In new horror anthology ‘Folklore’, Asian ghouls are given contemporary twist

(Clockwise, top left) Eric Khoo, Ho Yuhang, Bront Palarae and Nabila Huda at the sneak preview of 'Folklore'. ― Picture by Ham Abu Bakar
(Clockwise, top left) Eric Khoo, Ho Yuhang, Bront Palarae and Nabila Huda at the sneak preview of 'Folklore'. ― Picture by Ham Abu Bakar

KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 7 ― Step into the world of toyols and pontianaks in HBO Asia’s new horror anthology series, Folklore.

The original series presents six hour-long episodes set in Malaysia, Thailand, Japan, Korea, Singapore and Indonesia by directors from the respective countries.

Each episode explores the myths and supernatural figures unique to each country.

“We are so rich in culture, especially our ghost stories,” said showrunner Eric Khoo at a sneak preview yesterday.

“The stories are somewhat contemporary in nature but the spirits we are dealing with are quite fascinating.”

The acclaimed Singaporean filmmaker who directed Folklore’s Singaporean episode had one condition when he pitched the anthology to the network ― all episodes must be in the country’s mother tongue.

“Asian ghost stories are scarier because we believe and we are superstitious,” Khoo added.

The award-winning filmmaker, known for films such as Mee Pok Man and Ramen Teh said the best horror films are the ones that play with the mind and cites Rosemary’s Baby, The Omen and The Changeling as fine examples.

Asked how difficult it is for Asian filmmakers to stray away from supernatural elements in the horror genre, Malaysian director Ho Yuhang said it all comes down to the art of storytelling.

“It’s not so much about breaking away from the supernatural but what kind of story do you want to tell?

“It is never always about a long-haired woman in a white robe,” said Ho, who is known for his 2006 film Rain Dogs.

He explains that his episode Toyol, which stars Bront Palarae and Nabila Huda, is drawn from real-life Malaysian examples.

“It’s stuff you see when you open the Malaysian newspapers such as murder, rape, dead fishes ― that definitely has bearings with Malaysian reality in general,” said Ho.

For western audiences who may not be familiar with the realm of Asian spirits, Ho believes Folklore will be a fascinating viewing experience.

“To them, Asians are mysterious and they can’t figure us out ― if they watch it with that in mind, it could be quite fun,” he said.

Khoo added, “Hollywood doesn’t make good remakes of our (Asian) films but they are looking for ideas and Asia is rich in our beliefs.”

* Folklore premieres on October 7, 10pm on HBO (Astro Channel 411 and 431 HD)