Horror is one of the most ubiquitous genres when it comes to the media in which it appears. Compared to comedy, which requires a very specific timing, horror has the ability to adopt many shapes and to evolve parallel to the birth of new formats. Podcasts were no exception, and now Lore has been adapted into an informative and creepy TV show.
Since Aaron Mahnke created it in 2015, Lore has spanned through over 60 episodes, a book series, and now a show on Amazon Prime by the executive producer of The Walking Dead. It was always aimed at providing a window to humanity’s darker side. The motto of the show best reflects it: “Because sometimes the truth is more frightening than fiction“. On the podcast, Mahnke narrates real events that took place from a couple of decades to several centuries in the past, complemented with scientific facts explaining the seemingly supernatural or the folklore behind some beliefs.
The 2017 adaptation takes this format and expands it with archive footage, animations and re-enactments, immersing the audience into the stories and making it easier to understand why people acted the what they did. In the end, horror is closely related to death and Lore tackles this topic with tales of illness and superstition, which mixed together created folklore. The show is very smart about constantly reminding you that what it is telling you actually happened, aware that failing to do this would make the audience feel detached from the story.
Each episode can be divided into a documentary portion (focusing on the context and scientific facts) and a re-enactment (more like a movie with characters and a developing plot). At first—and quite literally this issue is more notable in the first episode—the contrast between these two halves is stark and Aaron’s narration can be more distracting than informative once you are fully immersed in the story. In the episodes that follow, however, a balance is reached and it works as a more coherent whole, particularly in the second episode, “Echoes”, which was also the most unsettling for me.
The topics covered in this first season include the fear of a dead person being actually undead, medical practices for the mentally insane (such as transocular lobotomies), body-snatchers, spiritism and haunted houses, werewolves, and haunted dolls. If you are familiar with Lore, you may recognize some of these topics as already having been covered in the podcast. Indeed they are, to the point that the name of the episodes is the same as those used in the podcast. This was a bit disappointing at the beginning, but once you watch the show, you realize they made sure to go in a different direction: Instead of focusing on a journalistic work of investigation, they have created a narrative script. Still, it would be nice to see them tackle completely new content in the second season.
The performances are generally good, with some quite memorable examples, particularly in episodes 2 and 3. I didn’t recognize any big names, which I think is a good decision, it helps in keeping the feel that the stories are myths. Now, this is not a perfect horror show; for one, it could be creepier. As much as it sounds like a contradiction, I don’t think all horror should be downright scary, but Lore actually tries to be unsettling, and fails to deliver in some instances due to the decision to keep the original format and disperse the documentary aspects of the show throughout the narrative part instead of front-loading all the information.
Lore is an interesting adaptation that will complement the experience for fans of the podcast while managing to be interesting and informative for newcomers. It feels promising and I think it’s a good sign that I am looking forward to seeing them going even further with the concept on a possible second season. Lore is now available on Amazon Prime.
Wicked Rating: 7.5/10
Director: Darnell Martin, Thomas Wright, Nick Copus, Michael Satrazemis.
Writer: Based on scripts by Aaron Mahnke and others.
Stars: Aaron Mahnke, Colm Feore, Adam Goldberg
Release Date: October 13, 2017
Studio/Production Company: Amazon Studios, Propagate Content, Valhalla Entertainment
Length: 40 minutes approx. per episode
Sub-Genre: Documentary, Supernatural