Word of warning to anyone who suffers from pediophobia (the fear of dolls): Do not under any circumstances watch “Unboxed”, the season one finale of Lore. It’s better for you if you don’t. If you don’t suffer from a fear of dolls, there is a strong chance that you will develop such a fear after watching it. Lore goes out on a high with its most unsettling episode and one that leaves you hoping Amazon will produce more.
Similar to “Passing Notes“, I found myself transfixed by the narrative that taking notes was something I had to remind myself of throughout. There is a wonderful dread atmosphere to the episode, and a genuine sense of unease. Like “Passing Notes”, it sees Lore at the top of its game, managing to mix history and horror to brilliant effect.
No other show has ever terrified and educated at the same time in the way that Lore has done, as both television series and podcast. It has managed to bring the podcast to the screen in a manner that is both brilliantly visual but also adheres to the magic of Mahnke’s creation and has done both its creator and podcast proud.
Dressed in a sailor outfit, and a blank expression on its (his?) face, Robert is a genuinely creepy character, made even more terrifying by the fact that he is real, made doubly terrifying by the episode’s coda where Aaron Mahnke explains that one must seek permission to take Robert’s picture at the museum he is currently “living” at.
The use of actual video footage of tourists videotaping themselves asking Robert to take his picture, followed by the use of letters sent by those who didn’t, and who had subsequently found their lives taking terrible turns, manages to go from being strangely funny to incredibly distressing in the space of a minute. If this had been a work of fiction you would laugh at it as being ridiculous. The fact that it’s real is chilling to the bone.
Lore’s ability to mix horror and history lesson is at its absolute best here, with the reenactments once again coming on like a disquieting, subtly distressing horror movie, fuelled by a superb performance from Kristen Bauer van Straten, and the history lesson even more terrifying because all of what it’s telling is true. From its opening depicting the history of the Island of the Dolls to Russian serial killer Anatoly Moskvin, the entire forty minute running time is drenched in unease and a sense of the macabre.
The episode even segueways into the story of Candice Bergen, whose father was one half of a very famous ventriloquist act, Edgar and Charlie, and who treated his dummy more better than his real life, flesh and blood daughter.
Cutting back between stories like these and the one around Robert and his “friendship” with Gene allows the episode to sow the seeds of discomfort throughout, and usually without doing too much, a sure sign of great horror. Unlike other dolls dotted throughout popular culture (Chucky, The X-Files episode “Chinga”), Robert doesn’t even do anything but sit there with a blank expression on its face sitting in one position.
The disappearance of a knife in a key moment and the subsequent locking of a basement door is a visceral as it gets, but as they take place near the end of the episode, the effect is startling because by that point the story has got its hooks in you and there is a genuinely unsettling edge to proceedings that constantly feels like it’s upping itself without ever really doing anything. It’s masterfully done.
It brings Lore’s first season to an end in brilliant fashion. After starting on a somewhat unsure footing six episodes ago, Lore has developed into a wonderful little show. Six episodes have almost not been enough and hopefully the series has done well with Amazon to convince them to commission more episodes. With seventy episodes of the podcast out there, there is more than enough material to sustain a show for years, and with its unique ability to bring quietly effective anthology horror to our screens, coupled with a brilliant manner of educating the audience in all manner of the weird and unsettling, it’s become horror television of a different and brilliantly unsettling variety and it would be wonderful to have more of it to chew on.
How have you found this season of Lore? Let us know in the comments section.