THE TOKOLOSHE **** South Africa 2018 Dir: Jerome Pikwane. 92 mins
If you are a fan of Stephen King and the IT franchise then the spirit of Pennywise is ripped all over this involved and dark film from the Republic of South Africa, which made a refreshing change for me to the more common independent entries from the UK and USA.
Busi is a hard-working cleaner with a tortured past that gives her intense nightmares and she works in a stark children’s hospital in Johannesburg that is shown very well here as more of an evil lunatic asylum throughout this harrowing film. A demon rules the day in this one and it haunts, kills and follows children. There are some very intense and shocking moments in this cliffhanger of a film and the writing by Richard Kunzmann and Jerome Pikwane is superb and balances stark reality and superstitious spiritual nightmares really well and is supported
brilliantly by some great performances from both adults and children alike.
The Tokoloshe keeps an intense pace flowing in a stream of dark vengeance and horrific nightmares that will keep you thinking right up to it’s tragic finale. I was looking for answers all the way through and it kept my fear factor high and my mind working overtime.
The blind spiritual mask shop owner played by Mandla Shongwe plays a particularly good linking role in his attempts to help troubled Busi with her tortured past and life as she grapples with both her family and the horrid owner of the children’s hospital whose character is a wonderfully despicable portrayal of everything that the fight for freedom in the Republic of South Africa overcame.
The film portrays Johannesburg from a non-white anti-apartheid perspective where torment and fear rule the day with a great African feel and vibe, showing both the bad and the good sides of South African life from an apartheid ruled perspective and also from the more ancient and superstitious old African tribal ways. Very interesting and frightening stuff.
Witch doctors and the horrors of female genital mutilation for superstitious ancient tribal beliefs give a very shocking feel to the film combined with naughty and evil spirits, demented men on the hunt and a child killing demon who just wants to play. There is a foreboding sense of evil witchcraft at work all the way through the movie and you’ll feel like you’re under a dark spell as you’re compelled to watch just to find out the answer to it’s puzzle which is the charm of the clever writing because without actually seeing the Tokoloshe until the end you can certainly feel it’s presence through great shadow effects and haunting music by Benjamin Willem. The cinematography and effective lighting also add a tremendous haunted feel to the film that will keep you glued to it as the shots and scenery come across with a disturbing physicality from some great camerawork by Trevor A. Brown which makes the whole film both intense and gripping to watch.
The Tokoloshe is a professionally made and well thought out film about a child-killing demon that will taunt and poke at your fear senses.
If demons are our nightmares, our nightmares become our demons…….
Review by Nathan Sandiford