Stream and scream: 6 South African horror movies to watch online
South Africa’s got the folklore, ancient cultures, spooky film locations and the wherewithal to become a horror powerhouse. The genre works on almost any budget and enables filmmakers to mask darker themes through horror fantasy elements. Since a global horror renaissance is underway, it’s a good time to see what’s happening on the home front with the six local horrors now available to stream.
In one of the best examples of what’s currently possible in South Africa comes the horror movie 8. Director Harold Holscher was prompted to explore some of the beliefs around the passage of a soul after a friend’s death. Getting a clearer understanding of local customs and spirituality, his journey led him to concentrate his efforts on telling the story of 8.
The film follows Lazarus, an old man who’s forced to atone for his daughter by collecting the souls of others. Starting with the typical horror set-up of a family moving into a countryside home, 8 branches out from its Pet Sematary and The Shining roots into something homegrown.
The entertaining horror stars Tshamano Sebe, Inge Beckmann, Garth Breytenbach and introduces young Keita Luna. Sebe’s excellent performance and complex character anchors every moment he’s on-screen in this suspenseful horror. Finely crafted from gliding cinematography to manicured production design, you can sense the extra care and thought that went into the making of this respectable film.
Weaving folklore with the genre’s rich traditions, it manages to overcome its glossy feel and storytelling flaws.
Alistair Orr is a local filmmaker who has made horror his mission. Calling the shots from behind the camera, he takes a holistic approach to his storytelling involved as a screenwriter, producer and editor. Before he directed Indigenous, House on Willow Street and more recently Triggered, the prolific horror filmmaker was at the helm of Rancid.
The story takes place at Gentek Laboratory, where four participants sign up for a medical test with a big paycheck. You could describe Rancid as the Paranormal Activity of zombie movies, blending CCTV and lab test footage into an intense low-budget horror mystery thriller.
This is a shadowy and unsettling medical zombie flick that pushes four strangers, each with their own agenda, beyond breaking point. Set at a heavily guarded medical compound, the test subjects quickly discover they’re not alone. The stylish horror is headlined by Brandon Auret, who’s best known for his recurring roles in Neill Blomkamp’s sci-fi dynasty and highly acclaimed TV drama, Still Breathing. A promising concept, quick-fire edit, intense soundtrack and loads of undead tension drive this gritty and blood-splattered horror.
In South Africa, students celebrate a rite of passage similar to Spring Break called Rage. This is a time when students can shed their uniforms and break loose – free from parents and teachers. Cutting the puppet strings, it’s a celebration of freedom and a daring venture into the realm of adulthood. Set during this debauched holiday, Rage tells the story of a group of reckless teenagers who are picked off one by one in a small coastal village. Attempting to break every rule, the youths witness a disturbing ritual on the beach and unwittingly become the target of the resident crazies.
Directed by Jaco Bouwer and written by Tertius Kapp, this creepy, grisly and stylish teen slasher features an up-and-coming cast in Nicole Fortuin, Jane de Wet and Carel Nel. Taking place in a dusty home with many gloomy secrets, their wild weekend ambitions disintegrate as bodies pile up. Rage is influenced by True Detective, Midsommar and Wolf Creek, channeling stylistic shooting, production and story elements. While far from perfect, it remains a visually-striking, intriguing and entertaining horror.
Gay conversion therapy is a controversial rehabilitation method, which forms the startling entry point for the unsettling local horror Parable. A megalomaniac televangelist summons a demon in his futile attempts to correct a “possessed” girl. Rushing her from a dodgy farmland facility to a safehouse at a private security estate, his devious actions draw unwanted media attention.
When the evil presence uses its host to rally her friends to stage a misguided rescue, they inadvertently trigger her escape and the possibility of a mass suicide.
Parable is directed by Beer Adriaanse and stars Jane de Wet, Thapelo Aphiri, Carla Classen and Michael Richard. This homegrown horror is edgy, taking aim at popular pastoral figures like Angus Buchan and splaying open the contentious issue of church-supported rehabilitation programmes much like Boy Erased does.
It’s a bold, fearless and experimental low-budget horror that mingles the consequences of a pastor’s meddling with demon possession and mind control.
Pinky Pinky is a modest, well-crafted and effective little horror that works on a number of levels.
Horror is immense in its ability to reflect dark realities through metaphor. This is what makes Pinky Pinky quietly powerful as the horror grapples with the dark undertow of sexual violence. It’s no secret that women and children are not safe in our society and Pinky Pinky explores real-life social horrors through a modern take on the urban myth of the nefarious bathroom monster. Reimagined as a resurrected pedophile principal who died in a fire, it’s essentially a South African version of Freddy Krueger.
Set at an all-girls boarding school, Pinky Pinky follows a teenager struggling to overcome the loss of her twin sister and escape a real-life sexual predator. Haunted by her sister, bullied as the new girl and pursued by a shadowy threat, she attempts to overcome her desperate situation by reaching out to a new friend.
Pinky Pinky is directed by Madilakhe Yengo, produced by Roberta Durrant and stars Zazi Kunene and Thandanani Qwabe. Leaning on A Nightmare on Elm Street and dextrously reinventing the local myth to incorporate many heavy social issues, Pinky Pinky is a modest, well-crafted and effective little horror that works on a number of levels.
The boogeyman takes on many shapes and forms in pop culture. Checking under your bed for what goes bump in the night is also the playground of the tokoloshe, a firm favourite when it comes to South African folklore horror. Deemed to be under the control of witch doctors, the creature is believed to be sent to disrupt, torment or even kill. The Tokoloshe journeys with Busi, a young woman trying to make a fresh start in her job as a night shift cleaner at a rundown hospital under the watch of a predatory manager.
Directed by Jerome Pikwane and starring Petronella Tshuma and Dawid Minnaar, The Tokoloshe is an experimental and visually compelling horror. Taking place at a dilapidated hospital in the heart of Johannesburg, it’s got a nightmarish and otherworldly feel.
Using a number of street-smart horror film techniques to create a creepy and moody environment, The Tokoloshe is atmospheric and chilling, stylish and unsettling.