A demented and unsettling twist on the Groundhog Day trope, Koko-di Koko-da is a darkly comedic new horror film that effectively utilizes its simple concept to deliver genuine thrills and frights. Legitimately uncomfortable (in all the right ways), this movie seems destined to be one of the great midnight movies of this year.
The film follows a couple who, with their relationship having suffered as the result of a tragedy years before, decide to go on a camping trip together in order to reconnect, only to find themselves the victims of a sadistic sideshow ringleader every time they wake up. This core story isn’t anything particularly original, but the context in which it is placed is what makes this movie unique.
Perhaps the main reason that the film works so well is that the lead characters are extremely compelling. The couple at the core of the movie, Elin and Tobias, both have very interesting arcs that allow them to grow through the multiple attacks from their assailants. More so than any other horror protagonists from films of this year, it is easy to root for them, and as such, the movie is able to draw in audiences.
The cast does a quite good job of bringing their characters to life. Leif Edlund and Ylva Gallon both give very good lead performances. Their chemistry together is entirely believable, a realistic portrayal of a relationship in turmoil. The true standout in the cast, though, is Peter Belli, who gives a hilarious and phenomenally creepy turn as the antagonist.
The opening moments of the film give it its much needed emotional foundation. In what is the most heart-breaking moment in the movie, the audience is given an immediate route of sympathizing and connecting with the characters. Surprisingly, even though this is the only heavy-hitting moment in the film, it does not feel out-of-place. Instead, it feels like a necessary precursor to the horror that is about to be witnessed.
Writer-director Johannes Nyholm paces the movie in a very unorthodox way and is unafraid of playing with audience expectations. The interactions vary in length, some of them being drawn out to tease both the characters involved and the audience, and others being quick and brutal. This keeps the audience on their toes and unable to predict what is going to come next.
Nyholm’s film is also very ambitious on a technical level. The visuals of the movie are quite creative, juxtaposing the bright and playful nature of the circus entertainer with the darkness of the violence and the woods in which they are occurring. Additionally, there are some animated sequences, and while these are off-putting at first, they mostly work quite well thanks to the way they further subvert convention.
Koko-di Koko-da may be a bit too experimental for mainstream horror audiences, but it is one of the creepiest and most satisfying genre films of the year. Unfortunately, this won’t be coming out in time for Halloween, but will hopefully catch on with audiences who get to see it.
Koko-di Koko-da is now playing at the 2019 Fantastic Fest in Austin, TX and opens in theaters on November 15.