The Soul Collector

01/15/2021 06:35

Film: The Soul Collector

Year: 2019

Director: Harold Holscher

Writer: Harold Holscher and Johannes Ferdinand Van Zyl

Starring: Tshamano Sebe, Inge Beckmann and Keita Luna



This is another movie that I decided to give a go when I was looking through Shudder. It popped up on my radar though when a podcast was going through their 2020 watches and it was mentioned there. I didn’t remember a lot of what they said about it aside from they thought the original title of 8 was better as switching it to The Soul Collector was a bit generic. I’ll get into my thoughts on this a bit later, but the synopsis is an old man, fated to collect souls for eternity, seeks atonement after trading his daughter’s soul.

Now I do think this title is a bit misleading. We see a man in bed and we hear ominous, heavy footsteps. Much later we learn this man’s name is Ziel (Graham Clarke). Lazarus (Tshamano Sebe) comes into his room and puts a bag down. There is something alive in it and Ziel is terrified. Lazarus leaves and Ziel is dead.

The movie then shifts us over a car that has William (Garth Breytenbach) driving and his wife Sarah (Inge Beckmann) sitting next to him. In the backseat is their niece of Mary (Keita Luna). They’re going to pay respects to Mary’s parents as it appears they died in a car crash. Will and Sarah cannot have children of their own, so they took in Mary. They’re going out to the family farm since Will’s father passed away. Through interactions, we see that Mary is bright for her age and has a maturity about her despite still being a child. Sarah is quite overprotective.

The small family goes about settling in when Mary goes into the woods. She encounters Lazarus there. The two of them talk of silkworms and moths. In the end, Mary reveals she is lost and he helps her back to the farm. It upsets Will that she went into the forest and Sarah that she came back with Lazarus. She wants him to leave where Will wants his help as he used to work the farm with his father. This couple tends to bump heads due to how much she worries about things. She does relent and Lazarus is allowed to stay in the shed out back.

He might not be the person they think he is though. The nearby village has an elder of Obara (Chris April). It is believed that Lazarus is a demon that traded his soul to bring his daughter back. It has cursed him and the opening lines of the movie of Lazarus being a wanderer. The village is standoffish when Will goes to meet them, but this could be that he brought Lazarus with them. This man is hiding a secret and it is much more terrifying than this family realizes.

That’s where I want to leave my recap of the movie as that gets you up to speed. Where I want to start here is talking about the lore of this movie. I’ve said recently that I’m a big fan of learning about folklore from other places as it is interesting to me. Even more so if this is something that is based in reality and not just made up for the movie. We get an interesting explanation here that Lazarus lost his daughter, Vuyiswa (Owam Amey), in a fire. In his grief, he trades his soul for that of his daughter’s back. This really is a take on the ‘be careful what you wish for’ story as what he gets isn’t really his daughter. It does play on his emotions and that causes him to make bad decisions.

The original title of this movie as I said in my opening was 8 and it also appears there was subtitle of A South African Horror Story. The 8 does come into play with this, but not necessarily how I thought it would play out. This would have made a better title, but I think just the number makes it hard to find and the subtitle is a bit long. Changing it to The Soul Collector does alert horror fans while also turning off some since it is a bit generic as others have said already.

Being that this is from South Africa and set in 1977, this is interesting. There is a bit of racist undertone with things that happen here which is fitting for the country it are set and its history. Sarah is distrustful of everyone. She doesn’t like Lazarus. I’ll be honest though, I don’t find her racist against him. She is just distrustful of outsiders. The same could be said for the village near this farm. What is interesting there is that they don’t have an issue with Sarah, Mary or William, aside from the fact that they allowing Lazarus to work and stay there. This brings me back to the original point is that I actually don’t think there really is racism here, but distrust of outsiders and misunderstandings that could be taken for this type of hate.

To swing this back around though to the lore, I want to delve a bit more into this demon. I believe that it goes by the name of Uthuli (Eve Maxagazo). It has taken over the body of Vuyiswa when Lazarus made the bargain. This entity eats the souls that Lazarus is collecting. What is interesting here is that we also double down with lore about how human souls can latch on to moths. This is important as we see that when Lazarus is doing what he does, the soul appears as a moth that Uthuli eats. Having Mary love moths and knowing of the folklore of the indigenous people does add an element here as well. I’ll be honest it is these parts that really pulled my interest to what we’re getting.

Moving away from the story, I’ll go next to the acting here. I thought that Sebe was good as Lazarus. What I like about him is that he is a likeable guy while also hiding this horrible plan and doing these terrible deeds. He easily befriends Mary and William, but we see he has other motives. He did lack some emotions for me that were needed for a couple important scenes if I’m going to be honest. Beckmann was really good though as this overprotective mother like character. In the end, she is right about things, which we know while those around her don’t. Luna plays her role of Mary interesting. She is quite stoic that make her seem older than her years, while still being a child. If I have an issue though, it stems from this that she was a bit too wooden. I don’t want to harp too much as she is still a child. Breytenbach, April, Luxolo Ndabedi and the rest rounded this out for what was needed with shout outs to Amey and Maxagazo as being these creatures.

Speaking of which, that is where I’ll go next. I really like what they do with effects on the eyes. When something has lost their soul, their eyes go white. Lazarus’ eyes do as well when he is doing things with the taking of souls. There is also a good glowing effect with Vuyiswa which I did enjoy. It appears that for the most part, they went with practical effects for this movie which works. There might have been a little bit of CGI, but it was really there to just enhance so I don’t have any issues. The cinematography was also well done.

Now in conclusion, that is really all I wanted to delve into. I really enjoyed seeing this folklore from South Africa play out. There is an interesting social commentary about not trusting outsiders and who we should actually trust. The acting was solid for the most part with a few issues here and there. Didn’t really have any problems with the effects and I thought the soundtrack fit for what was needed. This movie is in English while also using more of the dialects from this country which worked for me, especially with rituals. I will say that I did also find this movie to be just a bit slow. Overall though, I still enjoyed it. I’d rate this as an above average movie. Just lacking a little bit for me to go higher, but I still enjoyed what they were doing here.


My Rating: 7 out of 10