Reine Swat makes her feature film directorial debut with The Hex (originally titled Heks, and AKA Her Mask), a South African horror tale involving witch doctors and human evil. The film is rich in atmosphere but it also has some confusing elements.
After witnessing her mother being killed upon her return to her native South Africa, a British Girl (Coco Lloyd as Dilanne) then travels to that country to spend time at her aunt’s (Mary-Anne Barlow) home while trying to unravel the mystery of her mother’s unsolved murder. The aunt’s occupational therapist (Mari Molefe van Heerden) has been sworn to secrecy about a skeleton in the family closet, but believes that Dilanne should be informed. Plagued by weird visions, Dilanne seeks the help of a witch doctor (also van Heerden), and the intrigue begins to slowly build.
The Hex has an eerie look to it, but relies on jump scares and a series of hallucination sequences to jolt. Any atmosphere of dread, therefore, is lessened because of pacing issues caused by those imaginary interruptions. Dilanne’s visions/waking nightmares/dreams occur randomly and once it is revealed that in each such scene there isn’t actually an immediate physical threat to her, the gimmick wears off quickly.
On the upside, The Hex includes some South African folklore elements that are new to audiences outside that country, and it is always refreshing to discover new horror films and themes from other lands. The cast is solid throughout, with Lloyd, Barlow, and van Heerden showing fine chemistry with one another. The supporting cast turns in fine work, too.
The Hex is recommended for adventurous viewers who enjoy discovering new foreign horror, and for folk horror fanatics. Visually impressive and with engaging performances, the film holds some unexpected surprises in its tale of familial suspense.
The Hex, from Cleopatra Entertainment, is available on VOD from December 15, 2020.