Fantasia Festival 2019 Review: 8

South Africa isn’t a country which you’d naturally associate with cinema but it has produced some of the best contemporary African films over the years. The likes of The Wound, Tsotsi, Five Fingers for Marseilles and District 9 showcased the talent which is on offer. Like much of the continent, the indigenous peoples of its most southerly nation are highly superstitious. In his feature debut, 8, Harold Holscher uses local legends as the base for a creepy and disturbing horror film.

After going bankrupt, William (Garth Breytenbach) returns to his family farm which he has inherited. He arrives with his wife Sarah (Inge Beckmann) and their adopted daughter Mary (Keita Luna), who has lived with them following the death of her parents. The inquisitive girl soon forms a bond with Lazarus (Tshamano Sebe), a farmhand who worked for William’s father. However, he has a dark secret which will put the family at risk.

8 is a thrilling mix of fragmented mysticism, eerie folklore and family politics. The cinematography is captivating. David Pienaar conjures up the romanticism and danger of rural African life through a filter of hazy sunshine and creeping shadows. The isolation of the farm is brought starkly to bear on the trio as the threat closes in. 8 is an atmospheric and enthralling mix of traditional terror and modern genre cinema.

8 screens again at Fantasia Festival 2019 on 22 July.  

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