Asia & modern horror: Folklore Season 2 – Manila Bulletin

Folklore Season 2

Folklore is an HBO Asia horror anthology series that’s now on its second season. The first episode of this new season drops on November 14th, with new episodes every week thereafter. You can stream it on HBO Go, and this season, we find directors from Japan, Taiwan, Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia, and our own Erik Matti, behind the episodes. A media launch was recently organized, and hosted by HBO, and the special guests were Eric Khoo from Singapore, who’s the Creative Director behind the successful series, and Japanese pop icon, Seiko Matsuda, who debuts as a director, and is behind the episode from Japan.

As the title suggests, the series revolves around the superstitions, urban legends, black magic, and backyard monsters that form part of the culture and beliefs of the countries of the directors. They create stories around these ‘folklore’, and as Eric was proud to say, for this second season, they upped the ante in terms of the horror and fear factor elements of the episodes. Riding on the acclaim and enthusiastic response the first season received, Eric also hinted about how the black magic elements had been ramped up.

‘Folklore Season 2’ series poster

I was given the opportunity to preview two episodes. The Rope from Taiwan centered on a young couple, and how the fact that the bride’s wedding gown was stained, and that she had ignored purification rituals, doomed their marriage in a manner that was both visceral, and rooted in everyday life. No spoilers here, but while based on Taiwanese folklore, you’ll discover how so many similarities and commonalities exist between Taiwan and the Philippines when it comes to superstitions and fantasy creatures that have to do with fetuses and the unborn.

The second episode I previewed was directed by Seiko Matsuda, a glittering pop star in Japan in the 1980’s and 1990’s. Because of her career’s longevity, she’s been dubbed the Eternal Idol, and the episode The Day the Wind Blew is her film directorial debut. Based on a personal story about the music industry, it deftly mixes Horror, young Romance, and Music. It’s essentially a ghost story, but one that speaks of unrequited love, and I loved how Seiko would talk about Eric as her mentor.

For Seiko, everything was a challenge, as it was all new to her; but Eric was ready to give her a very creditable 9 out of 10 for this stunning directing debut, laughing when he said he was holding back the one point, as he hoped Seiko would continue on this new career path, and produce even better work in the near future. As for Seiko, she actually releases a new album of songs later this year, but readily confessed that she enjoyed directing, and hopes to do another project very soon.

Eric talked about how he actually admires and prefers Asian Horror films to Western ones – citing how so many of the really popular Asian Horror films have captured the eyes of producers in the West, who then adapt the stories with a Western cast. And Eric confessed here that quite often, he’ll still prefer the original, and senses something is often ‘lost in translation’. The Ring is just one example of how the original film is still so much stronger that it’s Western counterpart.

If there’s something the Asian Horror films excel in, it’s how they don’t just rely on jump scares or established tropes of the genre. With Asian Horror, it’s very much rooted in the everyday life, so that premises and situations are relatable and real, and the psychological drama utilized to establish the story and characters are taken from everyday life. It’s scarier that way, as it means the Horror permeates reality and our daily existing in a way that Western films often disregard, relying solely on the fantastical and jump scares to provide the horror.

Folklore is one unsettling, scary series; and if you’re ready for some Horror that also allows us to learn more about our Asian neighbors, watch out for this series – and get primed for the viewing experience by first streaming the first season. It’s all on HBO Go.






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