Monday, November 20, 2023

Parable: an eclectic South African horror gem

Greetings, commies!

Halloween doesn't have to be over. It can last throughout the holiday season. In fact, sometimes you need horror movies to keep you sane through all the nauseating cheer. South Africa is not necessarily a destination you associate with horror films. It's not even on the map of mainstream horror. Naturally, I was curious when Prime suggested "Parable" (2020). When you see a movie set in South Africa, you can expect racial tension to be the central focus. Well, in this case the focus is on religion. In addition to being ethnically diverse and conflicted, South Africa is home to a variety of religious beliefs and practices. Catholic mysticism, demonology, evangelism and paganism come together in this bizarre horror piece. 

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.

My thoughts: 
When the image of a homophobic preacher running a conversion camp surfaces, it's very tempting to roll your eyes and give up on the movie. Please, do not be so hasty to give up. When a stereotype is that much in your face, there is a twist. There's a catch. There is more to the flat carboard villain that meets the eye. There's more to the perceived victim. 

Traditionally, the concept of demonic possession has been portrayed as a deeply individual disaster. A human being being 1:1 with a demonic force. "Parable" takes a slightly different approach and shows that sometimes it takes a village to hunt a demon - or succumb to one. 

The film also touches upon the concept of subdued male sexuality. One of the characters, an African youth, presumably privileged (based on the size of the house he lives in) struggles with veiled accusations of sexual assault. He may or may not remember assaulting his girlfriend at a party, while both were intoxicated. With the possibility of rape charges hanging over his head, he becomes a prime target for the demon, who lures him in with promise of validation and gratification. 

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