Lore does the cool thing where it mixes dramatized accounts of real stories with documentary footage while Aaron Mahnke narrates the background of some aspect of folklore. It surprisingly works, really really well. Lore, based on the podcast created by Aaron Mahnke, is a horror anthology that explores the real-life events that spawned our darkest nightmares. Blending dramatic scenes, animation, archival footage, and narration, Lore reveals how our horror legends – such as vampires, werewolves, and body snatchers – are rooted in truth. The first season runs six episodes and covers topics that range from vampires, werewolves, lobotomies, ghosts, fairies, and creepy dolls. It’s worth noting that Lore is a nonfiction series; it’s not one of those shows that tries to convince the audience that ghosts are real or anything. It presents the real-life history behind some of our most famous folklore. How did the modern image of vampires and werewolves come about? What is the significance of Irish fairies? It’s questions like these that Lore seeks to answer. (Mild spoilers follow)
Lore is a really unique premise. It’s not suggesting that the topics it’s covering are true – in fact, it often goes out of its way to remind us that things like vampires aren’t real -, but it focuses on the real-life origins of our collective mythology – or lore, as the title suggests. In They Made a Tonic, for example, it focuses on what’s become known as “The New England Vampire Panic” – a time in American History where residents of New England (amongst others) believed that relatives that had died from Tuberculosis (then called consumption) because a relative who had died from the disease was returning from the grave to infect a person’s loved ones (basically feeding off their life force – like a vampire). Now, obviously, that’s not what was actually going on, and Lore doesn’t try to pretend like that’s what was causing the outbreak, but it does try to accurately portray the real-life basis for these urban legends, and that’s really neat for a show that’s exploring the supernatural.
It’s worth noting that I have not listened to the podcast that Lore is based on, but from what I can tell from a bit of research, it seems the TV series has directly adapted six episodes from the podcast. At a guess, from some Wikipedia browsing and some skimming of The World of Lore: Monstrous Creatures, the show uses Mahnke’s narration from the podcast while adding in scenes that dramatically reenact the stories that Mahnke is discussing in the narration. This, too, is a really smart move. It’s a good way of adapting the podcast into a new medium with the hopes of attracting a new audience while also giving fans of the podcast something new to experience that’s not just the audio of the podcast with visuals.
It helps that the dramatic reenactments are also really really good. The acting, in particular, is surprisingly good. There are no A-Listers in the show or anything, but all the actors definitely bring their “A-Game”. It’s obvious that everyone involved really digs the material and is really committed to making a show that’s really good. So they all really tailor their acting in ways that services the material. The “bigger-name” actors (for example. Kristin Bauer van Straten is in one episode) never try to outshine the others actors, and none of the actors at all are really a weak link. Everybody is doing their best and it definitely shows.
In a way, it makes complete sense that Glen Morgan (former producer of The X-Files) is an executive producer on this show. It feels very X-Files-ish, if The X-Files were a real thing, they might look something like this. I think he was a good choice to handle this kind of material; it seems right up his ballpark and he handled it well. The other writers and directors of the series also did a fantastic job with crafting their individual episodes. Something I loved was the sheer diversity of subjects and style in each episode. One episode, Echoes, is filmed entirely in black and white and focuses on lobotomies while another episode, Passing Notes, focuses on a haunted house and is actually filmed like a haunted house movie. There’s just such variety in this series that even if you weren’t particularly fond of one episode, you might love a different one. There’s a story in Lore for everyone.
That’s the note to go out on, really. Lore is unique in many ways, but chief among them is the freedom the show’s format provides for the show to explore a large variety of subjects. If the show continues, there will eventually be an episode for everyone. Maybe you’re not interested in vampires, but you’re super interested in psychology from the early 1900s, then there’s an episode for you! Maybe you hate werewolves but you love creepy dolls, well Lore‘s still got you covered. It’s well written and adapted, well filmed and edited, and well acted. It’s a good series, overall, even if there’s an episode here and there that are duds. It’s still worthwhile watching it. Anyone can enjoy this (though young children probably shouldn’t watch it.)
(4 out of 5 wands)