10 African Horror Films to Watch This Halloween
From the long-held myth of the tokoloshe to the real-life trauma of domestic workers, these African takes on the horror genre bring terror and fear to the screen.
It is spooky season once again, and what better way is there to get into the mood than by watching a scary movie -- or ten. To help you narrow down some of your choices, we've compiled a list of the creepiest African titles to help get your thrills on.
From South African myths to pandemic adjacent eco-warnings, these 10 films should help get you through Halloween.
8: A South African Horror Story (2019)
Also known as The Soul Collector, or just 8, depending on which side of the world you are watching from. Rooted in folklore and mythology, 8, revolves around an elderly sangoma who is fated to collect souls for eternity. Seeking atonement after trading his daughter's soul, he comes in contact with a trusting family looking for a fresh start. Harold Hölscher directs this period piece that delivers potent chills but also looks to interrogate how people process guilt, and the aftereffects of the grieving process.
Where to watch: YouTube
Gaia (South Africa, 2021)
A trippy ecological cautionary tale, Gaia broke through last year at the South by Southwest (SXSW) festival where director of photography Jorrie van der Walt scooped the Zeiss Cinematography Award. Directed by Jaco Bouwer, Gaia tracks an injured forest ranger, Gabi (Monique Rockman) who, on a routine mission, is rescued by two off-the-grid survivalists. What starts out as a timely rescue soon grows into a hellish nightmare for Marie as she observes a cultish devotion to the forest among her hosts. Meanwhile, the cabin is also being attacked by a strange presence.
Where to watch: Hulu, Showmax
Good Madam (Mlungu Wam) (South Africa, 2022)
A young woman, Tsidi (Chumisa Cosa), together with her young daughter, temporarily moves into the Cape Town mansion where her mother, Mavis (Nosipho Mtebe), has worked as a domestic servant for decades. Upon arrival, Tsidi is upset to find that her mom remains slavishly devoted to her now infirm boss. Tsidi is also disturbed by the house itself, haunted by noises and visions that make no sense to her. Are they real or imagined? Director Jenna Bass deploys deft sound design, strong pacing and generous social commentary to make a case for the banality of evil.
Where to watch: Shudder
Juju Stories (Nigeria/France, 2021)
For their latest trick, the Surreal 16 Collective - made up of the trio Michael Omonua, Abba Makama and CJ Obasi tackle popular Nigerian folklore, adding a deliciously evil bent. The three-part anthology Juju Stories sees the casts spin widely held beliefs, myths and superstitions into real life cautionary tales. What happens when a desperate woman turns to supernatural tricks to keep her dream man? Everyone knows not to pick up money you didn’t drop from the ground but what happens when you do? And what does a naïve college student do when she suspects her roommate is a witch? Juju Stories has the answers.
Where to watch: Amazon Prime Video
Kati Kati (Kenya/Germany, 2016)
More spiritual than scary, KatiKati, the debut feature by Mbithi Masya is a finely imagined take on the afterlife. The film’s protagonist, Kaleche (Nyokabi Gethaiga), confused and not at all oriented, stumbles upon a safari lodge where a motley crew of people inform her that they are all dead and trapped in a sort of limbo state. Produced by Tom Tykwer, KatiKati - Swahili for in-between - has many things on its mind, one of which is a culturally specific yet universal allegory. What would it look like if a country like Kenya was made to confront the many ways it has failed its people?
Where to watch: AfroLandTV, Plex, Amazon Prime Video
Living in Bondage: Breaking Free (Nigeria, 2019)
This 2019 reimagined sequel of the film that is widely credited to have kickstarted the Nollywood boom pulls away from the genre elements when it should have leaned in further. But that doesn’t mean that it makes for less exciting viewing. Decades after the events of the original Living in Bondage - in which the greedy protagonist is haunted by the ghost of the wife he murdered - a young man (Jide Kene Achufusi) travels to Lagos with the hopes of making it big. How far is he prepared to go in order to grab the seductive world of wealth and privilege that is dangled before him?
Where to watch: Netflix
Nevanji (Zimbabwe, 2021)
In Nevanji, the debut feature effort by Tafadzwa Ranganai, the parents of a terminally ill 10-year-old child are desperate to find a cure and turn to good old traditional medicine. This ends in tears - and screams - as the child is promptly possessed by a spirit presence. Nevanji plays on the tensions that exist between modern medicine and faith-based healing, and seems to take sides with its depiction of traditional medicine. Despite the obvious limitations and limited resources, Ranganai delivers a modestly effective chiller.
Where to watch: AfroLand TV
Saloum (Senegal, 2021)
This surprise smash from Congolese director Jean Luc Herbulot is a mad-cap fever dream of a film that works as a thrilling exercise in genre-bending. During its slim running time (80 minutes), Saloum manages to feel like a gangster drama, an action thriller, a horror show and a bloody spaghetti western all at once. Saloum follows the Bangui’s Hyenas, three notorious mercenaries who crash land in the mystical Sine-Saloum region in Senegal. In this realm - a sort of swamp adjacent wasteland - the supernatural and the criminal coexist quite nicely, and one or the other is determined to get the protagonists.
Where to watch: Shudder
The Lullaby (Siembamba) (South Africa, 2017)
South African actress Reine Swart turns in an effectively haunted performance in this maternal horror story, directed by veteran Darrell Roodt (Sarafina). Swart is Chloe, a new mother who navigates frightening visions of a cloaked figure while dealing with thoughts of infanticide and self-mutilation. Chloe seeks help from a psychiatrist to uncover the role her visions play in a century-old narrative. The title of the film draws from a nursery rhyme that harkens back to the Anglo-Boer war, during which a group of Boer mothers raped by British soldiers, murdered their illegitimate children to protest their oppression
Where to watch: Pluto, Amazon Prime Video
The Tokoloshe (South Africa, 2018)
The tokoloshe myth is a mainstay of Zulu culture, and has been the source of many a childhood haunting story. With this 2018 film, Jerome Pikwane attempts a reimagination of the tokoloshe story, updating it to fit into more contemporary realities. Hint: Men are bad. Busi (Petronella Tshuma) is a homeless woman working as a cleaner at a hospital where she puts up with a horrible boss. At work, Busi comes across a young girl who she believes is tormented by a supernatural being - a tokoloshe. To save the child from this ruthless monster, Busi will have to face up to her own inner demons.
Where to watch: Tubi, Amazon Prime Video, Google Play
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