Fans of the dark and creepy are in for a treat. We’ve already written a review of Netflix’s last South African success, teen thriller series Blood and Water. Now, the streaming platform is serving up something a little more ominous, and still delightfully local, to thrill those in the mood for a fright: South African horror, 8.
Alternatively titled The Soul Collector, Harold Hölscher’s 8 is a moody supernatural thriller that draws much of its influence from South African folklore. It follows a family family that moves into a newly inherited farm, and encounters a strange character called Lazarus, who carries with him a dark, dangerous – and pretty damn creepy – secret.
The film starts off a little strange, and we’re not sure what to make of it in the first ten minutes. While some of the leading actors give a somewhat stilted and robotic performance – the script writing may be to blame here – Tshamano Sebe, who plays Lazarus, is mesmerising, and brings to life a character that we come to fear, pity and respect simultaneously. He outshines every member of the cast, except for Keita Luna, who plays the young girl who moves onto the farm and befriends him. Luna’s performance brings in the element of the uncanny child, which became a typical horror movie trope and intercultural obsession after the release of Hideo Nakata’s Ringu – which birthed the American remake, The Ring.
A creepy kid isn’t not the only horror trope we encounter. The film is packed with them, which really, could be a blessing or a curse. The family arrives at an isolated house –which doesn’t have working electricity – in the middle of the night. The doors are creaky. In fact, everything is creaky. There’s obviously an ominous bathroom scene. And then the jump scares begin. If you’re not a fan of the genre, this sounds like an utter nightmare, but for those who are thrilled by the idea of sinister things lurking in the shadows, 8 has what you need. It even has an extra strange scene at the end that feels like it doesn’t quite belong, but what the hell – we’re already dealing with demons and ancestors, why not keep it weird.
Despite some odd creative decisions and a few lines that sound cliche enough to make us cringe, the film doesn’t lack depth. 8‘s characters are all grappling with their own guilt, a fact which becomes more clear to us as the film progresses. This adds a very human dimension to a plot that had the potential to be weighted down by the supernatural.
With stunning camera work and captivating sound, the film sucks us into its supernatural narrative. We’re constantly waiting on the next jump scare, or trying to put together pieces of the plot we don’t yet understand. The pieces come together in the end and make for a satisfying, if somewhat typical ending and narrative experience as a whole.
It’s probably not the best the genre has to offer, but as a South African attempt it certainly does us proud – particularly the slick production. For anyone who loves a scare and enjoys a bit of local flavour, this one is not to be missed.
Essential Millennial rating: 3.5 out of 5 avocados