With any luck, Netflix will introduce more TV shows that spin age-old stereotypes on its head.
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