8: South African fairy tale horror film hits Fantasia Fest 2019


Harold Hölscher’s latest film, 8, is a dark fairytale that leaves some of its most exciting ideas unexplored but is still full of sinister frights.

8 is a South African horror film that just made its worldwide debut at Fantasia Fest 2019.  The movie follows a strange man named Lazarus, who is introduced to us by murdering a man in his sickbed. But defining Lazarus as an “evil” man would be far too shallow of a definition.

The exploration of his character and reasoning behind the choices he makes is what forms the ethos of 8. Lazarus is a man fated to collect souls for eternity because of a decision he made years ago.

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After our brief introduction to Lazarus, the camera transitions to William, Sarah, and Mary Zell. They’re returning to an old farm estate William inherited after his father went bankrupt. Mary is their adopted daughter. I’ll take a minute to enthuse over the picturesque landscapes and beautiful scenic shots.

Lazarus is an unexpected addition to the farm. Sarah is initially wary of him, but William needs help getting things running, and Lazarus used to work alongside his father. William decides to trust the man, but he’s one of the few that does. A nearby tribe is also highly mistrustful of Lazarus as he has stolen souls from their small number before.

However, Lazarus and Mary do form a surprising bond with Lazarus becoming more of a paternal figure to her than William is. Their relationship anchors the plot of the movie, although it is Soweto-born Tshamano Sebe, who plays Lazarus, who truly steals each scene.

Harold Hölscher’s 8: A South African Horror from Rock Salt Releasing

Sebe’s performance is exceptionally poignant and moving. The depth and emotional brevity he brings to the character aides in making Lazarus feel like more than a shallow fantasy villain. He is a tortured individual forced to pay for his past sins by taking from others that which he stole from his own daughter.

Harold Hölscher makes his directorial debut with a feature-length film with 8 and proves he has something worthwhile to say. The folksy elements of 8 help add to the horror and the feeling there is a deep, dark terror lurking within the woods.

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Some supernatural elements get shunted to the side in favor of making this movie more palatable for mainstream audiences. I found that aspect disappointing because the film’s roots and folkloric heritage are impressive enough on their own. But beyond that, I sincerely believe 8 is a movie worth your time.

Does 8 sound like a movie you would watch? Let us know in the comments.