Directed by Johannes Nyholm, Koko-di Koko-da is one of those movies with a ton of potential, but it’s ultimately mired down by repetition and a story that is less interested in being coherent and more concerned with being visually different for the sake of being different.
The film tells the story of a couple torn apart by a family tragedy. They decide to go on a camping trip in the rain-drenched woods when suddenly strange things begin to happen. Tormented by a group of oddballs led by a man wearing a boater hat (played by Peter Belli), the couple begins a cycle of waking to different variations of the same nightmare.
The first scene features this frightful gang. First, there’s the aforementioned leader, a tall woman with a serious case of Queen Amidala hair, a silent but intimidating brute, and a vicious dog. There are singing and dancing that seriously gave me the heebie-jeebies. I honestly believed I was witnessing the premiere of the next horror icons right before my eyes.
“They decide to go on a camping trip in the rain-drenched woods when suddenly strange things begin to happen…”
Then I realized they were overstaying their welcome. The film begins to show them way too much, and they lose their mystique and unsettling nature. The characters I thought I’d be having nightmares about soon lost their zest and became borderline annoying.
I’m trying my best not to share any spoilers here, but a lot of the film revolves around the same series of events happening a little differently every time. The main characters become a little more aware each time they start trying to escape their horrible predicament. This plot device can be well executed, for example in Edge of Tomorrow, Groundhogs Day, or the more recent Happy Death Day, but here the concept is overdone, and a bit played out about midway into the film’s running time.
Also, one of the character’s arcs makes them completely unlikable. The leads scream and make obnoxious noises when given the situation it’d be best to be as subtle as possible. If someone told me to keep it down and they had a terrified look on their face, I wouldn’t shout “What is it? What’s wrong?” a hundred times, I’d just kind of go along with it and assume because it’s dark and we’re in the woods, something is trying to kill us.
“…a gorgeous film that has a dreamlike/nightmarish quality to it in most of the shots.”
This is a gorgeous film that has a dreamlike/nightmarish quality to it in most of the shots. There’s also shadow puppet animated bits that look unique and unlike anything I’ve seen before. I’d call Koko-di Koko-da a very stylish film with little story substance and scares that start becoming way too repetitive to truly be effective.
The ending is unsatisfying and abrupt. I don’t think this is a film I can recommend to a normal audience, this is definitely for fans of trippy and vague films where you are forced into drawing your own conclusions. I feel like this could have worked better as a short, we’d see less of the terrifying trio and in this case, less is definitely better.
KOKO-DI KOKO-DA (2019) Written and Directed by Johannes Nyholm. Starring Leif Edlund, Ylva Gallon, Katarina Jacobson, and Peter Belli. Koko-Di Koko-Da screened at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival.
6.5 out of 10