HBO Asia’s “Folklore” is a six-episode, hour-long series that takes place across six Asian countries – Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand. Each episode is based on a country’s deeply-rooted myths and folklore, featuring supernatural beings and occult beliefs. The respective episodes are helmed by a director from that country and filmed locally in the country’s primary language. In the particular segment, Eric Khoo deals with the myth of the Pontianak, a female vampiric ghost in Malay mythology.
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The story takes place in a construction site, where a rich and spoiled contractor has tasked a local foreman to lead the immigrant workers in completion of the task. However, when the body of a dead girl is discovered in the area, under the instructions of the boss, the foreman and a worker attempt to move the body elsewhere in order to burn it. The worker, however, decides to just bury it instead, and soon the crew finds themselves having to deal with a Pontianak, the vengeful spirit of a woman who died during childbirth, and no one is safe anymore. Furthermore, the delay in the construction leads the two men in charge to ride the workers harder, thus initiating another sequence of unfortunate events.
Eric Khoo directs a film that moves into two axes, one of horror and one of social/philosophical commentary. The first aspect revolves around the Pontianak and the horror it spreads in the construction site, with Khoo using a number of the “standards” of the genre, including jump scares and much gore during the end.
The second, and most interesting aspect revolves around the awful situation of the immigrant workers in Singapore, with Khoo making a point of showing that in essence, they have no rights, and are reef to be directed wherever their “masters” will. Louis Wu as the motley, spoiled boss personifies the role of the despicable master in the most fitting fashion, presenting a truly hateful character. His actions are the ones that form the philosophical aspect of the film, that seems to show that humans can be more horrific than any spirit. In the depiction of that message, Joko Anwar plays a role that could be described as atrociously memorable.
In general, the second roles are among the best assets of the film, with Aric Hidir Amin as the security guard and Boo Junfeng in a smaller part also giving memorable performances.
The cinematography in the film is also quite good, with the intense colors during the day and indoor scenes, along with the well-shot night sequences, complementing the narrative fittingly. The editing induces the film with a relatively fast pace that becomes quicker during the action scenes and slower during the rest.
“Nobody” is a convincing combination of horror and social commentary, although the second aspect is the one that makes the movie stand out from the plethora of films in the genre.