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Review: The Tokoloshe

Rare is the genre film that comes from South Africa, which is what made The Tokoloshe an appealing prospect for us Basement Dwellers. What would a horror film based on an African myth be like? Would this unfamiliar creature make for a decent horror villain?

The answer kinda surprised Shawn and I. The Tokoloshe isn't a balls-to-the-wall scare picture, or even a creature feature. It's more like The Babadook in the sense this monster is a metaphor for someone's mental state, not an outright beast.

Which isn't to say this film is without scares. It's actually got some harrowing moments in it. They're just more subtle than in your face. And there's definitely an underlying sense of tension at play. Director Jerome Pikwane has a future ahead of him in this genre if he so chooses.

The Tokoloshe tells the story of Busi, an emotionally damaged young woman who, desperate for money, takes a job in a run-down hospital. She befriends a young girl who believes she's being tormented by a supernatural force called The Tokoloshe... a creature that could have ties to Busi's own childhood.

Petronella Tshuma is brilliant as Busi. She gives the character a sad vulnerability, and captures her loneliness perfectly. It's a committed performance that holds the film together.

The true horror here is the treatment of ethnic women and children in South Africa, at least in the poorer centres. That's really what this film is about, and your enjoyment of it will hinge on if you're willing to accept this monster as a metaphor for the evil men do to women and children.

I got what Pikwane was trying to do, and believe he did a masterful job telling this story. It's creepy, sad, and very well made. It's not for die-hard, old-school horror fans, but if you're in the mood for something different, I think you'll dig it. A Good for me.

The Tokoloshe comes out Dec. 3.

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