HBO's Folklore Offers International Frights
Like many people, I subscribed to the HBO streaming service this month to watch the final season of Game of Thrones. Unlike a lot of those folks, however, I've been taking full advantage of this subscription to enjoy some of the other films and series available on the channel. While I've been riding the documentary train for most of this time, I've dove into some true gems of horror fiction including the HBO Asia original series Folklore.
Folklore is exactly what it sounds like, a series of short films based on myth and legend from the Asian continent. From Indonesia to Japan, Singapore, Malaysia and more, the series features a film based on a different legend from a different culture each episode. From the very start this series is gripping, dark, and more than a little creepy. Asian folklore is beautiful and terrifying for so many reasons, not the least of which being that unlike any other region in the world these are cultures that have, despite so many changes, have remained largely untouched at their core. It makes the stories all the more brutal and real when you see them played out.
A Mother's Love (Indonesia)
Now, to avoid too many spoilers, let's just talk about the first episode, A Mother's Love. Based on the legend of the Wewe Gombel, a feminine spirit that steals away children from unloving parents, the episode has nuances of psychological horror as well as being a ghost/creature narrative. A struggling single mother and her young son Jody are tasked with cleaning an old house. During their first night in the home they notice strange noises which lead them into the attic where several children have been locked away and abandoned. The children have no idea where they came from or how long they have been in the attic, only that they were brought there by a creature that flew them through the air to that place. Meanwhile, the young mother and son leave to a new home where they are plagued by strange, seemingly malicious events and dreams before Jody himself is snatched away by the Wewe in order to replace the children that she lost.
There is nothing about this inaugural episode that isn't absolutely brilliant. From the pacing, narrative, performances and atmosphere to the lighting and creature design, this story is spooky as hell and begs you to watch more... if you dare. And that's the truth behind any good bit of folklore, regardless the location. It's dark, foreboding, and despite being scared to move forward, you can't help but press on. With only six episodes in this first season it's easy to sit down and binge watch the entire thing if you aren't careful. The episodes are all in their native dialects and languages so I hope you don't mind English subtitles.
HBO is looking for ways to keep up viewership as their powerhouse Game of Thrones comes to a close. With Folklore, they're definitely offering something worth sticking around for.
Dan is an author, editorialist, podcaster, and horror culture & lifestyle correspondent from the Southeast. You can find Dan on social media @dotdblog and read his stories at Danno of the Dead Blog and through PDI Press.