Full disclosure. Horror movies and I don’t always see eye to eye. My first encounter with horror was IT and Carrie – and not the remakes, the originals – and it freaked the bobby socks off my feet. Why? I was too young, too imaginative afterwards and watching it alone. At the age of seven or eight I thought: what if someone appears in the mirror behind me?
And I can’t remember how I ended watching those movies. Something alone the lines of: I was there, someone rented the tape, it was (or I put it) on, and curiosity got the best of me (thank you, Stephen King, there’s a feather for your cap).
Years later, post bobby socks, I watched it again. The scare factor wasn’t the same. The suspense was still there, but the fear I knew was met with familiarity (and a bit of a chuckle).
But to this day I still tend to keep a safe distance from most horror movies. And while being scared of being scared might be a contributing factor, there is also a lack of understanding horror from my part.
With the 15th South African Horrorfest being held in Cape Town at the end of October, I decided to look under the bed of the unknown.
For the thrill of suspense: 2019 South African Horrorfest
Paul Blom and Sonja Ruppersberg are the founders and organisers of the Horrorfest. They are also part of the music collective, Makabra Ensemble, who puts on a live soundtrack. A highlight of note every year.
For the past 15 years Blom and Ruppersberg have been putting this 10-day festival together that draws crowds and die-hard horror fans from all walks of life. They are the brains, blood, sweat and tears behind it all, from keeping the website and social media up to date, finding sponsors and advertisers, handling all the creative artwork (with the help of talented friends) to combing through movie selections and the hundreds of submissions received every year.
And as if that isn’t enough, the duo are also writing music, prepping and performing in the Makabra Ensemble.
“This year we’re debuting the 1921 Swedish film The Phantom Carriage and will include two special music guests – coming down from Gauteng, Sara Eksteen (of the band Polar Dust), and Cape Town stalwart Keaton Anthony (aka DJ Grimehouse and one half of New Hero),” says Paul.
Short films, a dress-up, a literary night, documentaries, classic horror movies and the pre-release screening of Stephen King’s Doctor Sleep, are all on the menu for this year’s Horrorfest. Plus rubbing shoulders with some of the who’s who of the horror industry.
“The makers of The Last Sacrament will be coming down from Joburg this year for the world premiere of their new movie and will chat before with an intro and afterwards with a Q&A,” Paul added, “and we’re awaiting word from American actress Jamie Bernadette who stars in the first direct sequel to I Spit On Your Grave, titled Déjà Vu, whether she’ll be able to attend the screening for an audience chat on the 6th of November.”
Opening Pandora’s Box of Horror
Poster-child for not understanding horror – yet intrigued by it, and curious how some can’t get enough of horror while others cover their faces with blankets in a room a mile away from the room where the movie is being watched – I got a glimpse into this genre.
Paul explains, “In this scenario, for us the foundation of horror is very much solidly set in fiction and entertainment in literature and film. Sometimes you simply need to be transported to another world, be it one of spaceships or vampires. These forays into realms not of this earth and allows for a bit of escapism.
“It is both transportive and cathartic, placing you in a fictional milieu you wouldn’t necessarily ever want to encounter, but want the characters to overcome. You walk away unscathed with a sense of catharsis. No safe word is needed, no real fight for your life – if it gets too much, you simply leave the cinema, stop the Blu-ray player or streaming device, close the book, and move on.”
What is the biggest misconception of horror?
Sonja: “That they are all bad. There are many bad horror movies out there, but there are many gems as well. The genre has moved away from the “video nasties” style, and the horror film has become more refined.”
Paul: “Usually, from a fundamental religious perspective, it can be seen as promulgating evil – which is just plain silly and uninformed. While I cannot speak for all filmmakers and their intentions but if you see horror as being more than thrilling entertainment, well, knock yourself out, it won’t change the minds of those who enjoy it for what it is.”
But can fear in entertainment can be separated from the individual’s morality?
Sonja: “Yes, absolutely, it provides a safe place for catharsis. My personal belief is to be more cautious with younger audiences.”
Paul: “Personally, yes. But everyone has their own psychological make-up, their own demons, their own experiences – no-one wants to relive the trauma they haven’t yet processed. So, just like more extreme music, its creators are not trying to fool you into thinking it is one thing and not the other, or out to corrupt your mortal soul. As adults we can distinguish right from wrong, real from imagined – once this line blurs and you go off the rails because of fictitious images created by artists, it’s time to go see a professional, as the slightest thing could trigger you.”
Horror in the African sphere
While there are a few, like Siembamba and Tokoloshe, we don’t get much in the way of local horror movies and our theatres are inundated with productions from anywhere but here.
So where – and how – does horror fit in the South African landscape?
Sonja: “African horror has always been pertinent, with many stories around witchcraft and the popular Tokoloshe, which was one of our selected feature films last year. I believe the African tradition is rich with stories that need to be told.”
Paul: “The African context has been explored in various scenarios but to a lesser extent, but there is always the danger that it will fall into the cliché of the tribal ritual style. The Tokoloshe is probably the best-known boogeyman in our South African milieu, but I don’t see why cinematic fiction should have to gravitate towards existing cultural phenomena. It will get tapped out. Creativity is unbounded, and writers and filmmakers have made up everything from Jaws and Frankenstein, to Dracula, Freddy Krueger and Michael Myers (and one of the few black cinematic boogeymen, Candyman).
