Tuesday, 1 May 2018

Dead By Dawn 2018: Siembamba AKA The Lullaby (2017)

On the one hand, Siembamba is a solid horror movie that takes the fears of new motherhood and compounds them with nightmarish visions that may or may not have a spectral foot in the real world. On the other hand, inspired by some rather unpleasant moments from South African history, and a lullaby with the most disturbing lyrics you will ever hear, it's a good film that could easily have been turned into something great.

Reine Swart stars as Chloe, the new parent who ends up having to share a house again with her mother, Ruby (played by Thandi Puren). It's obvious that the two have a strained relationship, but both hope to make progress, with their time together and separate consultations with Dr. Timothy Reed (Brandon Auret). Sadly, Chloe is feeling more strain than most new parents, having visions that frighten her and may well lead to her causing harm to her own baby.

Swart and Puren both do great work in their lead roles, and Auret interestingly wavers between professional and creepy with his performance. The only other main character is a young man played by Deànré Reiners, someone who once had a relationship with Swart's character and seems to still have feelings for her now that he sees her back at home.

Director Darrell Roodt has quite the eclectic filmography to browse through, and the past few years have seen him enjoying pairing up with writer Tarryn-Tanille Prinsloo (who was also responsible for the script here), but the end result here is very much the end result of a talented director being held back by a script that lacks confidence and focus. There are a number of scares that are very well executed, and things build nicely towards a finale, but the third act never rises up to become as good as it could be. We instead get an entirely predictable reveal and a number of very unsatisfying character developments.

A decent watch for horror fans who can handle their genre films feeling a bit fractured and incomplete, Siembamba shows how important the script can be to a talented group of cast and crew members. All of the blame lies with Prinsloo, so maybe she can give herself some more time on future projects to tweak and hone her work.


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