"The Tokoloshe" is director Jerome Pikwane’s frightening fictional account of the mythological creature. The film stars Petronella Tshuma, Kwande Nkosi, and Dawid Minnaar. It is African folk horror wrapped in a chilling character study.
Busi, a young destitute woman with dangerously repressed emotions, lands a job as a cleaner at a rundown hospital in the heart of Johannesburg. Desperate for the money so she can bring her younger sister to Johannesburg, she must cope despite the predatory and corrupt hospital manager. When Busi discovers an abandoned young girl in the hospital, who believes she is tormented by a supernatural force, Busi must face her own demons from her past in order to save the child from the abusive monster that pursues them both relentlessly.
Pikwane's story is deep. Riffe with social commentary, human struggle and personal conflict. Plus it introduces a truly terrifying creature of mythology from a region sorely lacking in modern story telling. "The Tokoloshe" is an evenly paced, tense thriller. A lot of the story perspective is interpretative and layered. There is the human tragedy, reconciliation of past, and a nightmarish, supernatural monster. And it is all weaved together with such heart and emotion, as disturbing as it may be.
The tone of the story is dark, methodical and atmospheric. There is more of a tug-of-war between the character drama and the creature feature aspect of the movie. At times it hints at the possibility of the Tokoloshe being more of a subconscious manifestation of unresolved issues, then the film pulls you into a full on monster movie. It is a back-n-forth that Pikwane masters without loosing context. I enjoyed the stronger focusing leaning more on the human interest component.
The film does move a bit slow and keeps with a heavy heart. The horror is more psychological than graphic. The atmosphere and focus plays out like a paranormal horror. Creepy, shadowy lighting creates a spooky vibe. The monster is referenced more than is on screen. It makes appearances but the real monsters are of the human kind. Cruelty is a gift man seems more inclined to share. But yeah don't forget that this is a story about a supernatural creature who feeds on children and the lonely.
Overall "The Tokoloshe" is a good folk horror to just sit back and let it consume you. It isn't a shock cinema thing so don't confuse it with Western creature feature. The real nightmares that happen are very human, tragic and relatable. This is a cool import psychological thriller with horror elements that is shot beautifully. Check it out. I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed this one. (3.5/5)