When the Folklore Doesn’t Hit Home in Netflix’s Spectros

5 Apr

By Ed Sum
(The Vintage Tempest)

Anyone who loves the supernatural flavour which comes out of traditional Japan should tune into Spectros right away! The series blends paranormal with breakfast club mentality from three teens–Pardal (Danilo Mesquita), Carla (Mariana Sena) and Mila (Cláudia Okuno)–coming together to deal with the supernatural coalescing in their neighbourhood of Liberdade in São Paulo, Brazil.

Ultimately, this series is the type of cheesy pulp action style fun expected when showrunner Douglas Petrie was a key figure in the production of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel.

In the first episode, “The Porcelain Doll,” the young heroes are in a police station and the cops are asking what in blue blazes is going on–including how they met. The threat, as defined for us viewers to understand, don’t arrive until episode three, “My Temple Will Be My Grave” where the supernatural influence is as classically campy in the same way as in showing how Imhotep fell in love with Anck-su-namun in The Mummy. Even crazier is how a variant of the Hom Dai will cause problems should either vengeful spirit rise again. The explanation is more like Tomb Raider than anything else, and I loved the stop motion animation recreation; it only added to the nightmare visual narrative than take away.

A long, long time ago, the Japanese warlord Sato Kahn prefered to raze the land rather than bring fiefdoms together. To keep him happy, he demanded brides from the local magistrates. Seven were simply peace offerings and the eighth, much to his surprise, proved to be just as evil. They fought each other to a standstill and both died. However, should either return from the dead, all of Japan will be doomed. Her evil was much more feared and her ashes were taken as far away as possible. It’s her resurrection that the residents of São Paulo must worry about!

Pardal is clueless to the world of darkness that exists. In in what he soon learns, he has to choose the lesser of greater evils. He’s simply out to survive; robbing only when necessary to help make ends meet. After quitting his job, both he and his little brother Leo (Enzo Barone) have nobody else to turn to. They lost their mother years ago.

Leo is the only one of the four who knows what’s going on and in true chicken little fashion, nobody believes him! Parts of the show get hokey, but I went with it. Even when the adults don’t believe him, he has to convince someone!

Sadly, this series has nothing to make the supernatural feel like it came from South America! I found the red balloon trope ridiculous to use; It’s like the producers wanted to cram as many recognizable moments from classical horror to get that vibe going. They should have gone for something more Voodoo-like, or borrowed from Incan blood rites, but they are a country away. Various groups (the TupisGuaranisGês and Arawaks) made up the the indigenous population of Brazil before the coming of the Portuguese, so it would have been tough to get the right flavour in instead of focussing in on the Japanese elements.

The fact that a lot of people from land of the rising sun immigrated to Brazil is more important must be noted. When matters of assimilation and treatment of them is examined, the message is there, but doesn’t quite hit home.

Even a greater revelation of why this neighbourhood is so haunted by season one’s end doesn’t get its fair shake. All I can hope for is that it doesn’t go down the same road as the second Poltergeist movie.

The only promising aspect is with Neela. She has psychic powers, and is supposed to be a guardian of the “sacred urn.” But since the contents have been released, just what comes next depends on what Petrie has planned for series two.

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