fans of international horror already know that Shudder is the best streamer when it comes to recent genre movies from other countries, and its Indonesian selection is particularly robust. One area that could use more entries, however, is africa horrorwith the New version Salum make a powerful case for the cause.
In his first scenes, Salum has a style that roars like a flashy 90s action movie – stills to introduce the different characters etc. – courtesy of Congolese director Jean Luc Herbulot, who also wrote the screenplay for a story co-written with Pamala Diop. But it also mixes heavy foreshadowing throughout this rapid-fire exposition, with a narrator letting us know that a quest for revenge will interrupt the adventures of the “hyenas of Bangui,” a trio of mercenaries who get rid of Guinea-Bissau in the aftermath of the 2003 military coup, taking with them their client (a drug lord) and a sizable amount of stolen gold.
When they realize their plane has been damaged and will not reach their intended destination of Dakar, Senegal, they land in the remote Sine-Saloum region. Here the pace slows and gets slower, with landscape shots letting us know how far from any population center we’ve travelled. “I’ve spent enough time in the Saloum to know I don’t want to stay here very long,” Chaka (Yann Gael) mutters as he and Rafa (Roger Sallah) find a temporary hiding place for their loot, then leave with it. his compatriot Hyena Midnight (Mentor Ba) and passenger Félix (Renaud Farah) searching for fuel, supplies and a temporary hideout.
Gold, however, is nothing but a MacGuffin – and their arrival in the swampy Sine-Saloum is no accident. “And that’s where it all started,” our narrator teases, as the men head to a summer camp that Chaka remembers from his childhood. Flashbacks hint at other things Chaka has carried with him since childhood; we won’t go into details here, but the fact that he hides devastating secrets from his fellow hyenas, who are like brothers to him, becomes a major issue. “What you hide will kill us,” warns Midnight, the most mystical of the trio, who has had alarming premonitions of danger. However they do their best to blend in with the other guests at the camp run by Omar (Galiam Bruno Henry) – who has a very down-to-earth approach to doing business, insisting that everyone does chores and good deeds rather than offering payment – it is soon apparent that some other visitors know who the hyenas are, with their own specific reasons for hunting them down.
The tension mounts as one would expect, and you can’t help but cheer on the outlaws, Chaka in particular once we learn what he’s up to. But Salum isn’t just an action thriller – there are supernatural monsters on foot, and the way they tie into Chaka’s story is truly surprising, drawing on local folklore which is unfortunately explained a bit too much quickly for unfamiliar viewers to fully understand, but with visuals that make its deadly fallout absolutely crystal clear. Running just over 80 minutes, with no unnecessary scenes interfering with how it places the puzzle pieces of its plot, SalumThe unique framework of is really what makes it work. We’ve seen “badass anti-heroes making their way out of a small town” dozens of times, but never under the real alarming circumstances that this film evokes.
Salum now playing in select theaters, with more to come; you can also catch it streaming on Shudder starting September 8.
Want more io9 news? Find out when to wait for the last wonder and star wars versions, what’s next for the DC Universe in Film and TVand everything you need to know about Dragon House and The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power.