WHAT IT'S ABOUT:
While trying an extreme form of conversion therapy, a preacher summons an evil demon - one that's intent on triggering a mass suicide. The pastor must keep the demon contained - but there's a posse coming to set it free.
WHAT WE THOUGHT:
“When a famous lay reverend accidentally conjures a demonic spirit while trying to ‘cure’ a lesbian teenage girl at a gay conversion camp, he tries to hide his mistake in a church house deep within a security complex.”
That plot description alone should immediately make you want to watch one of Showmax’s new local horrors - Parable. As wild as it sounds, it doesn’t even cover the rollercoaster journey you go on in this movie - with a surprisingly cut-throat message about toxic masculinity. In Hollywood, the horror genre has been transformed by women protagonists taking back their power, no longer reduced to just playing the role of a helpless victim. This trend seems to be taking root in South African horror cinema as well - and we’re all the better for it.
A parable is a story that aims to impart a lesson on its readers - and this one has a very important one to teach. In the movie, the villain is not really the villain. The boys and men in the movie use their power in a patriarchal society to forcefully impose their ideas of a woman’s sexuality onto others - one a lesbian and the other a girlfriend. These characters with their toxic masculinity are willfully blind to the motivations behind their actions, unwilling to believe that they are the villains themselves. Their actions come back to haunt in them in the form of a vengeful demon, and while it doesn’t have any qualms over innocent parties getting hurt in its rampage, it still represents a certain fury that women in South Africa know all too well.
The cast is filled out with an exciting young group of actors, helmed by The Girl from St Agnes breakout star Jane de Wet. Others include Fleur du Cap winner Michael Richard (Still Breathing, Disgrace) as the egomaniacal Reverand Day, newcomer Jay Hlatshwayo as Kasper - a teenage boy with a tarnished reputation - Carla Classen (Stroomop, Fiela Se Kind) and Danny Meaker as Kasper’s best friends and Thapelo Aphiri (Scandal!) as Julian - an unwilling accomplice in the reverend’s schemes.
And don’t forget the security guard - the valiant hero of comic relief.
While it’s a fun watch, Parable does sometimes try to too hard, incorporating maybe too many horror elements all at once. It got encumbered by the load, and you can see the plot shake a little bit, especially at the end. Something felt unpolished and rushed in the execution of the big climax, and a little more time could have been spent to hold that final minute in the minds of the audience.
Parable, alongside other Showmax horror Rage, has come out at the right time in South Africa. Any other time, it might have disappeared among the drama of Bachelor SA or international sensations like Tiger King - but in lockdown, people are willing - and bored enough - to expand their watching pleasures to different kinds of entertainment offerings. And it might just be the start of something terrifyingly different for South African cinema.
WATCH THE TRAILER HERE: