Back in the 1990s, HBO notably produced the cult-classic horror anthology series . For its new horror anthology, , the scary monsters are drawn from the mythologies of various Asian cultures. Instead of a vampire, you get a , and in place of a trickster genie who grants wishes, there is a blood-drinking from Malaysia.
Created by Singaporean director Eric Khoo, the series features six standalone episodes, each with a different director and cast, set in a different country: Indonesia, Japan, Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia, and Korea. (Khoo directed the Singapore-set episode, “Nobody.”) The episodes have been making the rounds at film festivals, including the 2018 Fantastic Fest in Austin, Texas, and the 2018 Toronto Film Festival. And now they’re coming to the small screen.
In “A Mother’s Love,” a single mother moves into a mansion with her young son and finds several unkempt children in the attic. When she helps return them to their families, she incurs the wrath of Wewe Gombel, a child-snatching vengeful spirit—although, to be fair, in the original folktale she only takes children who have been abused. (The story is reminiscent of how the Icelandic ogre Gryla was portrayed as a protector of children recently in solstice special.)
A group of construction workers unearth a girl’s body in the Khoo-directed “Nobody,” and when they fail to properly burn the body according to custom, they awaken a . Traditionally, a is the spirit of a woman who died while pregnant. Usually depicted as pale woman with long black hair and red eyes, she kills her victims via evisceration and feeds on their organs. Hopefully the workers know they can plunge a nail into the nape of her neck to turn the into a beautiful, obedient woman (at least until the nail is removed).
We encounter a Korean bachelor ghost in search of a bride in “Mongdal,” while a chatty Thai ghost named Pob wants a local journalist to tell his side of the story in “Pob.” (Thai folklore has a dizzying array of popular ghosts.) If you’re reading this in English, chances are you’ve never heard of a , a Malaysian spirit that features in the fifth episode of the series. They’re kind of like supernatural pets who are kept in jars or urns and do their owners’ bidding—for a price. (That price is usually feeding off their owner’s blood). They’re frequently used to steal from neighbors or amass sudden wealth. In the episode, the MP of a small fishing village forges a bond with a woman who helps fix the town’s economic struggles. I’m guessing she’ll turn out to have a or two.
All in all, the new series looks to offer plenty of thrills and chills while introducing Western viewers to a whole new cache of monsters that have long been staples of Asian horror. premieres on HBO February 1, 2019.