Having tackled the post-apocalyptic, technological menace of Hardware, South African writer-director Richard Stanley here returns to his roots with a highly ambitious amalgam of splatter movie, Spaghetti Western and arthouse flick.
On the eve of Namibia's independence from its large neighbour, a mythical shape-shifting, hitchhiking serial killer (Burke) is hunting down those individuals for whom life no longer has meaning, disembowelling them and collecting their digits and souls in an effort to return to the spirit world. At each crime scene he paints a series of mystic symbols using the victim's blood, leaving Ben Mukurob (Mokae), the disillusioned black cop investigating the murders and a man plagued by nightmares of his dead son and divorced wife, to seek the help of Joe Nimemand (John Matshikiza), the half mad/half blind projectionist at the local drive-in cinema, to uncover their demonic significance.
Meanwhile, having walked out on her bullying husband, battered white South African Wendy Robinson (Field) flees across the border, heading towards the near-abandoned mining town of Bethany, picking up Burke en route, unaware that his seductive persona spells death. In direct contrast to Hardware's heady MTV-inspired barrage of sound and vision, Stanley opts here for a series of elaborate, languorous tracking shots, borrowing readily from the work of Sergio Leone, with Burke dressed like Clint Eastwood's Man With No Name, and Simon Boswell's score echoing Ennio Morricone's distinctive Dollars sound.
An audacious, highly stylised, intensely personal piece of filmmaking, this owes as much to the work of Alexandro Jodorowsky as it does to Leone's Once Upon A Time In The West, with Stanley fusing his political and social preoccupations and his interest in dreams, magic and witchcraft to quite mesmerising effect. An instant cult classic.