Devon Thomas7 October 2022 | 10:00

'Blood Psalms': An appropriately unhinged defence of convoluted camp

Showmax's 'Blood Psalms' amateur attempts at CGI and wonky story telling hinder it from being the uber-serious show it wants to be, but its unintentional campiness makes the epic fantasy worth the ride, writes Devon Thomas.

'Blood Psalms': An appropriately unhinged defence of convoluted camp

Showmax's 'Blood Psalms'. Picture: Supplied


Contains no spoilers.

When I decided that I was interested in reviewing Showmax’s latest original fictional series, Blood Psalms, I did something I usually don’t do: I watched the trailer.

I think after being let down so many times by the streaming giant, I wanted to know what I was getting myself into before I committed.

So, I opened YouTube and played the trailer. Thirty seconds later I had to turn it off if there was any hope for me to put myself through watching the show.

And you know what? I’m glad I did because I don’t think Blood Psalms is anywhere near as bad as the trailer made it out to be.

The period fantasy epic touts itself as a ‘Showmax first’ and stars an ensemble cast including Bokang Phelane, Mothusi Magano, Sello Maake Ka Ncube, Zolisa Xaluva and Thando Thabethe.

Blood Psalms’s official synopsis on Showmax reads: “In Ancient Africa, the young Princess Zazi must save herself and her people from the end of the world. She faces warring tribes, angry gods - and her own father".

Personally, this synopsis is very misleading thus far in the series, but there you go.

I’m not going to lie, this is a very bizarre show and I cannot with a clear conscience claim that it’s well-crafted.

For one, the computer-generated imagery (CGI) is so jarring that it either takes me out of the story whenever it’s at the forefront, or I just end up cackling from being taken off guard (every time!). 


I’m sorry, but the CGI on Blood Psalms is even worse than the CGI on Pulse - and I said that Pulse's CGI reminded me of the free version of PicsArt.

I think it’s because at least in Pulse you can make the (very weak) argument that it added to the game-like aesthetics of the show.

In the event of Blood Psalms, it just looks cheap when compared to the generally solid set design.

Production wise, Blood Psalms looks like a lot of effort went into making it. That’s why whenever CGI makes an appearance it’s just so uncomfortable to witness.

It’s this jarring quality to Blood Psalms that represents almost every problem I have with it.

For whatever reason, there are just a lot of very brave decisions made in the show that continually disrupt the viewing experience and the flow of the story.

For example, I really do not get the reason for the usage of Egyptian mythology in its lore.


Perhaps it’s because I am really tired of the appropriation of ancient Egyptian culture, but the show’s utilisation of it does not even make sense in the general narrative of the show.

Nothing about its setting, characters, languages, story and even production aesthetic really requires the inclusion of Egyptian mythology.

In fact, I’d argue that if you took the mythology out and replaced it with original ideas, the show would improve remarkably.

Like, what the hell do Isis and Egypt have to do with South Africa if you’re going to shoot it exclusively in South Africa, use an exclusively South African cast, and utilise exclusively South African languages? Make it make sense.

This is particularly highlighted in the first episode, which is to me by far the show’s worst episode and one of the most poorly crafted pilot episodes I’ve seen in a while.

Comparatively, the second episode improves on almost all my gripes with the show and if you were to cut out 80% of the mess happening in the pilot, the viewer experience would not be hampered at all.

Aside from exposition dumps that come into play in the following episodes, the first episode is so bad that, like its trailer, I almost quit halfway.

Literally nothing makes sense and it lacks the focus that an hour-long episode requires from it.

It also largely functions as a prequel with every event in the first episode taking place at least 18 years before the actual beginning of the story.

It got so frustrating to me because it was everywhere and nowhere at the same time and it became increasingly difficult to keep up with whatever was happening that I was sure this was going to be yet another stinker.

However, the second and third episodes are much tighter and you can actually see what this show is trying to do and the world it's attempting to craft.

Don’t get me wrong, they aren’t a masterclass in storytelling, but, honestly, they aren’t that bad if you shut your brain off for a bit.


Blood Psalms is, by far, the most ambitious Showmax show I have ever seen and I have to give it credit for that.

Its Game of Thrones South Africa approach kinda works for the most part, especially when it puts its focus on the characters and their relationships with one another.

For something as grandiose as Blood Psalms wants to be, your story and your characters need to come first if there’s any hope for your audience to suspend their disbelief enough to ignore its flaws – especially the aforementioned CGI disaster.

And though it does a decent enough job at this, it is still really jarring when the flaws are placed in the forefront which, luckily, are not nearly as frequent as in the first episode.

The story is still very convoluted and often verges on incoherence but I kind of dig that it has the balls to go in some of the directions it goes to.

It’s not very often that you come across a show that's unashamed of being utterly as bizarre as Blood Psalms is in the country.

Like, every episode introduces something really left field of what’s typical of this kind of story and though not all of them work, it is very entertaining to watch.

Blood Psalms has a very decent foundation to work with if you ignore the pilot, the CGI, or any desire for anything to make even just a little bit of sense.


Like, this show is the level of (unintentional) campiness I needed from Pulse and Savage Beauty and I think that’s why I had a good time with it after I surrendered to its absurdity.

Believe me, you will get an aneurysm trying to figure out the logic of the show or what the hell is happening in its story and, honestly, I have to stan episode three’s episode-concluding reveal a little bit.

I honestly won’t even attempt to make it make sense and, you know what, I’m at peace with that.

Ultimately, Blood Psalms is a flawed but entertainingly campy foray into the epic storytelling that characterises period heavyweights like Game of Thrones, The Lord of the Rings, or 300.

Final verdict: I cannot forgive the CGI but I will ignore it enough to actually finish the show on my own volition. Take what you may from that.

Giving episodes one through three a weighted average of a (very) light 6.5 out of 10.

Blood Psalms is available to stream on Showmax.