DIFF review – Blood Tokoloshe: Huge bloody fun

2013-07-23 09:24

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There was loud chatter and peals of laughter in between the gasps of shock and squeals of gross delight all the way through the world premiere of Blood Tokoloshe at the Ekhaya Arts Centre in KwaMashu township outside Durban.

It was followed by a Q&A session with the film makers. Right at the end, an earnest young boy sitting next to me raised his hand. “Excuse me?” he asked the producer, Pascal Schmitz. “Is the tokolosh real?”

I’m not surprised he’s worried. South Africa’s latest, goriest and most hilarious piece of schlock horror may only have cost R150 000 but the money was spent where it matters most – on creature effects, music and innards.

The two lead performances are convincing enough. The rest of the acting, though, is generally bad and the storyline is ridiculous. But who cares?

A shameless lover of B-Grade, I haven’t had as much fun in a film screening since I was a child.

Blood Tokoloshe grabs you with a brutal attack on a bad actress and doesn’t let go. It instantly suspends disbelief by making everyone in the film believe the tokolosh is real – except the Reverend.

Its tale of sex and money, and is exactly what an audience wants. It turns a community in Orange Farm into a small town, terrorised by a slimy little black monster that appears in a creepy wisp of black smoke.

Orange Farm becomes the American corn town and the tokoloshe its grim reaper. It plays predictably into every B-Grade horror convention you’ve ever seen.

But it also cleverly flips several scripts. Pop culture fundis will immediately start scribbling notes about how it pits a sangoma versus a priest for spiritual control of the town. In the end – like with many of our religious sects – the two must work together to conquer evil.

Where the babes get slayed and the last woman standing is generally saved by her man (or assumes “masculine” powers to chainsaw the enemy in half) here the female lead, Boitumelo (played by Petunia Gabrielle Modisapodi) governs the film’s showdown and controls the action through love and solid values. Her man, Mthunzi (played by Msimbithi Mahamba) is a greedy bastard who uses the tokolosh to bed women and get rich – and pays the price for it.

In this, Blood Tokoloshe fires a shot at Kenny Kunene’s skhotane nation. It is a cunning morality play and the young audience members got it at once proudly telling director Jordan Harland what his film was actually about: There are no short cuts to wealth. You must work for your money.

And, as my toes curled and I gasped along, it offers ridiculous amounts of gore. Innards and body parts are strewn across the screen in a gross-out factor of 7 out of 10 – and when it’s a low-budget slaying, the music stands in for the art department.

It also manages to break B-Grade ground. I have never before seen a blood-drinking scene where the blood is drunk through a straw.

The last frame of the trashy horror is a teaser: “The tokoloshe will return in The Revenge of the Tokoloshe.” The horror flick is a front for producer Schmitz’s clever plan to grow a film industry in Orange Farm.

It creates a franchise that will ultimately be used to equip and train the community to create its own films.

Blood Tokoloshe proves that the cheapest special effect is not, in fact, a naked woman. It’s a cultural taboo.

In a Gemini nation that tends to produce films that are either silly or suicidal, Blood Tokoloshe marches down the middle. It plays high drama and morality off against cheap thrills. It offers something that you almost never get in South African film.

I’m a huge bloody fan.

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