Monsters are creatures we run from, beasts we warn our children about and fiends that haunt our darkest dreams. Yet, there is something enticing, mesmerising even in their appearance. Terrifying as they might be, we cannot help but look even closer, parting our fingers that our covering our eyes to peer again at the horror. There is no getting around it: Something about monsters fascinates us. They may be the stuff of nightmares that make our hearts beat faster, sweat profusely and make our hairs stand on end but we cannot get enough of it.
It may be that at the most basic level, monsters represent fears held by society, fears associated with the dangers perceived in the often vast, uncaring world. The origins of some of our most deep rooted fears has been the focus of Aaron Mahnke, who since 2015 has been releasing bi-weekly podcasts called 'Lore.'
At the time of writing there have been more than 70 meticulously researched podcasts on a wide variety of themes from vampires to evil dolls. 'Lore' has now been turned into an anthology television series by Amazon Studios and for season 1 looks at a variety of popular horror tropes and their origins. Currently there are only 6 episodes, which are all presented with interesting visuals, which are a mix of live action dramatic shorts alongside archival footage, images and animation. All this helps to bring the show to life and presents the matter in the most visually interesting way. The episodes are:
They Made A Tonic- Before we knew how disease spread, medicine was as much superstition as it was science. And in the small New England towns of the 1800s, there is a belief that consumption can only be stopped by making sure the dead are actually dead.
Echoes- Dr. Walter Freeman is the father of the icepick lobotomy. He believes the ten-minute procedure will all but end the need for the mental hospital. He has the best of intentions but winds up creating an entirely new kind of horror story.
Black Stockings- In 19th century Ireland, folklore has a strong hold. Michael Cleary is convinced his wife, Bridget, has been replaced by a fairy called a changeling. And his belief drives him to the most extreme act.
Passing Notes- In 19th century America, at the height of the Spiritualist Movement, a haunted house is not just the stuff of ghost stories. Many believe the dead can talk and, sometimes, will come back from the other side to wreak havoc on the living.
The Beasts Within- Werewolves are now movie monsters. But they were once thought to be all too real. In 1589, villagers in Bedburg, Germany, are convinced that a werewolf is killing women and children only to discover the killer is really one of their own.
Unboxed- Robert Gene Otto is a child without friends. That is, until he receives a doll as a gift. He names the doll after himself, Robert. They become fast friends and soon the boy believes the doll is real. But to everyone else...Robert the Doll is a curse.
Mahnke's sonorous voice works well on the podcast as it is cold and unsettling, however it works less well when put through the filter of visuals but overall the information is compellingly put together that it is a minor gripe in what is a fine scary, campfire-like storytelling anthology series. The acted scenes are suitably moody and there are some fine actors involved including Robert Patrick and Adam Goldberg.
The show never gives a definitive answer as to whether the phenomena shared are true or merely fabrications, it merely presents the meticulously researched historic materials and documentation and leaves it up to the viewer to decide as to what they believe. If you want to be spooked but like the more cerebral kind of horror this show (and podcast) might just be what you are looking for!