21st Jan2020

‘The Tokoloshe’ Review

by Chris Cummings

Stars: Petronella Tshuma, Kwande Nkosi, Dawid Minnaar, Harriet Manamela, Mandla Shongwe, Yule Masiteng, Coco Merckel, Leiden Colbet, Natasja Jacobs | Written by Richard Kunzmann, Jerome Pikwane | Directed by Jerome Pikwane

tokoloshe-poster

The Tokoloshe is a South African horror flick written by Richard Kunzmann and Jerome Pikwane, the latter of whom directs. A slow-building supernatural horror film that introduces us to Busi (Petronella Tshuma), a woman who starts a job as a cleaner at a hospital in Johannesburg. She finds a young girl in the hospital who is under the belief that she is being haunted by a supernatural evil, and Busi finds herself in a battle to save the young girl from the monster as well as her own journey into facing her own demons.

I was impressed with the building tension and creepiness of this film, with the locations and performances really helping to deliver something that manages to slither under your skin and make you feel uncomfortable. I’m very fond of horror films that don’t just flat-out jump on your back in order to “scare” you, and this takes the subtle route, in a successful way. The folklore and mythology of a South African creature is something I found very interesting, and gives the film a fresh feel.

The performances, was mentioned, are top notch, specifically from Tshuma (Hatchet Hour) who portrays Busi in such a believable and engrossing way, both vulnerable and isolated, and it allows you to feel genuine compassion for her. Kwande Nkosi, in her very first acting role here, also deserves praise for her role as Gracie. The two of them are the backbone of The Tokoloshe.

It could be said that there are some elements of “seen it all before” about this movie. Some of the scary moments are similar to those that horror fans will have likely seen before on many occasions, but that didn’t effect my enjoyment, and if you’re able to look past tried archetypes and enjoy the curious and compelling nature of what this film is at its core, then I believe you’ll enjoy it too.

Considering this is the debut of Pikwane, I was impressed with what was delivered. Atsmopheric, eerie, thoughtful and surprising, it has a great deal of good things going for it. It drops in quality, for me at least, towards the end due to a revelation that I felt was unneeded and did disappoint, with the film making the decision to show us the monster. I’m a believer in less is more when it comes to horror films, and I love when haunting and supernaturally scary movies refuse to show the tormentor, so I thought it was a shame that they did. Aside from that and a couple of overly slow sequences, I thought this was a very enjoyable film.

***½  3.5/5

You can also check out our interview with The Tokoloshe co-writer/director Jerome Pikwane from Frightfest 2018 right here.

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