HBO Asia's 'Folklore' presents Asian horror from 6 different countries

(From left) Thai director Pen-ek Ratanaruang, Japanese actor Kazuki Kitamura, Senior Vice-President of HBO Asia Original Production Jessica Kam, Korean actress Lee Chae-yeon and Korean director Lee Sang-woo. (PHOTO: HBO Asia)

Come 7 October, just in time for Halloween, there will be a new Asian horror series taking over our screens.

Created by Singaporean filmmaker and series showrunner Eric Khoo, HBO Asia’s Folklore is a six-episode horror anthology based on modern adaptations of the deeply-rooted myths and folklore found in several Asian countries.

Set in Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Japan and South Korea respectively, each episode was filmed in the local language of the respective countries and was directed by filmmakers from the respective countries as well.

Senior Vice-President of HBO Asia Original Productions, Jessica Kam, said that the series will showcase “stories that Asians are good at telling”, especially since horror is one of the genres that “Asians are very strong in”.

Folklore will start off with an Indonesian episode – titled A Mother’s Love – about a single mother and her young son discovering a group of dirty and underfed children living in a mansion’s attic.

The series will conclude with the South Korean episode titled Mongdal, a term which refers to a bachelor who dies and turns into a ghost.

The episode tells the tale of a mother who will stop at nothing to make her son happy, even if it means finding a bride to join him in the afterlife.

Lee Sang-woo, the director of the South Korean episode, said that the idea for the episode was inspired by someone who he calls “the only one who’s on my side (for) everything”.

This was totally inspired by my mum. Because I’m still single, my mum is always telling me ‘You want to end up to be a mongdal?’,” he said with a laugh during a press conference for the show on Tuesday (18 September).

“This mongdal is totally different from the typical Korean ghost… Because they are lonely creatures, they just knock on the door and tell their mum, ‘I’m so lonely. I need my better half.’ That’s what happens. There are ghost marriages that still happen in Korea,” added the 47-year-old, who is the only son in his family.

On his filmmaking approach to the episode, Lee said: “I combine elements of classical horror film from the ’80s and ’90s in my version (of this series).”

Korean actress Lee Chae-yeon and Korean director Lee Sang-woo. (PHOTO: Abdul Rahman Azhari/Yahoo Lifestyle Singapore)

Actress Lee Chae-yeon, 39, who played a mother who has to take care of her borderline psychopathic son in the episode, said that she was “worried” about taking on the role as she had never taken on the role of a mother, and is also not a mother herself.

“I had to go through the process of emptying my thoughts, and forget all the roles that I have taken both as an artist and an actress so far,” she said, speaking in Korean.

“During the shooting period, I tried to keep myself away from anything too cheerful and fill myself with more grim thoughts to really get myself prepared for the role,” she added.

Likewise, for actor Kazuki Kitamura, 49, he found that his role in the Japanese episode, as an investigative journalist who lost his sense of hearing during his childhood, was particularly challenging as well.

“When we try to act as a character who has a hearing impairment, we tend to exaggerate that by having more body language or facial expressions, which to me, feels a little bit unrealistic,” he said, speaking in Japanese.

“I actually do have a friend who is deaf as well… You wouldn’t be able to tell that he has a hearing impairment just by looking at him. So, I try to be as natural as possible when I act out the role,” he added.

The Singaporean episode is about a series of unfortunate events that occur at a construction site after a pontianak is awakened when a foreman and a construction worker attempt to bury the body of a dead girl instead of burning her.

Other episodes from the series include a Malaysian one, about a lawmaker in a fishing town who seeks help from a mysterious woman who possesses shamanistic powers in order to salvage his town’s dire economic situation, and a Thai one, which is about a ghost who confesses to a murder to a journalist.

Folklore airs on HBO (StarHub TV Ch 601) on Sundays beginning on 7 October at 10pm and can be streamed on HBO Go. It is also available on HBO On Demand (StarHub TV Ch 602).

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