watch your lifelong fears come to life in hbo's 'folklore'

October 02, 2018

words by: Bere Wangge

Many of us Asians grew up with superstitions or stories of spirits that are enough to scare us all year long. Even so, what better month than October to see our lifelong superstitious worries come to life on TV? 

HBO Asia first horror anthology highlights Asian urban legends from six countries filmed by six directors in their native languages - A Mother's Love by Joko Anwar, Indonesia.jpg

Introducing Folklore, HBO Asia’s first horror anthology—although not its first horror or supernatural series—that will air from early October until mid-November. The 6-episode TV series will offer a new story every week, with a plotline that is inspired by a ghost story or folklore from six Asian countries: Indonesia, Japan, Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia and South Korea. Each episode is filmed by a local director in his respective country and native language.  

Although Folklore will not start on HBO Asia until October 7, the series already made its world premiere at Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) in September via Primetime, a program dedicated to the international TV industry. Out of the six episodes, only two were shown at the festival, namely Indonesia’s “A Mother’s Love” by director Joko Anwar and Thailand’s “Pob” by Pen-ek Ratanaruang. Additionally, the other four were screened at Fantastic Fest and Sitges Film Festival.

The premiere of Folklore also marked the first time for an Asian TV series to be selected for TIFF’s Primetime program. Understandably, Primetime is a young program as it was only initiated in 2015, so it still has room to grow and the lack of Asian TV is quite expected. Hopefully Folklore will be the first Asian series of many more to come.  

At the talk held after the screening, Michael Lerman, the Primetime programmer, pointed out the theme of parent-child relationship that seemed to resonate in the series, especially “A Mother’s Love.” Directed by Joko Anwar, one of Indonesia’s most beloved filmmakers, “A Mother’s Love” is about a single mother and her son who get haunted by Wewe Gombel, a ghost from Javanese mythology that is known to kidnap abandoned children.  

 Folklore will start off with “A Mother’s Love” on October 7.  

In "Pob,” a journalist finds himself in the company of the titular character, which is a lesser-known Thai ghost. The Pob in the film comes to confess to a murder and demands the journalist to tell his story. In true Thai horror fashion, “Pob” is part-horror and part-dark comedy.  

HBO Asia first horror anthology highlights Asian urban legends from six countries filmed by six directors in their native languages - Pob by Pen-ek Ratanaruang, Thailand.jpg

“Pob” will be aired on October 28.

The series creator, Eric Khoo from Singapore, who also directed episode 3 of Folklore, Nobody, has mentioned that he originally thought of adding stories from the Philippines and Taiwan. Perhaps we can see them in the next season, if there’s any. Another thing we’d hope to see is an addition of female directors, especially since all six directors in this first season are men. Most Asian urban legends already put women in unfortunate positions, anyway (see, for example, the Pontianak ghost that becomes the center of Eric’s Nobody). It will be great if female directors could offer their own perspectives of the ghost stories that demonize women so much.

Until then, you can catch Folklore on HBO Asia. For the full schedule and brief synopses of the films, visit the official website here.