Saturday, November 6, 2021

Folklore Season 2 Ups The Scare Factor With More Asian Horror Stories

FOLKLORE Season 1 (2018), HBO Asia's original anthology series consisting of horror stories from Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand, was a success in the international film festival circuit. Award-winning film-maker Eric Khoo is the creator and showrunner of the series, and various episodes were screened in major festivals like Toronto International Film Festival, Tokyo International Film Festival, Geneva International Film Festival, Fantastic Fest (Texas, USA) and Asian World Film Fest (California, USA).

The best thing about FOLKLORE Season 1 was how novel it was. Compared to East Asian lore, South-East Asian stories are rarely known internationally. FOLKLORE managed to lovingly capture the essence of some of South-East Asia's favourite momoks (phantoms/ bogeymen) with a high production values.

There are a couple of stories in the first season that are still visually ingrained in Red Dot Diva's mind. They are POB, the brilliantly filmed black and white Thai ghost story by reknown director Pen-Ek Ratanaruang, and the more traditional and partially socio-political tale of the TOYOL by Malaysian director Ho Yuhang. That just shows how creepy and memorable Asian horror can be compared to the Westernised ones, which tend to over-explain the supernatural.

Well, come 14 November 2021, horror fans can expect more scares as FOLKLORE is set to increase the fear factor for a second season. There will be six new episodes about the human condition when faced with the deeply rooted superstitions and myths in Taiwan, Japan, Thailand, the Philippines, Indonesia and Singapore. Each of the stories is helmed by a director from their respective territory, with a special spotlight on two female directors this new season. Famous Japanese popstar Seiko Matsuda makes her directorial debut in the episode about a lonely Japanese idol, and Singaporean director Nicole Midori Woodford unveils the roots of a family trauma.

Red Dot Diva has watched early screenings of the first two episodes of FOLKLORE Season 2. THE ROPE (Taiwan) by Shih-Han Liao is definitely the scarier and more visceral one as the tension slowly builds up to the reveal and twist at the end. In contrast, THE DAY THE WIND BLEW (Japan) is a rather sweet love story between an introverted schoolgirl and her pop idol crush, that blurs the line between the living and the dead. To her credit, Seiko Matsuda did an admirable job in THE DAY THE WIND BLEW, by interspersing heart-thumping jump scares with moments of regret, sadness and a surprising sense of warmth.

FOLKLORE Season 2 will be available exclusively on HBO GO and HBO. After the premiere, a new episode will debut every Sunday at the same time.

To get at taste of what's in store, check out the trailer below:

Here is the episode guide for the Season 2:

Episode 1 - THE ROPE (Taiwan)
Debut date: 14 Nov (Sun), 10 PM
Directed by: Shih-Han Liao
Cast: Vivian Sung (Sung Yun-Hwa), Wu Kang-Ren

A newly-wed woman is walking home alone after a joyous wedding ceremony when she gets caught in a purification ritual performed for suicide victims. The ritual officers warn her that she will need to follow the ritual, or she will be cursed. However, she runs away despite their warning. Her life is turned upside down with strange phenomena and disturbing hauntings. Fearing that she has been cursed, she seeks aid from the Master of the purification ritual who confirms her worst fears. However, there’s more to the situation than meets the eye and she needs to get to the bottom of the mystery before it destroys her completely.

Episode 2 - THE DAY THE WIND BLOW (Japan)
Debut date: 21 Nov (Sun), 10 PM
Directed by: Seiko Matsuda
Cast: Win Morisaki, Haori Takahashi

Mika is a schoolgirl who meets the man of her dreams - Ken, her favourite singer. As she takes her seat at Ken’s concert, nothing could be more perfect. Not only is she witness to a performance that is everything she’s expected and more, it seems he’s actually taken an interest in her. But something seems amiss. Ever since the day of the concert, a cold wind has stalked the woman’s path as her dream encounter is marred by a bone-chilling presence. What appears to be the beginning of a fairy tale love can only be described as a fable destined for a hellish end.

Episode 3 - BROKER OF DEATH (Thailand)
Debut date: 28 Nov (Sun), 10 PM
Directed by: Sittisiri Mongkolsiri
Cast: Natee Ngamnaewprom (Ton), Jennis Oprasert

Manop is a 45-year-old single father who owns an amulet shop. It doesn’t pay him well, especially when he has to pay for his daughter’s exorbitant medical bills. In fact, his main source of income comes from being a “Broker of Death” - someone who trades in corpses. One day, he is told to pick up a dead body. The corpse is to be a part of the ritual so that a wealthy politician can have more power. Manop has to choose between two frightening options – ghost haunting or poverty.

Episode 4 - 7 DAYS OF HELL (The Philippines)
Debut date: 5 Dec (Sun), 10 PM
Directed by: Erik Matti
Cast: Dolly de Leon, Roshson Barman

A righteous policewoman and mother races against time to save her son when he falls dangerously ill from an unknown cause. When her son is given only a few weeks to live, she discovers that his illness is of supernatural origin and that a powerful sorcerer has cursed him. The only way for her son to survive is for him to apologise and make amends to the sorcerer. As the clock ticks, she is sent on a desperate quest to save her son.

Episode 5 - GRANDMA'S KISS (Indonesia)
Debut date: 12 Dec (Sun), 10 PM
Directed by: Billy Christian
Cast: Lydia Kandou, Ken Zuraida

Marni is a new resident at a nursing home, having been left there by her daughter. She feels abandoned and longs for her old life. She suspects that her roommate Ningsih might be a supernatural being - a Palasik - haunting the home and able to make any wish come true if caught. Will Marni use the Palasik to get what she desires - her old life back?

Episode 6 - THE EXCURSION (Singapore)
Debut date: 19 Dec (Sun), 10 PM
Directed by: Nicole Midori Woodford
Cast: Mindee Ong, Ethan Ng, Darren Lim

A troubled mother is depressed and suffering from insomnia. Her husband is never at home and her son talks to an imaginary friend Under immense stress, she starts to see a ghostly, somehow familiar figure in her house. Her son’s erratic behaviour becomes dangerous and life-threatening. Can she save her son and her family before it’s too late?

If you have just learned about FOLKLORE from this article, you can catch up on Season 1 which is currently back on HBO Go. It is also available on HBO On Demand, for those who are already subscribed to HBO's channels on either Starhub TV or Singtel TV.

FOLKLORE is a great way to get acquainted with the spooks, supernatural myths and superstitions of our Asian neighbours, so Red Dot Diva cannot wait to see what other scary stories are in store for the other four episodes. She has her pillow ready to hide behind!

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