The Hex (2020)

One of today’s celebrated stars of South African cinema, Reine Swart, makes her directorial debut on this creepy supernatural thriller.

Dilanne is a London-born bartender who gets a surprise visit from her mother Kelly one night as she closes up for the night. Kelly informs Dilanne that she is going back to South Africa, her homeland. When a few nights later, Dilanne is speaking to her mom on a video call, only to see her murdered before her very eyes. Five months has passed and Dilanne is determined to find out why her mother was murdered.

Upon her arrival, Dilanne sees her aunt Lisa, Kelly’s twin sister and reunites with old friends Bandile, who works in the building where Lisa is staying and Tertius, who is now a doctor. However, Dilanne slowly begins to have visions involving her being in a forest and going through strange occurrences. When she discovers that a witch doctor has placed a curse, she intends to confront the witch doctor to find out why her family has fallen under the curse and if she will be able to stop it once and for all.

With her amazing performance in The Lullaby (Siembamba) and the recently released Triggered, Reine Swart has proven to be one of the great stars in recent days when it comes to South African films. So, what’s next? How about writing and directing a film of a genre she absolutely loves: horror. Her directorial debut is quite a creepy film (intention fully known) that looks like it draws inspiration not only by researching on witch doctors, but also looks like elements of classic horror films including Poltergeist and The Ring if you will.

While Swart herself doesn’t appear in the film, Coco Lloyd is excellent in the role of protagonist Dilanne, who after witnessing her mother being murdered, wants answers. The film makes some good use of its shots in London and its locale of South Africa. There are some small subplots that Swart wisely puts together to craft the film without missing a beat. They include Anitha, played by Mari Molefe van Heerden (who also plays the witch doctor), being hunted in a similar vein to the paranormal expert in the bathroom in Poltergeist, only to find it was an illusion. Another involves Hungani Ndlovu’s Bandile dealing with the return of Dilanne, a close friend and the jealousy of his girlfriend Michelle, played by Stephanie Sandows.

How are the scares? There are some fine-tuned jump scares, the scenes with Anithi in the bathroom are quite cringeworthy, and the finale, which involves various “demons”, including a little girl, a bald headed “vampire” like demon, and a surprise.

The Hex has proven that Reine Swart loves her horror and can be quite the director and writer. I definitely would love to see her do another horror film behind the scenes because this was a really impressive directorial debut. Here’s to hoping lightning can strike twice.

WFG RATING: A

Cleopatra Entertainment presents a Twin Hearts production. Director: Reine Swart. Producer: Mari Molefe van Heerden. Writer: Reine Swart. Cinematography: Marius de Nysschen. Editing: Regardt Botha.

Cast: Coco Lloyd, Mari Molefe van Heerden, Mary-Anne Barlow, Christopher Jaftha, Hungani Ndlovu, Stephanie Sandows, Andre Velts, Juanita de Villiers, Christel van den Bergh.

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