Johannes Nyholm’s Koko-Di Koko-Da

Shudder is a great streaming service if you’re looking to get lost off the beaten path within the horror genre and come across some truly weird shit that you otherwise might not have the chance to see. Long lost keystones of 80’s schlock, obscure off kilter creature features and more recently some bizarre foreign arthouse experiments like Johannes Nyholm’s Koko-Di Koko-Da, a terrifyingly surreal plunge into grief, madness, waking nightmares and past trauma that manifests in some dark, fairy tale esque ways. When a vacationing Swedish couple loses their young daughter in an accident that’s.. odd to say the least, her death sets deep rooted trauma in both of them. Sometime after they decide to go on a camping trip to rekindle their marriage and attempt to heal from the loss.. and let’s just say it doesn’t go too well. No sooner have they pitched a tent and are trying to get some sleep, three mysterious and *very* strange individuals emerge out of the forest from nowhere, proceed to torment, harass and eventually murder them. There’s a scary little white suited ringmaster dude, a big giant oaf carrying a dead dog and an unnerving mute girl with hair that would make Lady Gaga cringe. This trio of freaks continues to find and terrorize them in one of those scintillating time loops where they find themselves on the road, in the tent, under attack and murdered again and again and again. Who are they? Why do they keep accosting them? Why do they look like rejects from a Rob Zombie film or a travelling gypsy circus? Well, there’s a reason for that that’s actually a lot simpler and more straightforward than how the material is presented, through this sort of nightmarish prism of music, sound, surreal forest visuals and disorienting stylistic flourishes. The film isn’t going to work for everyone, simply for how bleak, unrelenting and alien the atmosphere is, and how the resolution of this couple’s grief and trauma comes in a fashion that’s anything but easy to process and absorb, much like their issues in question. There’s a specific object in the film, a sort of totemic MacGuffin that holds the key to everything, the identity of these three nocturnal scoundrels, related directly to their daughter and the eerie, ethereal nursery rhyme that hovers in the film’s auditory psycho sphere as a constant reminder and gives the film its inane but inherently menacing gibberish title. A challenging, deeply unsettling yet greatly rewarding piece of tricky arthouse neo-surrealism.

-Nate Hill

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