South African feature Parable is all over the place, in the best sense of the term. At times loopy, at other times bitingly satirical, and at still others creepy and unnerving as all get out, director Beer Adriaanse’s film is a blast.
Teenager Esther (Jane de Wet) gets caught by her father in the act of kissing another girl, and he sends her off to a Christian camp where the controversial Reverend Day (Michael Richard) means to “cure” her of her sapphic desires. When Esther proves hard to “cure,” Day proclaims that she is possessed by a demon. The thing is, somewhere along the line, Esther does indeed find herself in the clutches of a diabolical force.
Meanwhile, high schooler Kasper (Jay Hlatshwayo), his drug-dealing buddy Loyd (Danny Meaker), and their friend Lina (Carla Classen) are entering their gated community when Day drives in to hide Esther in one of the houses there. She scratches Kasper, forming a psychic bond between the two teens. Day coerces one of his followers named Julian (Thapelo Aphiri) to help him exorcise Esther. The demon grows ever stronger, eventually possessing mutual people, and the teen protagonists and the would-be exorcists find themselves battling for their lives.
Parable is a delightful mix of Scooby Doo, Where Are You? and a group possession horror film. Beer Adriaanse, who cowrote the screenplay with Jaco Adriaanse, balances the horror and humor with aplomb, although one sequence I found silly almost took me out of the film — though I admit that it may be a big hit with other viewers. As usual, your mileage may vary when it comes to humor. Viewers will know exactly which scene I am talking about when they watch the film, so no spoilers here.
That decision turns out to be (in my opinion) one tiny misstep, because the rest of Parable, including the insane third act when the horror really kicks in and things get unnerving, is a lot of fun. The cast is super, including de Wit doing an outstanding job as the possessed Esther; Richard providing a memorable villainous turn as the cowboy-hat wearing, alcoholic preacher; and Hlatshwayo as a teenager who made a huge mistake with his ex-girlfriend but now finds himself fending off grim death.
Parable is a perfect choice for fear-fare viewers looking for something unusual and amusing from a country that is not yet well known for its horror movie output. Parable is clever and well-made enough to be South Africa’s breakout horror movie if it can find the right distribution.
Parable screened as part of NOLA Horror Film Fest’s virtual version, which ran from September 25th through the 27th.