We recently reviewed Blood Tokoloshe aka Ghetto Goblin an enjoyable creature feature from South Africa. Now we have The Tokoloshe, a much more serious take on the same folk tale from director Jerome Pikwane and co-writer Richard Kunzmann. This is a dark and grim tale with some added subtext about the country itself and its issues.
Busi (Petronella Tshuma) has come to Johannesburg from out in the countryside. She’s desperate to make enough money to bring her sister Lindi (Lebohang Mthunzi) to join her. She takes a job at a decrepit hospital with a predatory boss Ruatomin (Dawid Minnaar).
She finds herself drawn to one of the patients, a young girl named Gracie (Kwande Nkosi). Gracie believes the Tokoloshe has made its home in the hospital, preying on the abandoned children who make up most of its patients. The two bond but Busi, with Gracie in tow, will have to go back home to face her demons. Both figurative and literal ones.
Centred around a woman trying to cope in a hostile society, The Tokoloshe reminded me of Under The Shadow. It even has a similar scene involving something lurking under a blanket. However, this has a much darker tone. There are multiple hints that Lindi is not only Busi’s sister but her daughter as well. She has to physically fight off her boss’s advances and still come to work the next day.
It’s also more explicit with its supernatural threats as well. We get to see The Tokoloshe on several occasions. The CGI is mostly effective and the creature itself is disturbing looking. It resembles Pumpkinhead, but an oily, slimy version of him.
Beautifully shot and edited The Tokoloshe is an impressive debut. But the most impressive thing about it may well be how well it walks the line between horror and social commentary. It’s too easy to get heavy-handed and preachy with a film like this. But Pikwane and Kunzmann never lose sight of the fact they’re making a horror film first and foremost.
One of a number of recent impressive South African films, The Tokoloshe can take its place with The Lullaby and 8: A South African Horror. I’m looking forward to more like this next year.
Uncork’d Entertainment will release The Tokolosh on digital platforms and disc on December 3rd. You can check its Facebook page for more details.