What would you do to survive if your life was in the hands of one of the most grotesque serial killers imaginable? This question is at the heart of The Unforgiving, South Africa’s first home-grown splatter film which releases at cinemas nationwide on 20 August.
The Unforgiving tells the story of Rex Dobson (Ryan Macquet) and Alice Edmonds (Claire Opperman) two young people who find themselves stranded alongside the R106, a freeway just outside Johannesburg. While waiting for help, they are abducted by a masked madman who does unthinkable things to them. Both survive, but wish they hadn’t. As their stories unfold, it is clear that the truth of what happened that fateful day is far worse than anyone could imagine.
The film is directed by Alastair Orr, a 25-year-old who has worked on numerous award winning music videos, television shows, films and high-end commercials.
“This is my first feature film debut and it’s inspired by the early work of Chris Nolan and splatter pack graduates Eli Roth and James Wan,” says Orr. “As a filmmaker you can only make what you enjoy and then hope that other people enjoy it too. I really love this genre. It allows you to work with minimal cast and crew, and tons of blood.”
In typical splatter film style, The Unforgiving deliberately focuses on graphic portrayals of gore and violence. Investigating the crime is Detective James Hirsch (Michael Thompson), a police officer who is used to doing things his own way. The two survivors, Rex and Alice,
are thrown into separate interrogation cells and Hirsch questions them relentlessly about the details surrounding the events they describe.
What follows is a brutal account of what happened to the two survivors. Told in an unconventional narrative structure, The Unforgiving tosses and turns between points of view and characters as the film builds to its horrifying climax.
As Hirsch tries to figure out the events of what happened that day, different truths emerge. Is Alice’s morphine addiction hampering her perspective? Is Rex hiding something behind his cocky yet traumatised exterior? Has the search for the killer become too personal for Hirsch?
“When you make a film like The Unforgiving, you can really experiment with the camera shots and sound and score,” says Orr.
“There are no limits in a film like this and that freedom is what I love. Also, something like this hasn’t been done in South Africa before, so there’s nothing to compare it to. Starting with a clean slate means you get to set the rules.”
“The Unforgiving is a relentless investigation of suffering, murder and corruption told from a variety of points of view,” says Helen Kuun, CEO of Indigenous Film Distribution, the company that is distributing the film in South Africa. “It’s an exciting foray into a genre that is new for local filmmakers, but one that is hugely popular with audiences all over the world.”
Kuun refers to Saw, made for $1,2 million, which grossed over $100 million worldwide, while Hostel, which cost less than $5 million to produce, grossed over $80 million.