By JOSHUA “PROMETHEUS” SCAFIDI
In the final entry of our interviews in honor of Women in Horror Month, we had the opportunity to chat with South African actress Reine Swart! Reine writes, directs, and produces films within the horror genre, and talked with us about the importance of this month, how differently horror is perceived in South Africa, and more!
I want to talk about Women in Horror Month, but first, can you tell us a little about yourself?
Yeah, sure! I’m a South African filmmaker. I’ve been living in the states for about four years. Went from Portland, Oregon to Los Angeles and it feels like completely different countries in each state. So, that’s been really exciting. I’ve been in the film industry for the past ten years. I’ve mainly worked as an actor and then I started working behind the scenes doing storyboards.
How did you get into acting and film?
Originally, I did acting as a subject in school. Then I started professionally after high school. I came to America; I feel that is where cinema was born, and I wanted to see what it’s like here. Then I went back to South Africa again and did a bunch of workshops. I auditioned for a TV show and got that role. I worked there for a year. I feel that doing that workshop really taught me. I had no idea that you had to have an agent and all that. Filmmaking is not that big in South Africa. It was all so new to me. Obviously, I knew of agents but had no idea how to get one or to get headshots. It was all so confusing.
You’ve been in a good handful of horror films. What attracts you to the genre? Are you a fan of horror?
Yeah. I’m the only one in my family who watches them, so I always watch them alone. I like horror films that are supernatural. Something that takes you away from reality. You can just be in this surreal world for a moment. I’ve enjoyed horror films for a long time. Working [in horror] is fun. It’s amazing. All that blood, and screaming, it’s just exciting! Watching it can be scary, but making it is so much fun.
What does Women in Horror Month mean to you?
I think it’s really great that everyone gets highlighted, and the spotlight is on women. There’s a lot of female icons [in horror]. There’s a lot of males, too! I’m not saying anyone is special, but for me, I think there is a big highlight over the last few years on women directors and writers, not just women actors. It’s great to be a part of the film industry, even though I’m one of many fish in the pond.
Now you write, produce and direct, as well as act. Do you prefer to be in front of, or behind the camera?
It started out with acting for me, so that was a big thing for me, but I always knew that I wanted to go behind the scenes. I think it was really positive, personally. For me, as a director, I can understand where the actors are at. Producing is something I feel that if you’re an independent filmmaker, you don’t really have a choice. You have to make things happen, and that’s how you start out. At this moment in my career, I’d have to say I prefer behind the scenes. I really love it. I’m working on a script now with someone. Acting is also so much fun too, though.
You’ve been in films and TV shows on a few different continents. What would you say the major regional differences are when trying to get a film made?
I would say, on the broader spectrum, it’s all kind of the same. Everyone learns from each other. In South Africa, we have a lot of American shows that come and shoot there. So, we learned a lot from the Americans. The same with the British. We all do it the same way, but I would say the budgets I have worked with are a lot smaller in South Africa. Another difference would be language. We speak mostly Afrikaans in South Africa. That’s my home language. At the end of the day though, film is a universal language, and we all do it pretty much the same.
Horror used to be considered a career killer in the States. Does it come with the same baggage in South Africa?
So, The Lullaby was a film that I was in a few years back in 2017. To be honest, the Afrikaans community that I grew up in are not horror fans at all. They think it is, like, the worst thing. A lot of people were judgmental when we made it, but I thought it was a great opportunity. It was something different that Afrikaans people maybe hadn’t seen before.
Women are a huge part of the horror genre’s success, so much so that we’ve coined the term “final girl.” Why do you think women are so key to horror?
Final girl, I love that term. I think what’s empowering about it is that usually in films there’s the damsel in distress and everything. With the heroine that survives until the end, she wasn’t the likely character to survive. So, it empowers women and girls all over the world. I think that’s very important for girls to know: You can be the hero. You can be the strong one in the film. I think it’s a good message for young women all over the world.
I totally agree. Did you have a favorite final girl growing up?
I loved Samara in The Ring! I know she’s bad, but she survived. She might not be a final girl, but I liked her. Halloween is a great example, with Laurie Strode. The latest one was great, too! Jamie [Lee Curtis] is a great example.
I attribute a lot of what a final girl is to her performance in that film. She played it like the girl next door. She wasn’t the cheerleader or some sex object. She was just a babysitter trying to survive – and she did! Jamie Lee Curtis is a legend, absolutely.
Agreed! I think that did branch out and a lot of films took inspiration from that.
When performing in the horror genre, sometimes you have to go to some really dark places mentally. How do you unwind after a tough shoot?
Even with all the fun and games, the hard scenes can be really hard. I do it with a comedy film or something. Or, just spending time with family and not thinking about it. Sometimes you can really take it seriously, especially in my first horror movie. I was so tired. It was like thirteen hours of crying and screaming and just physically I was so drained. I took a quick break after that. I didn’t think that was healthy for me. Definitely look out for yourself, watch a funny movie, get some rest. The basics.
Some balance, right?
Yes! Especially if you’ve shot for three to four weeks and you haven’t really slept. Take a break! Take a week off. You really need it.
Was there any single movie that scared you growing up?
Yeah, The Shining was shocking. It was just so bizarre. As a child, I was really scared of Edward Scissorhands, not really a horror, but he was so scary. I know he was sweet, I watched it again when I was older. The one that traumatized me now, in my adulthood, was Vivarium. That was creepy. I was like ugh…
It wasn’t scary, per se, but it was unsettling for sure.
Exactly! Even though it wasn’t scary, there were no jump scares or anything, it just didn’t make me feel good. That one made me feel so weird!
If you could give any piece of advice to women looking to break into the horror genre, what would it be?
I think it’s a great idea, especially if you don’t know where to start, to make short films. Experiment with that. There’s a lot of film festivals and I think creating your own stuff really empowers you. No one can take that away from you or say no you won’t get the role if you write it with your friends. There are Facebook groups where post auditions. Do your homework and go on there, and a lot of people will say no, but keep at it! There’s a place for you in the industry!
What are you working on next?
I’m working on another horror film. Hopefully, you’ll see it next year and I can tell you more about it soon! Thank you for taking the time to speak with me!
Absolutely! Thank you for your time, Reine! It’s been a pleasure!
You can see Reine in the films Triggered, Lullaby, Hex and many more! Don’t forget to stop by the official Women in Horror Month website!