Review by Sean Boelman
There has been a recent trend in the genre drifting towards more culturally-specific horror stories. And while Reine Stewart’s directorial debut The Hex offers some interesting ideas and disturbing imagery, more often than not, it fails to make much of an impact due to its disjointed story.
The film follows a grieving young woman who discovers that her mother’s murder may be tied to a curse from a South African witch doctor, sending her on a journey to investigate and discover the secrets it holds. And even though this is an interesting set-up, it’s hard to get invested in the mystery, and so it doesn’t work particularly well in execution.
Many of the pacing issues can be attributed to the fact that the movie can’t seem to decide exactly what it wants the audience to take it to be. At times, the jump scares take over and it becomes generic B-movie schlock, but at other points, it is clear that the film aspires to be a weightier drama with tinges of horror.
The original title of the movie was “Heks”, which translates from Afrikaans into “Witch”. Although that name is just a little bit less generic-sounding than The Hex, it also more accurately points to the script’s focus. Stewart’s film is at its best when it is an exploration of the witch doctors that are a part of the African culture in which it is set.
One of the main shortcomings of the movie is that the character development is so thin. Even though this is supposedly a story about grief, there’s very little emotional investment in the story. Instead, Stewart seems more concerned with providing a few good scares and the occasional bit of thoughtfulness.
Coco Lloyd plays the lead, and being that screaming loudly is basically the only thing she is given to do, she does a decent job. The supporting cast is mostly forgettable simply due to the fact that their roles are written so shallowly and as such, their performances start to blend together along with their characters.
Visually, there are some very strong moments, but also parts that feel almost stagnant in the way they build suspense. A few scenes feature some absolutely horrifying imagery, and others are so dimly lit that it becomes difficult to see the action. It is sadly a film of stark contrasts: something that looks great followed by something that doesn’t, and a scene that is scary followed by a long stretch of dullness.
There is some really interesting stuff happening in The Hex, but audiences will be left wishing that Reine Stewart had gone into more depth in these areas. Instead, we get a mostly conventional and underwhelming B-horror.
The Hex hits VOD on December 15.