Hungry for a spooky series to binge? This past weekend Netflix released the international series Spectros (2020), a TV-MA Brazilian ghost story set in the Liberdade neighborhood of São Paulo. From writer/director/creator Douglas Petrie comes this spooky story centered around three teens. Pardal (Danilo Mesquita), a young, street-tough yet troubled boy, Mila (Cláudia Okuno), the overachieving perfectionist, and Mila’s former best friend Carla (Mariana Sena) are brought together to stop a powerful necromancer from resurrecting an army of the dead. With some help from a 100-year-old witch (Miwa Yanagizawa), Mila’s father (Carlos Takeshi), Pardal’s younger brother (Enzo Barone), and the local drug dealer (Drop Dashi), the teenagers just might have what it takes to stop a ghostly horde that threatens the city and live as they know it. 

Spectros begins in a police station with the three leads being interrogated separately as to the whereabouts of a stolen car and their involvement in the murder of a man found burned to death. When asked by the police how long ago the three of them met, they reply, ”Like, yesterday”. Flashback to “Like, yesterday.” – It feels important to note here the first use of comedy, which the series employs sporadically and it is, in kind, sporadically successful. 

 

 

[Review] Japanese Folklore Gets Funny in Netflix's SPECTROS

 

From there, the first several episodes of Spectros play out as a combination of flashbacks as recounted police, and present situations in the police station. While I’m normally a fan of fractured storytelling, the back and forth in these early episodes only muddies an already fairly confusing storyline. Especially if, like me, you’re unfamiliar with Japanese folklore. I kept having to pause and retrace the plot because, much like the police officers, I could not parse the weaving storyline. The show eventually provides more context for its mythology, yet I still found myself wanting to know more.

The backstory felt just a little too superficial instead of actually establishing a world were ghosts really exist. That being said, the show finds its stride with each additional episode, particularly once it abandons the flashback structure. I was honestly thrilled when I found myself surprised by some of the twists and turns the show takes, as I’d pegged about 75% of it down as predictable. That other 25% is what kept me intrigued and not daring to budge as Netflix automatically played each next episode.

 

[Review] Japanese Folklore Gets Funny in Netflix's SPECTROS

 

With no real scares, a total underutilization of the show’s only remotely scary characters/ghouls, and an almost complete lack of gore, Spectros comes across as more of a supernatural leaning dramedy than a horror show. That’s not a knock, just a disclaimer. Also, this may just be my personal preference, but ghosts should not move like zombies. Especially when there are other ghostly characters who move in a more classic ghost way. The effects were effective but kept to a minimum. The dialogue could be clunky and basic, but I found myself forgiving this as something lost in translation through the dubbing. The characters all tend to be rather archetypal, with dialogue that was lost in translation through dubbing, but I found myself rooting for the team regardless. 

All in all, Spectros is enjoyable despite its ups and downs. It presented a unique story that repeatedly established itself as engaging, if far from perfect. I can only hope that if they get picked up for a second season, they will delve more into the specific Japanese mythology at the heart of the story. I think it might have been even more successful as a horror series had it leaned more into the scares and taken the time to make the ghosts frightening. I definitely say check it out and let us know what you think over on Twitter, Reddit, and on Facebook in the Horror Movie Fiend Club!

 

[Review] Japanese Folklore Gets Funny in Netflix's SPECTROS