South African film director, Henk Pretorius, thought he had achieved one of his life goals when his latest movie secured cinema deals in the US and UK.

“This is my eleventh feature film - I felt like I had arrived,” he said.

“And then the pandemic happened and overnight we lost the cinema deal. The distributor said we love your film and we want it to go out digitally – do you still want to go ahead?

His is the story of many struggling creatives, whose dreams have been hard hit by coronavirus.

But Mr Pretorius is refusing to let the knock slow him down.

“We could hold back, but it’s not Tenet. I’m not Christopher Nolan yet. I didn’t know if I would have that backing again the future.”

His latest film The Unfamiliar was released digitally on 21 August in the US and will debut on 11 September in the UK.

But Turkey, Vietnam, Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands will still screen the film in cinemas from November.

The South African actor, writer and director is excited about sharing his first horror movie, which is a world away from the teen comedies, romcoms and TV series he has previously worked on

“It was a massive challenge to do something I’m not accustomed to.

“When researching I could barely watch the DVDs and got all these nightmares, but then I saw the thematic resonance. Horror films are just films trying to find the light in the darker world.”

The plot follows British army doctor, Izzy Cormack, who returns from the war in Afghanistan only to be haunted by strange goings-on at home.

Her husband attributes it to PTSD, but the film ventures into ancient Hawaiian mythology, as Cormack battles to save her family.

Your Local Guardian:

“It’s a horror mystery that leaves you breadcrumbs to decipher the entire story. It guides and misguides the audience towards the conclusion.

“It’s not a film that’s one thing or another,” said Mr Pretorius, who has worked on the film for the last five years, with Putney-based director Llewelynn Greeff.

Together, they created Dark Matter Studios, which produced the film independently in the UK.

Apart from the establishing shots most of The Unfamiliar was filmed in Kent, in a studio filled with truckloads of plants.

Your Local Guardian:

Having grown up in South Africa, where he established his career first as an actor, and then making award winning Afrikaans films, it is a far cry from the exotic scenery Mr Pretorius is used to.

But the 37-year-old insists that for the time being, he is happy to call England his home.

When asked why he chose leafy Twickenham to live, Mr Pretorius said it was simple.

“Do you know Bryan Habana? One of the most amazing rugby players ever to live,” he asked.

“Bryan Habana was playing at Twickenham Stadium once and he “skered” someone when he scored a try.”

Mr Pretorius explained that “skered” is a hand-sign meaning “cool”, which was popularised by one of his first Afrikaans films Bakgat!

“And because he skered someone I’ve always remembered the word Twickenham. I’ve done loads of films, but I’ve never had so many congratulatory text messages from friends as on that day.”

“So, when I landed in the UK I just went straight to Twickenham.”

Your Local Guardian:

Henk Pretorius, Writer and Director

The director now hopes to buy a house – and potentially a dog – with his wife, who is a fashion designer.

But Mr Pretorius is not looking to settle down – far from it. The actor-turned-writer-turned-director insists there is more in store.

“I have a type-a personality. Now I want to create a television network,” he said.

The Unfamiliar will be released on 11 September by Lionsgate UK.