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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Halloween Horrors: The Psychosexual Terror of ‘The Untamed’

It’s Halloween month, arguably the best time of the year. As the leaves change to orange and a chill enters the air, it’s the perfect time to curl up with the lights off and watch your favorite horror movies, from Halloween to Trick’r’Treat. But this year, I’m challenging you to sprinkle something new into your Halloween watchlist. This month, I’ll be providing horror film recommendations for films that are by non-American filmmakers that haven’t received much critical attention. My first recommendation comes from Mexican filmmaker, Amat Escalante, with his 2016 sci-fi-horror film, The Untamed, or La región salvaje.

The Untamed follows three characters: Alejandra (Ruth Ramos), her husband, Ángel (Jesús Meza), and her brother, Fabián (Eden Villavicencio). Alejandra and Ángel are deeply unsatisfied with their marriage, one that has been built on necessity and secrets. They are short with each other and their sex life leaves something to be desired. An air of dissatisfaction permeates this film: dissatisfaction with relationships, with heteronormativity, with their ‘assigned’ roles in the household. But these dynamics are interrupted when a mysterious woman named Verónica (Simone Bucio) comes into the picture. She knows about something, something not from this world that can bring ultimate pleasure to anyone. The premise sounds like something out of a campy, 1980s B-horror film. But the attention to cinematography and the sympathy created for its characters make The Untamed something special and something truly odd.

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