Castlevania: the game that made it to TV
Ah, Halloween! That spooky day in October that encourages kids to put on masks and loot the neighbourhood. It may be lurking around the corner, but October is all about fancy dress and scary movies, like these three dark gems now streaming on Showmax.
This supernatural horror drama is from the mind of writer-director Ari Aster. Having firm control of the genre, he’s been able to craft a monumental film on the back of dark family secrets. Inspired by the psychological deterioration and dual realities that underpin both Rosemary’s Baby and The Shining, two of the greatest horrors of all time, Aster’s spawned an artful and haunting classic.
Great horrors set the scene with relatable drama and Hereditary takes its time in building dramatic suspense. Toni Collette stars in a career-best performance as a mother desperately trying to keep her family free from the dark forces trying to rip them apart, while Milly Shapiro’s unique look, defining role and unsettling tic make her a figurehead. Peering through doll houses, seeing dysfunction and tragedy as a family curse, Hereditary is a pitch-black film that seeps into your bones.
IMDB rating: 7.3/10
Rotten Tomatoes rating: 89%
Stephen King’s literary horror mystery masterpiece has become synonymous with coulrophobia – the fear of clowns. As if assuming the role of mascot, Pennywise has been preying on viewers for decades with a miniseries adaptation and now a two-part film series. A long-awaited remake and creepy-as-heck trailer helped it become the highest grossing horror of all time. The box office behemoth actually deserves its coveted spot, cutting through the hype with wacky and surreal horror.
Taking inspiration from The Goonies, Stand By Me and more recently Stranger Things, this epic horror is funny, mysterious and unsettling. Journeying with a gang of wide-eyed kids in the small town of Derry, reliving the nostalgic 80s and burying the charismatic Pennywise in folklore, it’s a rollicking roller-coaster of a horror. It is anchored by a terrific young cast and an inspired substitute for Tim Curry in Bill Skarsgard. While IT director Andy Muschietti has a Spielberg crush, the chilling storytelling is gripping, festering in its own grim atmosphere.
IMDB rating: 7.4/10
Rotten Tomatoes rating: 86%
“Focussed intensity, harrowing psychological drama and nightmarish flair”
Named after an old Afrikaans folklore song, Siembamba was deemed too disturbing to be screened in mainstream cinemas. The South African horror/drama/thriller follows a teenage girl in the grips of postpartum depression who returns home with her new baby. Battling with her mother, her psychiatrist and her new role as a young mom, she sees dark visions rising to the surface. It’s a blend of Black Swan, The Babadook and Sinister, spiralling into focussed intensity, harrowing psychological drama and nightmarish flair.
Siembamba stars up-and-coming talent Reine Swart, whose gutsy all-or-nothing attitude sets the tone for this disturbing horror. Dying her hair and accentuating her features to make her look like a doll, she gives a bold and fearless performance. While Oscar-nominated director Darryl Roodt will forever be known for the heartbreaking drama Yesterday, this is his best horror to date. Dark, intense, ghastly and stylish, Siembamba will leave you jagged.