MFF 2019: Koko-di Koko-da – movie review

Koko-di Koko-da. Image credit: Courtesy of Variety

For the first time, I’ve been granted press accreditation for the Milano Film Festival – which is becoming one of the most prestigious European film festivals. With a selection of 27 feature-length films and over 41 short movies, the main theme of this year’s MFF is “coming-of-age” stories, told in every kind of genre you can think of: on this website, you’ll find reviews of every horror-related film at the festival, plus a few articles on other movies that you’ll find in the Beyond Horror section of the website. This is my review of Koko-di Koko-da (Johannes Nyholm, Sweden/Norway, horror).

In Koko-di Koko-da we follow a couple who, during the holidays, lost their only daughter in a tragic accident that happened on the girl’s birthday. Three years later, they go camping in the Swedish woods in an attempt to save their marriage and find each other again: however, they come across a perfidious funfair attendant and his strange entourage. The violent and deadly encounter escalates into a Groundhog Day-type time loop that leads the couple to a daily confrontation with their assailants.

Continue reading and check my final grade below… 

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My review is also available on IMDb – Koko-di Koko-da (2019)

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Officially listed as a horror-comedy, Koko-di Koko-da is, in fact, everything but a comedy: the story and how the characters deal with their situation are extremely depressing and dramatic, and the presentation implies a very dour tone throughout. People who’re not familiar with Nyholm’s previous movie (The Giant, 2016, a sport-drama that’s a real downer) might be tricked into finding some alleviating elements in this picture. Well, be warned: Koko-di Koko-da is a dark horror tale soaked in drama, with no funny nor quirky elements to be found.

Very inspired by the cinema of Ruben Ostlund in its tone and with grieving characters reminiscent of the early Lars Von Trier’s protagonists, Koko-di Kodo-da manages to find its main strength in the bleak, intense atmosphere that’s consistent throughout the short runtime (only 86 minutes). The opening scene is a true punch to the gut which, immediately, makes the audience sympathise with the couple: their relationship after the loss of their daughter is established to be very fragile, so that when something happens to the couple you really understand the reasoning behind their questionable reactions.

The villains of the movie, inspired by David Lynch’s awkward characters, are cartoonish and threatening at the same time: their menacing presence is disturbing and scary because, in line with tale-inspired antagonists, they seem impossible to defeat or even run away from. In this ‘therapeutic nightmare’ kind of setting, the lead couple must find a way to overcome their loss and work together in order to make the villains disappear. Despite the fable-like setting, as I said before, Koko-di Koko-da feels much more horrifying than you’d expect, with hints at scary topics such as rape and mutilation, and with sequences that are realistically violent and graphic.

On a technical level, Koko-di Koko-da is highly creative and well-made, with the score and sound-design taking central stage in service of the story. However, the time-space loop aspect of the film makes the viewing experience quite repetitive after a while: this is an issue because it also takes the tension away from sequences that would be nail-biting otherwise.

The film, also, intertwines the main storyline with two elongated animated sequences, realised through shadow puppets. While impressive and extremely unique, these scenes feel out-of-place and come off as a naïve form of visual exposition to explain the themes of the movie.

Lastly, the very last scene of Koko-di Koko-da raises many questions and, in a way, seems to defy every theme and concept the movie established up to that point. It’s a very strange directorial choice and, in my experience, it made me question the whole film in a way that’s more distracting than challenging or purposeful.

Overall, Koko-di Koko-da is a very accessible horror tale – in comparison to most festival movies – that I admire and respect more than I actually like. It’s a movie I don’t really want to revisit any time soon because most of its aspects and themes can be easily experiences on first viewing, and the last scene makes everything else in the film feel rather pointless. However, if you’re looking for an intense and quick ride based around concepts of grief and time loop, make sure to watch Koko-di Koko-da whenever you get the chance.

Koko-di Koko-da                                           7/10

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