French Netflix Original The Chalet is a slow burn murder mystery set in the dizzying heights of the French Alps. Despite an intriguing premise and some very good acting all round, The Chalet wastes far too much time building its side characters rather than moving the plot forward in a meaningful way. The second half of the show certainly improves on this though as the characters start getting picked off one by one and the killer (or killers) eventually revealed late on, but there’s a fair amount of patience needed to reap the benefits that this latter portion of The Chalet offers.
The story jumps between the past and present lives of a handful of childhood friends reunited in a remote chalet in the French Alps. Both showcased time periods are shrouded in mystery with the past dominated by a devastating family secret and infighting among the characters whilst the present sees a killer systematically picking them off one by one. This format is somewhat awkward to begin with as the pilot episode gives little warning to these time jumps making it difficult to discern just what’s going on. Toward the end of the second episode The Chalet does improve but a questionable ending and far too much padding in the episodes make this a painfully slow story to get invested in.
Thankfully the pacing of the series is helped by some excellent acting all round. The awkward, tense atmosphere between the characters really helps set the mood of this series and you can never quite tell whether a character is being completely truthful or not. The cinematography certainly helps with this; a creepy piano theme hangs over every episode and scenes linger a tad longer than necessary helping to really nail the uneasy suspense in the episodes. The beauty of the French Alps may not be shown off as much as it could have been but there are some good establishing shots of the village that help to showcase just how isolated the community are from civilisation.
The Chalet somehow manages to feel both overly familiar and original at the same time. There’s just enough here to prevent it falling into a cliché riddled mystery but it certainly teeters on the edge for large stretches of each episode. Various tropes you’d expect from this genre are here and dominate large chunks of the story. Innocent parties accused of being guilty, suspicious characters made out to be the killer when they’re not, slowly revealed secrets and fractured relationships between key characters are a few of these tropes that do little to set this apart from other shows in this genre.
The Chalet is a perfectly serviceable murder mystery series in its own right that benefits from some excellent acting and solid cinematography. There are moments that come across as contrived and there are more than a few familiar tropes from this genre that crop up making The Chalet a pleasing but largely unoriginal offering. With so much TV out there Netflix’s French Original The Chalet just doesn’t quite offer enough to help it stand out among other titles out there and is likely to get lost in the myriad of other murder mysteries on the market. There’s certainly glimmers of brilliance here but the painfully slow opening and questionable ending make this series an acquired taste; you’re either likely to love this or just not have the patience for.