Fantasy has many forms, and one that has been gaining a lot of popularity in the past decades is the Urban Fantasy genre. The genre takes the classic monsters from folklore—trolls, ogres, goblins, wraiths, and more and introduces them to a modern city, often an urban city or metropolis. The genre finds pride in being fast and snappy, taking away the grandeur of the more medieval inspired fantasy stories and delivering something closer to a modern action adventure.
Books like The Dresden Files have become a staple of the genre, and bit by bit, the genre has managed to get representation in both film and television. Cracow Monsters is the latest example of the genre, and it takes a darker, more serious approach, while being set in Poland, two factors that make it stand out from the rest of the urban fantasy out there. However, this darker approach also comes with some messy storytelling and a slow paced rhythm that might turn some audience away.
Cracow Monsters stars Barbara Liberek, Andrzej Chyra, Mateusz Górski, and Stanisaw Cywka. The show tells the story of a young college student who is recruited by a mysterious professor to be part of his student research. The thing is, the research that is being done by the team is far from being your standard research affair.
We can say with all confidence that Cracow Monsters is truly an accomplishment. The show manages to pull off some impressive production values, often not seen on Polish television or even in productions from other bigger countries in the industry, such as England or France. So, it is clear that the talent in Poland is there; it is only that it is not being used properly.
Visually, the show pulls off some very impressive visual effects that stand out for their quality and how they match naturally with the rest of the scenes. The show uses a mixture of both CGI and practical effects to help bring to life some truly cool creature designs. Some of the monsters that appear on the show are terrifying, and we would love to see this level on more shows from now on.
The show also knows how to create a really foreboding sense of atmosphere by leaning on the stereotypical look of Poland in the media. The setting is dreary, it is always raining, and the color palette struggles to go beyond the boundaries of gray. This visual palette is very exhausting at points. However, it works well with the show’s intended message.
However, while the production values are quite impressive, the show falters quite a bit when it comes to its narrative. There’s a messiness to it all that just doesn’t feel right. Maybe, the intention was to create a sense of chaos, as the main character gets introduced to the world of monsters and demons. But it comes across as a story that hasn’t been throughout enough to make it go fluently from episode to episode.
There’s an overall arc that is full of mystery centered around the character of Alex. Barbara Liberek, who plays the character, does a great job. She looks striking and different, making her interesting from the get go, but the story also tries to focus on a separate mystery regarding the appearance of these monsters in the city. Everything seems to be connected, but the pace is so slow that it might lose a lot of the audience until it gets to the good part.
The first half of the season suffers from energy and impact, and it takes too much to set up what is happening. A more potent first couple of episodes might have helped to alleviate this sense of an aimless narrative. The second half fairs a lot better, but it might be a case of too little, too late.
The rest of the cast does the job they were meant to do, but no one really pops off. The show places the supporting characters as pieces, and it does try to give quirks to some of them, but the characterization is lacking from the supporting cast overall. They are there mostly to add flavor, but even the most relevant ones as Professor Zawadski don’t really resonate beyond their archetypes.
Nevertheless, the impressive production values might be enough for people to get in tune with the show and get across the slow first half and discover that the show does find its stride. The show is certainly unique in its look, and part of the structure allows for a viewing experience that is very pleasant. We only wished the narrative could be strong from beginning to end. Nowadays, waiting for something to get good might be too much of an ask for some people, when there are many shows out there that start with a bang.