Fantasia 2019 Review: Dive Into South African Horror and Folklore in ‘8: A South African Horror’

So often, American film tropes are looked to as the golden standard, a potential guide for international filmmakers who want to make it big in Hollywood. But there is nothing more satisfying than seeing an indie horror film that is not from the U.S. utilize certain tropes in order to highlight a unique story. This is the case in Harold Hölscher’s feature film debut, 8: A South African Horror. Hölscher gives a well-tread story of worlds colliding a breath of fresh air by incorporating South African folklore, racial tensions, and beautiful visuals. 8, while not persistently scary, is a melancholy fairytale the likes of which the Grimm Brothers have never seen.

The film begins in 1977 with a downtrodden trio heading to their new home. Couple William (Garth Breytenbach) and Sarah (Inge Beckmann) have taken in his sister’s child, Mary (Keita Luna), after her parents’ deaths. Each is full of their own sadness, from mourning parents to mourning the inability to become pregnant. But this farm will be a fresh start for them, a place where they’ll come together as a family. Then, they meet Lazarus (Tshamano Sebe), a mysterious man who lives in the woods surrounding the farm who carries a suspiciously large bag. He asks William for a job, explaining that he once worked for William’s father and would love to help in anyway he can. Mary and Lazarus strike up a friendship, finding understanding and compassion in one another. Yet, he is not what he seems.

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‘Funan’ Further Proves The Emotional Impact of Animation

In 1975, the Khmer Rouge, Cambodia’s communist party, overthrew the Cambodian government and took over the country, bringing with them four years of genocide. They forced Cambodians into work camps, massacred minority populations, and preached the benefits of communism to justify their violence. Denis Do’s animated film, Funan, tells the story of a family trying to survive and stay together in the face of this fascist regime. Its beautiful animation style and honest, yet non-exploitative, portrayals of violence create a film with raw emotional power.

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Yeo Siew Hua Creates a Dreamy Singaporean Noir in ‘A Land Imagined’

Two officers stand together, smoking cigarettes, and ruminating over Singapore’s land reclamation. As they gaze over the water at the towering metallic behemoths of industry on the horizon, they ruminate on Singapore’s land expansion over 30 years and how it doesn’t seem to be stopping, just like their investigation into two missing migrant workers. One asks why they are even looking for people that no one cares about. Director Yeo Siew Hua uses his latest film, A Land Imagined, to make you care about those that go ignored and those whose disappearances go investigated through a dreamy noir.

This is not the wealthy Singapore we typically see; this is industrial Singapore that is full of migrant workers living in cramped dorms. This is a Singapore that feels akin to the dystopic worlds of Ghost in the Shell or Blade Runner. Police investigator Lok moves through this environment in search of a missing migrant worker, Wang. Wang, injured on a land reclamation site and suffering from insomnia, seeks some kind of relief in an internet cafe, awash in neon colors and full of a cacophony of clacking keys and whirring computer fans. He is searching for connection, for a friend, in a place where he doesn’t know anyone. But his search for friendship goes awry and Lok must try to find out just exactly what’s happening at these work sites.

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