A woman in horror can be a virgin, a whore, or a witch. We girl types are that easily categorised because there is really nothing else to us. Witches are evil and not pretty to look at, and if they do happen to be beautiful, it’s only because they’re hiding centuries of warts and ugly stick bruising by drinking the blood of virgins or eating people’s souls. The sad thing is, witches aren’t merely the stuff of mythology and Grimm’s book of rumours, although they are the victims of hundreds of years of bad publicity.
Long before those spin doctors who wrote the Bible came along witches were healing with herbs and being general go to guys, when things were going wrong for their fellow villagers. They were well respected, learned individuals who were from all walks of life and religious belief systems, until, along with their Jewish and Gypsy friends became some of the most persecuted people in the history of the world.
Burnt at the stake, raped, tortured, stoned and drowned, these women and men have suffered some of the worst atrocities in the name of religion, and yet, their apologies, and political recognition is yet to be forthcoming, because they still exist. In modern form, they have a much bigger following, and Neo Pagans can be anything from Christian Witches to atheists, in this more accepting, free spirit of a Western World. Although sadly, the medieval judgements of man are going strong in some countries, and The Burning Times are far from a distant memory, and the people that die with the label of ‘witch’ are never anything more than unlucky people who have done nothing more than sparked the interest or annoyance of a crazy.
In South Africa, Saudi Arabia, and India, to name a few; men, women and even children are being blamed for illness, crop failure, and cattle deaths, to this day, and being murdered at the hands of mob mentality. This isn’t a far away problem that will never touch the lives of modern, techno savvy folk like you and I, for more and more immigrants are moving further West and bringing their long held beliefs and prejudices with them – like the tragic deaths of children in the UK, killed in botched exorcisms or murdered by parents who were blinded by their superstitions in the last few years, such the death of Kirsty Bamu, a 15 year old boy tortured to death in the wake of witchcraft accusations, in the teeming metropolis of London in 2010.
The South African Dust Devil is the story of a woman escaping from an abusive marriage who runs into a mysterious stranger who happens to be using witchcraft to commit ritualistic murders in order to survive. He is a Dust Devil, an ancient shape shifter who possesses the bodies of weak or unfaithful people, until he can return to the other side. An old policeman, with his own personal demons,is on the case, trying to catch the thing he doesn’t believe exists.
This is an excellent, and fairly unknown little nineties horror, Richard Stanley’ supernatural tale is an extremely enjoyable watch. It’s certainly not without its flaws, as it’s very slow moving and the acting is intolerably bad in parts, but the interesting story, incredibly scenery, and the smouldering racial tensions between the white and black characters, in a country still bearing the scars of civil war, really create an eerie intensity that make it such a compelling little film.
I will say that although a good watch, it is extremely heavy with dialogue, so if you happen to be wanting horror lite, I’d wait until you’re brain is completely alert, because it’s more talk less schlock.