Folklore is a new Horror Anthology produced by HBO Asia. Season 1 focuses on folklore from various countries in Asia. Every episode is produced in their respective countries to keep it authentic!
Folklore was produced by HBO Asia, which gives you the quality you know from HBO. Also, it gives you the authenticity of being produced by people who know this folklore. They grew up with these stories just like people in the western world have.
If the episode takes place in Indonesia, then the cast and crew are primarily from Indonesia. This means we also avoid the dreaded “English dialect version” of a language.
Yes, I’m looking at you The Snowman. Read our review of the mess that was The Snowman here >
Folklore season 1 consists of 6 episodes, which each focus on a lore in an Asian country.
Folklore shows real issues with a supernatural twist
While Folklore is often comparable to urban legends (or even fairytales), these stories also have a very “real” feeling to them. The stories take place in the present unlike Amazon Prime’s Lore (based on the podcast) which tends to be stories from centuries ago.
The stories in the HBO Asia series are about everyday people who encounter hardship in very common ways. This makes the stories more relatable and also offers a more brutal kind of horror.
All six episodes have been screened at various film festivals before being aired on HBO Asia or other HBO channels. We’ve noted where the episodes are from and where they screened in the following season 1 rundown.
Episode 1: A Mother’s Love (Indonesia)
A single mother and her young son discover a group of dirty and underfed children living in the attic of a mansion. Upon saving them and returning them to their families, she has unknowingly snatched these children from their adopted mother – Wewe Gombel – and must now beware her vengeful wrath.
Our verdict: 4 out of 5
The episode is a slow-burner but ends on a very intense and tragic note. As soon as we saw this episode was by Joko Anwar, we knew we’d be in for a treat. Joko Anwar recently made the brilliant horror movie Satan’s Slaves which we gave a top rating. Check out our review of Satan’s Slaves here >
The Indonesian A Mother’s Love episode had a preview screening at Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) in September 2018.
Episode 2: Tatami (Japan)
A murder scene writer returns home to attend his father’s funeral and begins to experience constant flashbacks of his childhood. He then discovers a secret door in the house that leads to a room that hides a horrifying secret from his family’s past.
Our verdict: 3/5
This episode is a lot more brutal. But it’s in a more direct way than you might know from Japanese horror movies like The Ring or Ju-On: The Grudge. The main protagonist struggles to uncover past memories and we’re right there with him. We guessed a few of the plot twists in advance but that’s okay since the folklore is still fascinating.
The Japanese Tatami episode had a preview screening at Sitges Film Festival in October 2018.
Episode 3: Nobody (Singapore)
A Pontianak is awaked when a foreman and a construction worker attempt to bury the body of a dead girl instead of burning her. A series of unfortunate events begin to occur at the construction site.
Our verdict: 3 out of 5
The creator of this Folklore series for HBO Asia is Eric Khoo. He’s from Singapore so, of course, he directed this episode himself. It’s definitely one of the better-executed episodes and should entertain most horror fans.
The Singaporean Nobody episode had a preview screening at Sitges Film Festival in October 2018.
Episode 4: Pob (Thailand)
A journalist meets with Pob, a Thai ghost, who confesses to a murder. Finally finding an outlet for complaint, Pob explains how the murder happened and requests for his story to be published. However, the journalist declines and the two make a deal of a lifetime.
Our verdict: 3 out of 5
The Pob episode of Folklore is almost a horror-comedy at some points. It had me laughing out loud at several points – and this was definitely the point. Thai filmmaker Pen-ek Ratanaruang really did a good job here.
There’s an American character in this episode, who is supposed to be an obnoxious stereotypical American. And boy, does he succeed at this. However, the actor portraying the character is so bad it’s scary. And not in a good way.
Honestly, it sounds like he’s just reading his lines half the time. Once the humor sets in a bit more, you can live with it (he does also have a few good moments).
This Pob story really grew on me and I ended up wanting to watch an entire movie about it. Especially since actor Parama Wutthikornditsakul, who portrays the “Pob”, was absolutely brilliant.
A Pob episode had a preview screening at Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) in September 2018.
Episode 5: Toyol (Malaysia)
A Member of Parliament (MP) of a fishing town turns to a mysterious woman who possesses shamanistic powers in order to salvage his town’s dire economic situation. She fixes all his problems and the two soon become lovers. However, the woman has a dark secret that threatens to destroy his life.
Our verdict: 5 out of 5
The Toyol episode is definitely the one that should have been the season finale. This episode is good in so many ways!
Basically, it feels like it’s part horror movie and part Twilight Zone. The story has a few delicious twists along the way and you won’t know exactly where it’s taking you. In fact, a few twists will probably make you laugh, gasp, or maybe even gag.
The episode is from Malaysia, but fans of Joko Anwar’s amazing Satan’s Slaves will probably recognize one of the lead actors. Bront Palarae played the father in the Indonesian horror hit Satan’s Slaves. In Toyol, he plays a very different character as a Politician trying to get re-elected.
I loved this episode and think Toyol was the strongest overall episode of Folklore Season 1. With Joko Anwar’s A Mother’s Love (episode 1, the pilot) as a close runner-up.
The Malaysian Toyol episode had a preview screening at Austin’s Fantastic Fest in September 2018.
Episode 6: Mongdal (South Korea)
A mother tries to appease the moods and demands of her borderline psychopathic son. When a new girl comes to town, her son falls quickly and deeply for the new girl and is determined to win her over possibly even against her will. When things take a tragic turn, his mother will stop at nothing to make her son happy even if it means finding a bride to join him in the afterlife.
Our verdict: 2 out of 5
We love South Korean horror and thriller movies, so our expectation for this episode was pretty high. Unfortunately, it doesn’t live up to any of the brilliant movies we’ve seen from this country. The story is, quite frankly, stupid. Also, the acting is over the top in all the wrong ways. A very flat ending to an overall impressive season 1.
The South Korean Mongdal episode had a preview screening at Austin’s Fantastic Fest in September 2018.
Folklore is a tour de force of Asian Horror
Folklore offers a very varied horror show since each episode is produced in the country of the lore. This gives season 1 a very dynamic feel that entertains its audience. You’ll no doubt find your own favorite episode.
The show is well worth your time and even if an episode doesn’t tickle your fancy (so to speak) then another one is bound to. Personally, I can’t pick just one favorite, but I can’t help but recommend episode one from Indonesia.
It’s directed by an awesome horror movie director, Joko Anwar, who deserves all the exposure, he can get.
Folklore will be released on HBO in the US anytime now!
Besides being released on HBO Asia, it has also been released in Scandinavia on HBO Nordic, which is where we’ve watched it.
Creator: Eric Khoo
Directors: Eric Khoo, Joko Anwar, Pen-Ek Ratanaruang, Takumi Saitoh, Lee Sang-Woo, Ho Yuhang
Cast: Marissa Anita, Muzakki Ramdhan, Kazuki Kitamura, Misuzu Kanno, Daisuke Kuroda, Shima Onishi, Li Wen Qiang, Maguire Jian, Sivakumar Palakrishnan, Aric Hidir, Louis Wu, Dayang Nurbalqis, Nuttapon Sawasdee, Parama Wutthikornditsakul, Thomas Burton van Blarcom, Bront Palarae, Nabila Huda, Redza Minhat, Lee Chae Yeon, Jung Yun-seok
This HBO Asia Original horror anthology series features the deeply-rooted superstitions and myths across six Asian countries, including Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand.