THE SOUL COLLECTOR (2019)
Directed by Harold Hölscher
Written by Harold Hölscher, Johannes Ferdinand Van Zyl
Starring Tshamano Sebe, Inge Beckmann, Keita Luna, Garth Breytenbach, Chris April, Luxolo Ndabedi, Owam Amey, Sindiwe Magona, Graham Clarke, Eve Maxagazo, Andy Crawford, Jac Williams, Andries Brink,
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THE SOUL COLLECTOR is a South African film involving ancient tradition in modern times. One of many things is that it has a white and black cast, but it doesn’t make a big deal about it. In these times when everything must have a social message, it’s nice to see a film that simply tells a good horror story with multi-ethnic characters that doesn’t feel like I’m being preached at.
THE SOUL COLLECTOR follows an old man named Lazarus (Tshamano Sebe) who seems to wander the lands after he lost his wife and child in a tragic accident long ago. William (Garth Breytenbach) and Sarah (Inge Beckmann) move into a farm after they had to claim bankruptcy in the city. In tow is their free sprited foster daughter Mary (Keita Luna), who immediately forms a bond with Lazarus when he wanders onto their farm claiming that he once worked on the farm and is hoping to work their again. William accepts, but Sarah does not trust the weathered man who carries around a knapsack made of leather wherever he goes. Unbeknownst to the family, Lazarus is a medicine man of sorts and inside the knapsack is a monster who devours souls. The ties between Lazarus and the monster run deep and those ties will soon endanger Mary and her family.
THE SOUL COLLECTOR’s pace is rather slow as we get to know the complex personalities of the cast. I think some people might be put off by the pacing as things don’t really heat up until the last half hour, but I found myself riveted to this film once all of the characters true intentions come into play. Tshamano Sebe is amazing as Lazarus, who delivers a complex and storied performance. Breytemnach and Beckmann both give nuanced performances as well as their relationship as husband and wife/father and mother is a complex one. And little Keita Luna is strong in her role as the scampy and inquisitive little Mary.
THE SOUL COLLECTOR is about as far from a Hollywood film as your going to get these days. It involves characters who are all shades of grey rather than simply fashioned as good or bad. William is a well intentioned father, but rather clueless when it comes to making money and taking care of his family. Sarah tries to be a loving wife and mother, but has difficulty connecting with her adoptive daughter and confides in her husband asking why she might feel that way. While Mary is a somewhat innocent child, she is rebellious and disrespectful at times. And Lazarus wants nothing but the best for the family, but literally is carrying a heavy burden that may very well be the death of them. Seeing all of these fantastically multi-textural characters interact is the highlight of THE SOUL COLLECTOR to me as I simply don’t seem to find that so often these days in American films.
Steeped in South African tribal lore about the afterlife, the undead, and the realm inbetween, THE SOUL COLLECTOR is a film that feels well researched and lived in as far as the culture it shows. This one reminded me of Richard Stanley’s DUST DEVIL in a way as it addresses spiritualism and a connection with the earth and afterlife, as well as focuses on a weary wanderer across a vast landscape. The haunting image of Lazarus lugging around the squirming bag across the countryside is a creepy one and this film is filled with little moments that effectively dole out the scares. THE SOUL COLLECTOR is a soft spoken horror film, but one that feels rich with culture, character, and depth.