The Horror of Dolores Roach: A Modern Sweeney Todd Tale

The Horror of Dolores Roach

Network: Prime VideoGenre: DramaSeasons: 1Episodes: 8

After an unjust 16-year prison sentence, Dolores Roach returns to a gentrified Washington Heights, where she reunites with an old stoner friend, Luis, who lets her live and work as a masseuse in the basement under his empanada shop. When the promise of her newfound stability is quickly threatened, “Magic Hands” Dolores is driven to shocking extremes to survive.

In the eerie world of The Horror of Dolores Roach, audiences find themselves immersed in a modern-day Sweeney Todd story with a chilling twist. The gripping adaptation, available on Prime Video, has its roots in a solo play by Aaron Mark, starring Daphne Rubin-Vega. It later took on new life as a compelling Gimlet audio fiction series, with Rubin-Vega reprising her role.

Now, transformed into a captivating Prime Video series, the show brings a fresh perspective by putting viewers directly in the shoes of the enigmatic protagonist, Dolores Roach, portrayed by the talented Justina Machado.

The Intentional Closeness to Dolores Roach

For Aaron Mark, it was crucial to create an intense sense of closeness to Dolores Roach and evoke a shared culpability within the audience. Throughout all the iterations of the story, Mark wanted viewers to feel a disturbing empathy for Dolores, understanding that her circumstances might drive anyone to commit unimaginable acts. In the Prime Video series, this connection is skillfully established through the captivating performance of Justina Machado as Dolores.

The original solo play presented a Grand Guignol horror on stage, designed to induce a claustrophobic experience for the audience. Similarly, the podcast version brought an intimate whisper in the ear, heightening the chilling atmosphere. However, translating this intense intimacy to television required a different approach.

To maintain the suffocating atmosphere of the previous iterations, the creators made a strategic choice. Each episode of “The Horror of Dolores Roach” centers entirely on Dolores Roach’s perspective. The intentional claustrophobia stems from the fact that there is not a single scene without Dolores, effectively enveloping the audience in her haunting world.

Television offers a unique opportunity to convey emotions and context through visual cues. With Justina Machado’s remarkable acting, the show captures nuanced expressions that would otherwise require lengthy explanations in a podcast. By narrowing the focus to Dolores’ face and voice, the audience becomes deeply reliant on these visual and auditory cues to interpret the half-hour horror comedy.

Cyndi Lauper as Ruthie

Emotional Alignment with a Serial Killer

Surprisingly, the creators wanted viewers to align themselves emotionally with Dolores, who gradually evolves into a serial killer. This daring choice stands out in the world of television, where multi-character perspectives are more common. The relentless focus on Dolores establishes an unprecedented sense of inextricable alignment with her character.

Aside from delving into Dolores’ disturbing journey, the show also tackles the theme of gentrification. Set in a gentrifying Washington Heights, the series offers a fresh perspective on the impact of this societal shift. Mark emphasizes the challenge of effectively portraying gentrification without veering into exaggerated comedy or subtle indifference.

To overcome the challenge of showcasing gentrification, the production team paid meticulous attention to every detail, ensuring authenticity in portraying Washington Heights. Additionally, Justina Machado’s exceptional acting skills further communicate the profound impact of gentrification on her character and the community.

The narrative structure and the focus on Dolores’ experiences emphasize her emotional connection to the neighborhood. Through her character, the show celebrates the pride and love that define the community of Washington Heights, dispelling any notion of the neighborhood being an “Other” to the audience.

Final Thoughts

The Horror of Dolores Roach masterfully brings a modern Sweeney Todd tale to life on the screen, skillfully preserving the gripping essence of its theater and podcast iterations. By anchoring the series on Dolores’ perspective, the show achieves an unmatched level of emotional intensity and engagement, compelling viewers to contemplate the fine line between humanity and darkness. Through Justina Machado’s compelling portrayal and the show’s astute handling of gentrification, it leaves a lasting impression on its audience.


1. Is “The Horror of Dolores Roach” a horror series? Yes, the show is a gripping horror comedy that delves into the chilling world of Dolores Roach.

2. How does Justina Machado’s performance stand out in the series? Justina Machado’s portrayal of Dolores Roach is riveting and adds a layer of complexity to the character.

3. Can viewers expect a unique storytelling approach in the series? Absolutely! “The Horror of Dolores Roach” takes a distinctive approach, focusing solely on Dolores’ perspective, creating an immersive and claustrophobic experience.

4. What role does gentrification play in the show? The series explores the impact of gentrification on the community, offering a fresh and thought-provoking perspective.

5. Is the show recommended for horror enthusiasts? Definitely! Fans of horror and psychological thrillers will find “The Horror of Dolores Roach” an enthralling watch.