What it's about:
Die Ontwaking is based on the first book of the Abel trilogy, (Abel se Ontwaking) (translated into English as The Skin Collector), by well-known crime writer Chris Karsten. Abel's deranged mind is an imaginary composite of the minds of some of the most notorious fictional serial killers, including Norman Bates, Sweeney Todd, Dexter, Leatherface, Freddy Krueger and, Jame Gumb, the serial killer in The Silence of the Lambs, who stalks females and skins them in an attempt to create a female skin suit. The primary inspiration for Abel, however, comes from real-life American murderer and body snatcher Ed Gein. Gein exhumed corpses from local graveyards and fashioned trophies and keepsakes from their bones and skin.
What we thought:
The horror/thriller genre is one that hasn’t been aptly explored in the Afrikaans film industry. Darrell James Roodt’s Die Ballade van Robbie De Wee springs to mind, and that’s about it.
Along comes Die Ontwaking. Based on the book Abel se Ontwaking by Chris Karsten, this directorial debut by Johnny Breedt, an acclaimed production designer, is a total game-changer for the Afrikaans movie industry.
From the cast, the smartly curated music, to the way the story has been turned upside down, this film takes you on an intimate journey into the psyche of a serial killer.
Almost from the get-go the serial killer’s identity is known to the audience, which surprisingly doesn’t take anything away from the story. Abel Lotz, brilliantly played by Gys De Villiers, owns a small gallery specialising in African art and masks. He lives on a smallholding with his mother, who he still chats to every day even though, judging by the dressed corpse on her bed, she’s been dead for quite some time. Abel is awkward and creepy but also highly intelligent. And he just loves killing girls and cutting out their tattooed skin. A definite ‘art’ collector, if you know what I mean.
While the film’s main storyline follows Ella Nesser (Juanita de Villiers), the inexperienced detective who is put in charge of the case to find Abel, sub-storylines showing the personal problems in the lives of the characters contribute to the overall suspense of the film. Ella catches her boyfriend (Armand Aucamp) in the act when she makes an unexpected house visit during work hours; Ella’s boss, played by Paul Eilers, just wants to retire and get out of the detective business and Ella’s partner is not happy about the fact that she’s lead investigator on the case.
Turmoil, turmoil and some more turmoil make for some edge-of-your-seat movie-watching.
The cast is also worth a mention as they gel brilliantly. A star in his own right, Gys De Villiers really nails this role on the head, bringing the creepy, deeply disturbed Abel to life on the screen; this role was made for Gys. You will be afraid, very afraid. And the legendary Paul Eilers is the perfect 60-something, caring, smoker, mentor detective who is always on the brink of retiring.
For thriller lovers this dark, suspenseful look into the psyche of a serial killer will have you at the edge of your seat at every turn.
The film is so to say the ultimate package with a good director, good leading actor, and an all-star cast. Read More »
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If ever there was a reason why no government should ever have the death penalty, Shepherds and Butchers is why – a masterpiece of raw emotional trauma. Read More »
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