Toronto After Dark brings us a tale out of South Africa tonight with 8. Marrying the feel of a haunted house tale with the legends and myths of the tribes of South Africa this film plays almost as a gentle tale, and while light on real scares, there are some character moments that resonate and stand out for me.
Young, orphaned Mary (Keita Luna) is traveling to the her mother’s old family home with her uncle, William (Garth Breytenbach) and Aunt Sarah (Inge Beckmann). Settling in they are confronted with the presence of Lazarus (Tshamano Sebe), who claims he used to work the estate for William’s father.
Lazarus has a secret, of course (in a big bag), and though the neighboring village warns William away, the family remains oblivious. Except for Sarah, but because of her character, even when she’s voicing very real concerns the others won’t believe her, as she is just so bitter.
A friendship strikes up between Mary and Lazarus, and it is here that more is revealed to the audience as we learn that Lazarus is a good man trapped into doing evil things because of love.
And that is the kind of character I like, one who knows he’s doing wrong but has to do it anyway out of some remnant or fossil of love. There is an identifiable pain in Sebe’s performance, especially as he interacts with Mary and the contents of his bag, which is where the real horror, and few jump scares, comes from in the film.
It’s almost a gentle terror, low on gore and scares, and more a told around the campfire story. The film features some subtle makeup and creature effects which play out, and fit in brilliantly, and while the ending is a touch predictable, the locations and performances and arcs leading up to it make up for the lack of surprise at the end.
This film highlights, wonderfully, one of the things I love most about the Toronto After Dark film festival, it brings genre films from around the globe to my local theater. Films I may never have heard of or seen, and enjoying it with an audience who wants the same experience as I do.
So grab your tickets while you can, and perhaps I’ll see you After Dark!