On moving back to the old family farm, William (Garth Breytenbach) and his family start to notice strange happenings. Image: Netflix
On moving back to the old family farm, William (Garth Breytenbach) and his family start to notice strange happenings. Image: Netflix

SA horror movie on family tormented by demons a Netflix hit

By Sam Spiller Time of article published Jul 4, 2020

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Cape Town – A new South African horror production which examines a family tormented by demons has made its global debut.

Directed by Harold Hölscher, the film 8 was released on June 19 and is now available to stream on Netflix.

This is Hölscher’s feature-length debut and stars local actors Garth Breytenbach, Tshamano Sebe, Inge Beckmann and Keita Luna.

“I was a ball of nerves, you just don’t know what to expect dropping your first film and dropping it on Netflix,” said Hölscher. “We were blown away by the responses by people and viewers. 

"We trended number 1 on Twitter and we were number one in Netflix’s local weekend Top 10. The nerves have subsided and I’m very happy for us all.”

The film initially premiered at the third annual Joburg Film Festival in 2019. It tells the story of a family in 1970s South Africa: William, his wife, Sarah, and his niece, Mary. 

"After moving into the old family home in the farmlands, the family come across a wandering man named Lazarus and who later works for them. 

"While Mary easily befriends Lazarus, who suffers guilt from losing his daughter in a fire, the family grow suspicious of him following a series of attacks in the area - and of whatever seems to be hiding in his rucksack.

The central themes of 8 are loss and guilt, said Hölscher, who had a personal experience leading to the creation of the film. “I lost a close friend in a horrific car crash. 

"I had a lot of questions and experienced a lot of guilt. I was exploring ideas about when people die, where does the body reside, where does the spirit reside?

“There’s always one way of seeing it, which is the Christian Western way, which I grew up learning. But then I began researching these ideas in the cultures and traditions of South Africa.”

Hölscher said the traditions displayed in the film were a composition of ideas and rituals in local cultures, especially pertaining to the idea of sangomas and faith healing.

“There is this custom of when a body dies far from the homestead, sometimes the spirit resides at the place of death. It is then up to a healer to travel, to bring the spirit back to the homestead. This is an incredible custom and it’s where the character of Lazarus was born from.”

Hölscher added that he was aware of cultural appropriation and the way in which he depicted cultural practices in the film. “If you watch the film, it doesn’t delve extensively into the traditions of healers,” he said.

“At the core, Lazarus is a man, a father who lost his daughter At its core, I never wanted to make a statement about something like sangomas and the traditions behind it. 

"I wanted to tell a story about a farmer who lost his daughter and how he deals with that guilt. All the characters are dealing with the same amount of guilt and the core of the story is overcoming it.”

Weekend Argus

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