Chills and thrills: 6 local films that’ll get your heart racing

At dusk their bakkie breaks down on a road of orange dust. They’re 5 kilometers from the Namibian border. They didn’t bother to service their car before taking this long road trip. 1 kilometer back, there’s an abandoned scrap metal yard. The shells of old cars stand derelict and rusted from years of neglect. No need for transport in a place where time is the only progression. A lone prickly pear stands next to a ramshackle house. A light flickers in the window. Defying common sense, the man decides to leave his partner in the car and walk towards the abode as darkness descends. We see a close-up of the door he is about to knock on before the image cuts to a medium shot of his partner, opening the glove compartment and realising they left their passports on the coffee table back home in Durban. 

This is a far as I get with this South African horror film, not because I’m a sissy when it comes to watching, but because this movie doesn’t exist – I made it up. When it comes to local, South Africans tend to love rom-coms, comedy and drama, or let me rather say, that’s the type of genres produced for us to watch. You’d think with our rich folklore and diverse cultures there’d be loads of horror films, but after expanding the genre to include thrillers and asking directors, actors, festival organizers, and even film restoration experts, I’d amassed a list of less than ten notable films in both genres. 

Reasons are many; production costs, guaranteed box-office success, bureaucracy and operating as service industry for the international market. And of course, as the director of the annual Horrorfest at the Labia Paul Blom says, “the genre doesn’t have much history here”. It’s also niche. Regardless of this, I present to you a mixed list of horrors and thrillers that are already available for viewing as well as a few soon-to-be-released features. 

Sleeper’s Wake

The ocean, a forest and a dangerous romance with a troubled older man and an attractive teenager. Sleeper’s Wake is about a man called John Wraith who retreats to a coastal town to come to terms with the loss of his wife and daughter in a fatal car crash. He meets Jackie, in her teens and struggling to overcome the loss of her mother. Sparks fly and emotions collide as they both grapple with their own and each other’s grief. It could have been a passionate drama, but it’s a thriller because there’s something nefarious about their damaging union. Find out more here

Girl From Nowhere

This is what happens when you pick up a hitchhiker in the middle of nowhere. Katherine and Hugh just want to enjoy their mountain getaway but their generosity has dire consequences. IMBD says that hitchhiker Liza “carries a gun and may or may not be the devil herself”. Sounds like the couple are in for an interesting time. Click here for details.

The Last Ones Out

A zombie apocalypse takes place. Henry wakes up wounded and is being hunted. He is in the middle of Africa (surprise!) and there is an otherworldly outbreak. He finds three locals. Together they must traverse the treacherous region to reach safety before the zombies reach them and eat their brains. Click here for more.

Die Ontwaking

This Afrikaans psychological thriller is based on a novel by Chris Karsten. Meet Ella Neser, the lead detective, who’s investigating a spate of murdered women dumped in Cape Town’s northern suburbs. Obviously, the police are under-resourced and Ella has a hard time with the macho men who think she can’t handle job. Obviously, the killer practises taxidermy. Still, it’s awesome to see a local movie in this genre in a familiar setting without hearing American accents associated with the CSI. Read more here.

Blood Tokoloshe

Something is lurking in Orange Farm. Filmed in the Nollywood style, this B grade horror tells the story of Mthunzi who, with the help of a corrupted sangoma, conjured a Tokoloshe that brings him wealth and women at the cost of blood. Tokolshe is “under your bed, waiting to be fed”. Go here for more.

The Hatchet Hour

A lawyer kills her gardener by mistake. In a panic and fearing the negative impact this will have on her career, she calls her best friend to help get rid of the body. That must be a helluva awkward secret for her friend to keep. Greed, ambition, fear and conscience. What’s the true price of loyalty? This thriller hits our cinema screens on the 4th of November. Click here for more.

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