South Africa has long been known as a good place to go for shooting cheap DTV films like Tremors: A Cold Day in Hell and Monster Island. But more recently it’s been producing quality homegrown films such as Number 37, Hunting Emma, and The Lullaby. On the horizon, we have Heks, directed by the star of The Lullaby. Add to the list 8: A South African Horror from writer/director Harold Holscher, which made its debut as part of Fantasia 2019.
William (Garth Breytenbach, Five Fingers for Marseilles) has fallen on hard times. He is forced to move back to the farm he inherited from his estranged father. With him are his wife Sarah (Inge Beckmann, Escape Room) and adopted daughter Mary (Keita Luna). Soon after they arrive Mary meets Lazarus (Tshamano Sebe, Last Ones Out) in the woods. Charming and seemingly friendly he claims to have worked for William’s father. He soon has the trust of William and Mary, and a place to stay.
But, he has a dark secret which we know but they don’t. The bag he carries contains the results of an ill-fated pact with a demon. An evil reincarnation of his daughter with an insatiable hunger for souls. That’s not a spoiler. We’re clued into it from the beginning and she is one of the characters. The film’s publicity cites Richard Stanley’s Dust Devil as a comparison. I’d add Basket Case as well, with its interplay between Lazurus and the bag’s occupant. 8: A South African Horror doesn’t have the gore of the latter film, but it does have some excellent makeup work for the demon child.
Despite tipping its hand early, 8: A South African Horror is a slow burn of a film. The tensions slowly ratchets up with Lazarus at the center of them. The local wise man Obara (Chris April) and his men. They know the truth about Lazarus and plans to stop him. Between Lazarus and his daughter, who urges him to bring her Mary’s soul. And between his guilt for his daughter’s death and his horror at what he’s become. All in the name of keeping this caricature of her alive.
8: A South African Horror is rooted in South African folklore which makes for a nice change from the usual European or American sources. It also makes the film unpredictable as the rules are different. And that should appeal to those tired of the same old monsters.
Rock Salt Releasing has picked up 8: A South African Horror and will be sending it around the festivals. You can check the film’s website and Facebook page for future showings and eventual release date.