Amazon Studios has apparently been struggling to find an original hit—and the show to shape its identity. Netflix has become a content factory and Hulu is catching up thanks to The Handmaid’s Tale. But Amazon just hasn’t been able to produce a series that galvanizes a devoted fanbase.
Is it Lore? Probably not, but true crime is a lucrative podcast genre right now, so Amazon is smart to jump on that fanbase. In the unceasing search for new content, podcasts are being mined for adaptable storylines and ideas. Lore, created in 2015 by Aaron Mahnke, recreates the radio campfire tale by exploring the true stories at the heart of folklore, the supernatural, and the unexplained. But the series might take some getting used to.
You could still listen to Lore like a podcast; it works as background noise. Mahnke’s narration is a bit stilted at times—he’s no Robert Stack—but it keeps the podcast in mind. The episodes (three of six were made available) are educational: In one about the 1892 Mercy Brown vampire incident, Mahnke lists off the various ways and means used to figure out if someone was dead in the 19th century, including “live beetle in the ear.” In “Black Stockings,” we see a woman in Ireland who is accused of being a changeling by her husband essentially broken down by ignorant men, something that was likely common practice in a time before insight on mental health.
Lore suffers most in the reenactments, which are often overdramatic and at times unnecessary. We don’t need to see an extended shot of a man digging up his daughter’s grave. Maybe just tell us some more about vampire history or horrific torture devices? The animation in that same episode fares better, and Lore would probably benefit from even more of that, or some mixed media.
One scene from the episode “Echoes” stands out: Dr. Walter Freeman (Colm Feore), creator of the icepick lobotomy, recounts his son’s death in a dramatic monologue. We’ve seen him do terrible, irreparable things to people in the name of sanity, but Feore channels the dark matter of black-and-white predecessors like The Twilight Zone, and it was there that Lore felt like a series. He also puts Freeman’s place in history in context.
Lore‘s got the context part down, it just needs to work a little on atmosphere.
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