Oh my God, what a bunch of claptrap.
From the “Actors kinda sorta doing dramatizations of stuff we know or believe actually happened but there is no footage or if there is footage we can’t afford the rights” school of docuseries, Lore takes us into the heart, or at least the most superficial fascia layer, of several human phenomena, legends and superstitions. Like the terrible case of Bridget Cleary, a feisty, self-empowered Irish woman whose husband murdered her because he believed she’d been replaced by a changeling. Or how a shoddy understanding, in Puritan New England, of how the contagious disease tuberculosis was passed from person to person led to many vampire attacks. Or that guy who performed lobotomies with an ice pick. All of this is narrated by Aaron Mahnke, because, like, this started out as a popular podcast also helmed by that guy.
Point of Disconnect #1: Apparently this has been a popular podcast, which means many people aren’t distracted by his unbearable voice. So please know if you like his bizarre stretching and compressing of random syllables, flat affect and adenoidal droning, you should already be taking me with a grain of salt—because that voice had me digging through drawers for an ice pick myself. I mean, I’d just gotten a great visual explanation of how to perform transorbital lobotomies. Relief was just a few hammer taps away and poof, no more voices. Ahhhhhhhhhhhhgh! OK, I’m good. Sorry.
The subject matter—the investigation of urban myths—is fun and fascinating. Theoretically. Even if you’re sitting on a goldmine of inherently interesting material, there’s a problem if you can’t present a cogent story or put a good script together for your character actors.
Point of Disconnect #2: The main cool thing about the show is the sound editing, which is effectively disgusting. They had this under control in the podcast, so all the visual elements needed to translate the show to TV become weirdly extraneous, and on top of that, it was an opportunity to get those actors to do the labor currently provided by Mahnke’s unbearable voice. That would have been a great idea.
Though each episode is a discrete investigation into a particular real-life creepypants story, each one has a scorching case of ADHD and starts other sub-stories that are either obviously or non-obviously connected to the main story but are just splashed onto the screen like some kind of brain fart. The middle of the changeling episode is implanted with a long digression about Annie Oakley. I am still wondering if I hallucinated it.
Point of Disconnect #3. OK, you have decided to turn a successful podcast into a TV show. Why? Because there should be a reason. And this thing has some good producers (Ben Silverman, Gale Anne Hurd) and some good actors, so one wonders why the episodes feel like such a labored, flailing attempt to make 10 minutes of material take 35 minutes. Colm Feore is compelling as the terrifying lobotomist Dr. Walter Freeman. In the three episodes I saw, nearly everyone else could have been subbed out with a cardboard cutout. Even Campbell Scott.
Lovers of the Lore podcast, what can I tell you? Stick with the podcast.
So wait. Was Annie Oakley a changeling?
Lore is available now on Amazon Prime.
Amy Glynn is a poet, essayist and fiction writer who really likes that you can multi-task by reviewing television and glasses of Cabernet simultaneously. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.