So much of horror fiction is based on folklore and urban legend. The myths of the vampire and the werewolf, for example, are rooted in tales from pre-scientific days that went viral in their time. What is the history of human attempts to communicate with the dead? If dolls are viewed as creepy today, were they creepy before, and where and when did our uneasiness begin? How was Capgras Syndrome, a psychological disorder that makes people think that someone close to them has been replaced by an impostor, dealt with in a world of superstitions?
The new six-episode Amazon Prime Video series Lore looks at these oddities of history and plucks out real-life horror stories, which are presented in a docu-fiction format.
Based on the popular, award-winning podcast of the same name by Aaron Mahnke, Lore is the latest in a line of anthology horror shows such as Tales from the Crypt. The pseudoscience explored in some of the episodes lend it a touch of Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone. Each episode delves into dark and twisted episodes of human history that are, in various ways, intertwined with contemporary horror myths and even sociology.
The second episode, Echoes, for instance, looks into the disturbing history of transorbital lobotomy and why it was abandoned as a psychosurgical method. The fifth episode, The Beast Within, looks into the werewolf myth and how it ties in with the phenomenon of serial killers. The episodes are part-reenactment of folklore and historical moments and part-narrative explanation of tangential history, superstitions and parallel events supporting the core story.
But the device of slipping in and out of a straightforward horror story to go into documentary mode every 10 minutes does not serve the episodes well, especially when they are as long as 40 minutes. The shorter episodes work better. In a quest to be both a YouTube-style explained-in-five minutes video and a self-contained horror short, the episodes run the risk of being unfocused. Often the story stops abruptly to make way for Mahnke, the narrator, to make commentary on related aspects: it kills the mood. Like most reenactment shows, the dramatisation in Lore also veers towards the melodramatic quite often, though thankfully, jump scares or garish special effects are not used to scare the audience .
An interesting but unspectacular addition to the horror genre, Lore, perhaps, works best in its original form. The episodes of the podcast are shorter, since there is no dramatisation to interfere with the flow, and as such, a listener gets the licence to imagine. While new television shows inspired by popular podcasts are still gathering pace, Amazon’s Lore does not make the emerging trend look particularly enticing.