“South Africa should expand its cinema production catalogue to include more than socio-political and hidden camera prank movies. Create something new and unique that makes for a wider range of cinema history to look back on and be proud of. Our history and its pains should not be forgotten, but it shouldn’t be the only focus. The same with indigenous myths. Make use of it to tell a story but remember there are far more than just that.”
What to expect at the 2019 South African Horrorfest
Feast your eyes on fantastic new movies from around the world, some making its debut for the first time in South Africa, at the 2019 South African Horrorfest.
- Watch the serious ones: The Shining and Doctor Sleep. The tongue-in-cheek movies: Clownado and The Velocipastor. And the legendary classic: The Phantom Carriage.
- There will be six hours of renowned global short films across three feature-length collections.
- Get ahead of them all on the 3rd of November and watch the pre-release screening of Stephen King’s Doctor Sleep, five days before its global release.
- Experience the music collective, Makabra Ensemble, with out of this world music in the shape of an amazing live soundtrack score performance to the classic silent film The Phantom Carriage.
- Local and international filmmakers, cast and crew will be attending.
- Watch the four incredible genre-film-linked documentaries:
–Fulci For Fake (first-ever doc on notorious Italian director Lucio Fulci),
–Growing Up With I Spit On Your Grave (first-ever documentary on the 1978 controversial film – screening as double feature with the original film),
–The Magnificent Obsession Of Michael Reeves (based on UK director seen as the forefather of the folk horror, who died at 25), and
–Blood & Flesh (based on B-movie director Al Adamson who was found murdered and buried under his floor).
- Take part in the Rocky Horror Picture Show audience participation screening.
- The Bloody Parchment event pays homage to the scarier side of literature with local authors reading from their work.
- The Horrorfest will end off with a cheesy B-movie with live commentary by comedian Rob van Vuuren & satirist Karen Jeynes.
- There is a Halloween dress-up competition and audience prizes and giveaways from Penguin Random House Books, Mr Lucky’s Cape Town Tattoo, Bathory Cosmetic Co., autographed posters and Blu-ray copies of I Spit On Your Grave Déjà Vu, Love In Vein blood vial kits, Doctor Sleep merch hampers from Empire Ent., filmmaker prizes from the Copyright Slap service and T-shirts from Sad Shirts. The 2019 jury panel includes: Joe Vaz, Sonja Ruppersberg, Ryan Kruger, Marnus Tredoux and Paul Blom.
2019 Horrorfest Line-up
Get ready for the movies and short films of the 2019 Horrorfest between the 29th of October to the 7th of November at the Labia Theatre.
You can find all the info, tickets, trailers and more, online, click here.
29 October 2019
Bloody Parchment free Literature Night.
30 October 2019
(18:15 – 22:00), Labia Theatre: One ticket, two movies: I Spit On Your Grave (1978) + Growing Up With I Spit On Your Grave (documentary).
31 October 2019
(20:30-22:30), Labia Theatre: The Shining (rare cinema screening of this classic on Halloween night).
1 November 2019
(18:15-20:15), Labia Theatre: Shadow Realm Short Films Vol 1.
(20:30-22:30), Labia Theatre: Rocky Horror Picture Show (dress-up and audience participation screening).
2 November 2019
(16:00-18:00), Labia Theatre: Clownado.
(18:15-20:15), Labia Theatre: The Magnificent Obsession of Michael Reeves (Documentary).
(21:00-22:30) The Phantom Carriage (Körkarlen) – Makabra Ensemble Live Soundtrack Performance.
3 November 2019
(16:00-18:00), Labia Theatre: Fulci For Fake (Documentary).
(18:15-20:15), Labia Theatre: Last Sacrament (World Premiere & Filmmakers Attending).
(20:30-22:30), Labia Theatre: Doctor Sleep (advance screening 5 days before the official release).
4 November 2019
(18:15-20:15), Labia Theatre: Deathcamber.
(20:30-22:30), Labia Theatre: Shadow Realm Short Films Vol. 2.
5 November 2019
(18:15-20:15), Labia Theatre: Blood & Flesh: The reel life and ghastly death of Al Adamson.
(20:30-22:30), Labia Theatre: The Velocipastor.
6 November 2019
(18:15-20:15), Labia Theatre: Artik.
(20:30-23:00), Labia Theatre: I Spit On Your Grave Déjà Vu – Africa premiere (awaiting word on star Jamie Bernadette, attending form the USA).
7 November 2019
(18:15-20:15), Labia Theatre: Shadow Realm Short Films Vol. 3.
(20:30-22:30), Labia Theatre: Curse Of The Swamp Creature – B-flick with live comedy commentary by Rob van Vuuren and Karen Jeynes.
You can find all the info, tickets, trailers and more, online, click here.
Keep up with the Horrorfest online
Like the SA Horrorfest Facebook page.
Follow SA Horrorfest on Instagram.
Follow SA Horrorfest on Twitter.
Go watch their videos on YouTube.